Also posted at MTBVT.com.
While visiting family down in central Vermont this weekend, I took some early morning hours to check out the trails in Pine Hill Park in Rutland. I had heard that the riding there was pretty good; but, until this weekend, the timing had never worked out for me to actually get my bike out while in the area. I had ridden there once before, about 20 years ago, with some friends from the area. Back then, all the riding was on 4-wheeler trails and double-track beyond Rocky Pond. It has changed a lot since then.
The park is about 300 acres right on the edge of downtown Rutland, Vermont’s second largest city. Unfortunately, in recent years, the city has gotten more notoriety for its drug problems than anything else. This is too bad, because there’s more to Rutland than drugs and its “Vegas” strip along Route 7. To the East you have Killington, Pico and the heart of the Green Mountains. In my opinion, it is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the state.
The park is located adjacent to a decent looking neighborhood with parking shared with the Georgetti Athletic Complex. I pulled in pretty early (for me) on a Saturday morning and had the place to myself for the first couple of hours. At the trailhead, they have a really nice board with a trail map and other info about the park. I studied the map and tried to memorize the layout, but I realized that was going to be pointless. With somewhere around 16 miles of single-track criss-crossing the hill, there was no way I was going to remember which trail went where. I grabbed a paper copy from the board and stuffed it in my pocket before hitting the trails.
Being in central Vermont, things had to start out with a climb. Thankfully, you’d have to search hard to find a genuine steep pitch anywhere in the park trails. I decided to work my way out to Rocky Pond at the far northern end of their trail network. I had to check the map a couple of times along the way to make sure I was taking the correct turn at the many trail junctions. Thankfully, nearly every junction was clearly identified with trail signs. Once out to the pond overlook, I thought that I’d just try to cover as much of the terrain as possible with the time I had. From there, I rode Stegasaurus, Strong Angel and many other trails that I can’t recall specifically without referencing the map.
It was very obvious that a LOT of work has gone into building and maintaining these trails. Beyond the signage, nearly every trail was lined with rock borders. The soil is the typical hard-pack I recall from my early years mountain biking in the Ludlow/Plymouth area – rocky and ledgy but not the kind of stuff that beats you up. It seemed like every trail had been built with banked corners and little jumps littered along the way. Anything taken as a descent was seriously fun. All the trails had a great flow to them.
Sadly, I only had one morning to take everything in. While the network isn’t huge, it is a LOT of fun to ride with an emphasis on flow more than tech. A strong rider could cover pretty much every trail in 2-3 hours, but this is the kind of flowy stuff that will make you want to go back and do some repeat loops. I definitely need to coordinate my trips down south to include some time there. With a little better familiarity, I would love to let it rip a bit more than I could while being distracted by navigating. I’m looking for a guide next time if anyone familiar with the trails wants to join me.
I’m hoping to make this the first in a series of posts covering various riding areas around Vermont which I’m titling “Riding Around Vermont.” I plan on finding my way to many locations this summer and writing up a small review on each as I get some trail time. Look for more in the near future.