Did you get to do enough biking this summer? We didn’t, either, but that’s about to change. There’s no better way to enjoy fall in the northeast than rolling along on a bike.
During foliage season, many back roads can get pretty busy. Generally speaking, we’d rather pedal along quiet single tracks, trails and dirt roads on a fat tire bike than share the pavement with a horde of drivers who are probably paying more attention to the scenery than their driving. A mountain bike, cross bike or even a hybrid lets you ride away from the busy roads, take your time and enjoy the scenery on your own terms.
Best of all, there are infinite opportunities from quiet dirt roads near home to mountain bike resorts to full vacation getaways. Here are some of our personal choices.
Very, Very Vermont
Last fall was not a good time for Vermont. Hurricane Irene paid an unwelcome visit and did a lot of damage with flooding rains. Many roads and bridges were washed out. Some of the state’s many quaint towns and villages were left devastated. But most of this beautiful state came through the storm untouched, most of the damage has been repaired, and, a year later, fall is in the air and the foliage is starting to turn.
When Irene hit, Executive Editor Tim Jones and his wife Marilyn were in Vermont, staying at the North Hero House on the first day of a five-night, six-day adventure, pedaling their fat-tire tandem along the shores of Lake Champlain on a fully-supported group tour with Vermont Bicycle Tours, They cycled from the Champlain Islands to Burlington, Shelburne, Shoreham, Ticonderoga in New York and Middlebury, and they tell us that the cycling routes around Lake Champlain are some of their favorite places to pedal spring or fall. The Champlain Islands are particularly lovely.
Two other spots in Vermont should definitely be on your fall biking agenda. One is Stowe, Vermont, where the fat tire culture is very much alive and well: In fact, mountain biking is Stowe has its own website: www.stowemtnbike.com.
If you are new to mountain biking, we highly recommend Trapp Family Lodge, which has its own extensive network of biking trails, including a bunch that are absolutely perfect for total beginners. They also offer quality mountain bike rentals and, perhaps most importantly, lessons to get you started safely. If you’ve never ridden a bike off road before, this is the place to start. It’s fun, friendly and the scenery is gorgeous. Oh, and there’s PLENTY of challenge here for more experienced riders.
If you are already comfortable off-road on a mountain bike and want to challenge yourself with incrementally tougher trails, consider visiting the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. There are lots of lodging option in East Burke, but we often stay down in St. Johnsbury, where you get great deals on bike-and-stay packages (with breakfast!) at the Comfort Inn. If you stay elsewhere, a trail pass is $15 for adults, $7 for kids.
Just a warning: one day isn’t enough. In fact, it would take several days and legs of iron just to roll your wheels over all of the Kingdom Trails, and then you’d want to do it again, and again. The views of Burke Mountain and beyond are spectacular, the rides are rated like ski trails so it’s easy to stay within your ability level or challenge yourself safely, in manageable increments. This is a perfect place to bike in the fall.
Pedaling In Quiet Quebec
The EasternSlopes.com editorial team cannot seem to get enough of Quebec. Here’s a hint for foliage lovers: Quebec in foliage season has fabulous biking opportunities. They have the same magical blend of rolling hills and valleys covered with mixed hardwood forests that makes New England such a magnet for leaf-peepers. But it’s much quieter than New England’s traditional leaf-peeping hotspots. And the food is ALWAYS better. La Route Verte, which spans the entire province, has more than 4,000 km of recreation paths, bikways, and marked road routes. It’s one of the great biking opportunities in the northeast.
The Eastern Townships, just across the border from Vermont and New Hampshire has been the destination for two fall honeymoon trips and another fall foliage vacation for EasternSlopes.com staffers. But there are other places to explore as well. The Veloroute Des Bleuets around Lac Saint Jean in the Saguenay region north of Quebec City gets its foliage season early. This is the perfect place for a September getaway. The Chaudière-Appalaches region between Quebec City and the Maine border also has some spectacular cycling, particularly along the St. Lawrence River and Isle aux Grues. The Outaouais Region, north of Ottawa, too is simply splendid for biking in the fall.
New England Mountain Biking Opportunities Galore
If you want to try mountain biking elsewhere, here are some ideas:
Attitash Mountain in Bartlett has lift-serviced downhill mountain biking and cross-country mountain biking, with rental bikes available.
Bretton Woods in Bretton Woods has both lift-serviced mountain biking and cross-country.
Great Glen Adventure Center rents bikes and offers gentle “carriage road” mountain biking that is a perfect introduction for the family.
Loon Mountain offers mountain bike trails and rentals, plus shuttles that will take you to the trail head of the Franconia Notch Recreation Path, which you can ride at your own pace, downhill (almost) all the way.
If you are an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss the “Bike Park,” at Sunday River in Newry, which has lift-serviced downhill biking and miles of new cross-country biking trails ranging from beginner trails like Easy Tiger, to more challenging single tracks. jumps, log rides, bridges, and berms sprinkled throughout 20 miles of lift-serviced terrain.
The EasternSlopes.com crew has also enjoyed tremendous fall biking on the carriage roads at Acadia National Park, mountain biking on the logging roads around Jackman and Greenville (where the AMC is just beginning to develop backcountry biking opportunities around their Maine Wilderness Lodges as part of their Maine Woods Initiative.) There’s also tremendous fall biking on mountain bike trails, rail trails, and quiet road touring inAroostook County at the northern tip of Maine. “The County,” as it is known to locals, is one of the best-kept secrets in Maine as correspondent Marti Mayne discovered when she visited with her family in winter.
Head for Jiminy Peak which has downhill mountain biking and plenty of cross-country trails in the area.
Berkshire East in Charlemont, Mass., taps into a community-wide system of mountain biking trails that are gorgeous in the fall.
The Adirondacks has the right mix of hills and trees to create spectacular foliage-season riding. Correspondent Cassie Willner took a Pre-Peak Peek at the High Peaks from the seat of her touring bike and tells us it would be great when the foliage is on.
Rail Trails Galore
And, finally, every rail trail in New England is worth exploring in the fall. In fact, it’s the best time of year to ride, and you are getting your legs in shape for winter skiing and snowshoeing!