Top picks in Vermont, New Hampshire

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Best of the Adventure Adviser
Week of December 25-31, 1997

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Top picks in Vermont, New Hampshire
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Top picks in Vermont, New Hampshire
Question: I am planning a trip to Vermont and New Hampshire. Please give me some information on where the best hiking, road and mountain biking, and lakes are in these two states. Thank you.

Mike Richter
New York, NY

Saco River in New Hampshire is a great
choice for canoeing and camping

Adventure Adviser: Wow. Monumental task! There are about a million spots in both states that are worth checking out for these activities. I wish I had all day to describe the ones I know about, but I don't, so I'll have to limit myself to just couple of the more stellar destinations.

First off, for mountain biking, take refuge from Lake Winnipesaukee crowds by heading to the rugged high country off Sandwich Notch Road, one of the last undeveloped roads in the Granite State. It runs northwest for 11 miles from Center Sandwich to New Hampshire 49 near Waterville Valley. Check the air in your tires, stock up on PowerBars, and try the 16-mile trip from the Guinea Pond trailhead--5.7 miles north of Center Sandwich--along the steep and gully-rutted singletrack to Flat Mountain Pond. You'll need at least a lunch break at the pond, if not an overnight stay at its secluded, backwoodsy shelter (free; first-come, first-served; 603-528-8721).

Another fat-tire possibility in the area is the Dickey Notch Trail, which starts just off New Hampshire 49 north of Sandwich Notch Road and forms the first leg of a 25-mile loop around Dickey Mountain. For the local scoop, call the bike geeks at the Greasey Wheel in Plymouth (603-536-3655), about 15 miles west of Center Sandwich.

Across the border in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, you can combine lakeside R&R with a healthy dose of quad-burning biking. The place in question is Silver Lake, a small speck of a lake in the midst of the Greens' famous maple and birch forests, just south of Middlebury. Park at Branbury State Park, off Route 7, and bike in the 1.25 miles--a whopping 650 vertical feet--on the Silver Lake trail to the campground. Once there, you'll have your pick of sites; the primo spots are on soft duff under towering white pines along the shore. The best news? You don't need permits or reservations, and it's a fee-free operation.

From there, you have a whole slew of options: Day hike to Rattlesnake Cliffs on the trail to Mount Mooslamoo for huge views of Lake Dunmore, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks, or test your cliff-jumping nerves at nearby Falls of Lana--where a 20-foot plunge will guarantee you instant refreshment. For mountain biking, head east from the campground on the Silver Lake trail to the Leicester Hollow trail, or crest the ridge on the Goshen Trail and pick up Forest Road 27. From there, spin north along this dirt road past Blueberry Hill Inn and Nordic Center to the intersection with Vermont 125, where a steep uphill grunt will bring you to Middlebury College's Breadloaf Campus and a great network of bike-friendly trails. For maps and information, call the Middlebury Ranger District at 802-388-4362.

And finally, gasp, road biking: Head north from the Middlebury area to a string of islands in Lake Champlain, just south of the Canadian border. After grinding your way through your fair share of New Hampshire's and Vermont's steeps, you'll probably be glad to take a break from all 21 gears and, instead, pedal the flats of North and South Hero islands, Isle La Motte, Alburg, and Grand Isle.

Avoid U.S. 2, the shortcut from Montreal to Burlington, and stick to the backroads. Start in South Hero, just over the Sand Bar Bridge and north of Mallet's Bay. Then head west through town, keep pedaling until you hit the shore, and then follow it about 30 miles north past the beaches to the state park at Stephenson Point, on the northern tip of North Hero. From North Hero State Park, cross the bridge to Alburg and bunk down at Goose Point Campground ($12 per night). Either way, save Isle La Motte and the eastern shore of South Hero for the second day.

For more details, call the South Hero tourist info office at 802-372-5683 or Lake Champlain Bikeways at 802-241-3688.

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