VMBA Ambassador, Elliot Buckley, gives us the low-down on one of their favorite networks, Slate Valley Trails in Poultney, Vermont.
Elliot here to give you an inside scoop on my local trail network. These trails are some of the best VT has to offer. No, I’m not talking about Stowe or Kingdom Trails. I’m talking about Slate Valley Trail Network in Poultney, Vermont. With so much trail development lately, Slate Valley is an increasingly fun option when looking for some trail riding in Southern VT. Like much of the state, the bike scene here has really taken off in the past few years with unlimited gravel riding opportunities and an ever-growing trail network. I love this place because there’s a little bit of everything. There are long meandering climbs, Techy rough descents, and fast and flowy loops to keep everyone happy. You can spend many days in these parts and still find something new on every ride.
Trails to Ride:
There are three main trailheads, each containing parking for trail use. “Country Club” and “Fairgrounds” are your best options on busy days, with limited spots available at the “Endless Brook” lot as well. All three lots are on Trailforks, with driving directions available. My move is generally to park at the Lake St. Catherine Country Club lot, then pedal up past the buildings and carts where you will see a trailhead in the back corner of the parking lot. Be courteous to golfers and avoid the urge to give them the Happy Gilmore blowhorn; they’re kind enough to let us use their parking space here.
Once on the trails, you have quite a few options. A personal favorite is to climb “Porcupine” to the high point, then hop on “Hunker Down,” a fast designated downhill with some technical features that link into flowy berms and rollers. For a mellower, but still quite fun, descent, check out “Hi Roller”. Once at the bottom, you have the option to climb back up to the top or head out to the road for a quick pedal back to the car.
Another favorite Loop is to head up Porcupine again, but this time take the entrance for “Lightning”. This fast downhill takes you through some really unique slate features along a ridgeline to the bottom. Then head north on “Fairgrounds Connector” to “Big Top” to “Carnie” which makes a nice long loop back to the parking lot.
If that sounds confusing, it is. I generally get lost here and end up having to pull out map on the phone. Fortunately, all of these trails are well marked on Trailforks and any way you go is sure to be a good time. Bonus tip: there are some really fun dirt jumps off Carnie called “Gap Tooth” if jumps are your thing.
With so many trails here, things rarely get crowded which makes for a really special, remote feeling while out on the trails. You are never too far from civilization, but often it can feel like you’re all alone in the woods. This makes for a great place to bring the family, new riders, trail dogs, or to go on that long solo soul ride you’ve been looking for. Signage is very well marked; all major trails have names and arrows which makes It easy to figure out where you are in this expansive network.
“What type of bike should I bring?”, you ask. It’s hard to go wrong, any trail bike will suit you well here. Many of the trails are more XC style and even the burlier ones don’t require anything your typical trail bike can’t handle. One thing to note, many of the trails are built through natural slate outcroppings (Hence the name “slate valley”) and it would be wise to carry a good repair kit and extra tube. I haven’t had any punctures personally but could see it happening on some of the rougher stuff. Cell phone reception is also spotty around here, so be sure to load any maps before heading out and have a plan in case something breaks down.
Slatevalleytrails.org is a great resource for riding recommendations and trail conditions. They have any info you would need when traveling to the area and keep everything up to date on their website. Please be respectful of trail conditions and closures. All of these trails are on private property and their continued enjoyment depends on proper usage.
If you need to grab anything before heading out, Analog Cycles is a very cool, eccentric little bike shop in town specializing in all-terrain bicycles. They have a plethora of knowledge on local trails, bikepacking, and all things cool in cycling these days. They are a great resource if you want an inside scoop on the scene around here.
With over 50 miles of singletrack, there is sure to be something for everyone. The town of Poultney has food, lodging, information, and anything else you would need to have a full day out on the trails. Lake St Catherine is also right next door if you’re looking for a cool place to take a dip in the summer months. The trails here are really unique thanks to the natural rock formations which provide a riding experience that is hard to find elsewhere in VT!