VMBA Ambassador, Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, brings us on a tour of his local area, North Branch River Park, part of the VMBA Chapter, Montpelier Area MTB Association, and his tips & tricks for a great day out on the trails and around town!
If you’re in central Vermont and want to go for a short, fun spin there’s no better place than the North Branch River Park in Montpelier. This is a relatively new network just north of downtown built by Brooke Scatchard of Sinuosity Trails. It features short climbs and fast, flowy descents. It’s one of the better entry-level networks around, I took my 11-year-old niece here on one of her first rides, and she managed most of the trails with no major issues.
Parking for the network is at the municipal pool off Elm St. (Route 12). If the lot is full, as it can be during hot summer days when the pool is open, then there is additional parking just north at the baseball field and a short paved path connecting the two lots.
Cross the pedestrian bridge over the North Branch of the Winooski River to access the trails. I like to start my day by climbing Hermit Thrush Hill, which is steady but not soul-crushing. Take a break at the intersection with Barred Owl Boulevard, then continue climbing to the top of Snipe Hill Loop then swoop back down for a well-deserved descent. Head north on either Barred Owl Boulevard or Pileated Pass; they parallel each other and traverse similar terrain.
The cluster of trails on the north end of the network are all accessed via Roll Call Climb, you’ll get to know this section well after a few laps. There are three options from the top of Roll Call Climb, Roll Call was one of the first trails built here and features steep berms and fast rollers.
Downy is the next option just north of Roll Call and offers a fun rock feature that can be aired or avoided. I like to save the third option, Sapsucker, for last. Continue climbing above Roll Call to the highest point in the network, then enjoy a high-speed joy ride back down. I like to connect Sapsucker to Barred Owl Boulevard and descend all the way to Cummings Street by the river. This gives the longest descent with only a couple of little climbs tossed in. You can also turn right off Sapsucker and descend Tanager Trail, which is shorter but flows through some interesting terrain and makes great use of the natural features.
If you descend to Cummings Street on Barred Owl Boulevard, turn right and pass the pump track on your way back to the pool. Climbing Barred Owl Boulevard is the other option for accessing the upper trails and is a longer but more gradual way to get your day started.
The Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association maintains the network and also has some more technical trails on Irish Hill in Berlin. If you need a repair or some gear, Onion River Outdoors on Langdon Street in Montpelier has been the go-to bike shop for decades. Montpelier is full of interesting shops and restaurants. For lunch, I recommend Wilaiwan’s Kitchen on State Street for incredible, and often spicy, Asian food. Positive Pie, just down the street has delicious pizza and slices are available. The Mad Taco on Main Street smokes their own meats and delivers authentic Mexican flavors. Bohemian Bakery or Capitol Grounds Cafe are excellent coffee shops and Bohemian’s croissants are the best. For a beer after your ride, try Three Penny Taproom, Charlie O’s or The Bent Nail Bistro, which also has live music most nights.
The North Branch network isn’t vast but it’s a ton of fun, family-friendly and a great activity to pair with a visit to Montpelier, which has consistently been voted one of the best small towns in the country.
Stay tuned as we hear from all of our VMBA Ambassadors and their recommendations on trails to ride, eat, stay, and more!