STOWE, Vt. — Known by many as the ski capital of the East, Stowe is fast becoming a mountain biking mecca. With over 70 miles of single track; a town loaded with restaurants, bars and inns; and a luxury resort with its own Austrian brewery and 12 miles of private single track, Stowe is a three-season destination for mountain bikers, spring, summer, and fall.
The shops on the Mountain Road, Route 108, offer visitors everything they need to get started. We begin all of our trips at Iride, one of three bike shops in town. Paul Hammond and Ron Murray specialize in bike repairs, equipment sales, demos, and a full line of Santa Cruz mountain bikes. They are happy to recommend local watering holes where bikers like to gather at the end of the day.
Stowe Mountain Bike Club’s published map makes Hammond and Murray’s recommended rides easy to follow. The map shows seven trail pods: Perry Hill, Cotton Brook, Town Loops, Adams Camp, Sterling Forest, Alex’s Trail, and Kirshner Woods. All of these pods of single-track trails are connected by double-track trails, making it possible to set out on a one-hour run or an epic eight-hour ride. Hardy Avery, local trail-building guru and owner of Sustainable Trailworks, says the trail maps allow “super psycho riders to ride all day.” The maps are sold at local bike shops.
The area trails that get the most traffic are the Town Loops. We jump on them at the trailhead behind Iride. They begin with a gentle piney trail called Charlie’s that pops us out at a power substation. From there, we take a short climb on Cady Hill Road to a right-hand turn onto Zog’s Highway. This classic single-track trail winds through the forest, over streambeds, and up quick, steep climbs, and is one of our favorite ways to get over to Cady Hill Forest and a descent on a trail called Bear’s. This is a fast-winding downhill with recently rebuilt berms that dumps us out an hour and a half later on the Mountain Road just above where we started at Iride.
Another of our favorite rides, Pipeline, tops off at the Trapp Family Lodge. The trail starts across from the high school and climbs through a series of switchbacks that end at the Von Trapp Brewery, where we reward ourselves with an imperial pint of Trapp’s home-brewed Austrian lager.
While the Town Loops are known for their challenging terrain of rocky ledges and exposed roots, the Trapp Family Lodge’s 12 miles of private trails are gaining recognition for smooth, flowy trails that offer a progression perfect for the first timer and for the seasoned veteran.
Five years ago Sam Von Trapp, along with Avery, began building a system of single-track trails. Von Trapp’s vision is for a family mountain biking experience where everybody has something to ride and everyone is challenged. The trails are well marked with hand-carved signs.
Paul McNeil, Trapp’s bike operations manager, says the trails have a “friendly, flowing terrain, with padded roots where everyone can have fun.” This is the first luxury resort in the Northeast to offer mountain bikers the whole package.
Trapp’s Outdoor Center/Bike Shop has rentals for every size, a skills park, group and individual lessons for all levels, guided tours on and off the property, and a retail shop with bike apparel and a wide selection of healthy snacks. Trapp’s offers guests child care in The Mountain Kids Club at the Fitness Center.
The Von Trapp’s dining experience includes mountain views, waitresses in dirndl dresses, and European-inspired cuisine. We prefer eating in the lounge where we can get a Johannesburger made with their own grass-fed beef served with hand-cut fries and a pint of their lager while listening to jazz pianist, lounge singer, and local Vermont legend John Cassel.
Back in town, there are lots of options at the restaurants and bars along the Mountain Road and Main Street in Stowe village. All of our favorites have one thing in common: cold Long Trail Ale, a Vermont crafted beer. After a ride on the Town Loops we sometimes find our way to Piecasso’s for pizza, O’Grady’s for its grilled Romaine salad tossed with artichokes and the tasty shrimp and grits in a creamy lobster sauce, or to Frida’s on Main Street for a house margarita served in a mason jar and one of their generous platos grandes.
New England’s oldest winter playground is fast becoming a year-round outdoor recreation destination. When Luke Campbell, 22, a mountain biker from Richmond, recently finished his first ride on one of Stowe’s newest trails, Kimmers, he said with a smile, “I have three words for that trail. “Sa-weet ride!”