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Vermont is famous for maple syrup, cheddar cheese and Ben & Jerry’s. But just around the corner from Chubby Hubby central in Waterbury, sits the Perry Hill trail network—15 miles of singletrack that offers something for everyone, from first-timers to freeriders. We talk with Patrick Kell of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, and George Wisell, who owns Five Hills Bike Shop, to get the scoop on their favorite routes, swimming holes and the best place to grab a bite to eat.
Mountain Bike: Why ride in Waterbury?
Patrick Kell: Vermont has hundreds of miles of trails. But the Perry Hill trails are a perfect storm of easy access and superb flow. They are diverse in technical intensity, and well-maintained and protected. Lucky for us, the State Forest Parks and Rec office is in Waterbury, and its employees like to ride here.
George Wisell: These are old school trails—they have attitude and character and a grittiness people love. Some have been around for 15 years or more, but now they’ve been armored and brought up to IMBA standards without losing their vibe. Come summer we should finally have them mapped.
What’s the standard locals loop?
GW: Park on River Road in the dirt lot. Cross the tracks through the tunnel and start a short but lung-busting, leg-cramping climb up the logging road that’s the main artery of the network. The grand tour is about 2.5 hours: Take winding Permission (Green) to the top of Perry Hill, descend Burning Spear’s (Blue) switchbacks and rock ledges, traverse on rolling Rastaman’s (Blue) back to the logging road. Climb back up to Joe’s (red) and descend twisting granite hogbacks, exiting on through the open pines and loamy soils in Campfire (yellow). Finally, zoom down to the tracks over the big-air waterbars.
PK: If you want a 40-minute lunchtime loop, start up the main climb and ride the yellow loop—Lower Plateau to First Born to Campfire. Add an extra 20 minutes and bump the adrenaline factor by adding Joe’s.
What’s the perfect Waterbury bike setup?
GW: People ride Waterbury on cross-country bikes and bigger-travel bikes. In Waterbury, you can go for the flow, or hit full-face-helmet-worthy drops. But everything big has a ride around. There are guys who ride this on rigid singlespeeds, but they’re nuts.
PK: Bring the biggest-travel bike you’re comfortable pedaling up an ass-kicking uphill that starts steep and then just becomes consistent.
Where do I go for a beer?
GW: If it’s sticky hot, jump in the Winooski River before you go anywhere—there is an access right off the parking lot. Then hit the Alchemist. It’s a brew pub with excellent local food, and lots of mud-spattered patrons. But it’s dinner only.
PK: If the wait’s too long, try the Reservoir for pub fare—up the street on the same side. Craving Thai? Osha, just a block north, has exceptional Thai food for cheap.
Trail Beta: The riding near Waterbury is endless. But this year, you can be one of the first to roll new trails that are part of the Vermont Ride Center, which will connect Waterbury and the Perry Hill trails with the Stowe network. Four miles of new singletrack will open in Little River State park this summer (camp here if you’re on a budget) accessing the main Waterbury-Stowe corridor, the 7.5 mile Cotton Brook trail. Twenty minutes north, Fellowship of the Wheel has over 100 miles of mapped trails from smooth and flowy to teeth chattering (join at fotwheel.org for full access to maps).
If big air is what you’re after, once you’ve warmed in Waterbury, hit East Burke (about 1.5 hours northeast), hop the lift and take a spin on Knightrider. Need a lesson? Contact Knight Ide (Ideride.com) who the trail is named after. Need parts or service? Five Hills Bike Shop (Bike29.com; fivehillsbikes.com), at the intersection of Stowe and Main Streets, specializes in 29ers, but stocks and works on everything.
GET TO KNOW THE AREA: The Vermont Mountain Bike Fest, July 16-17, is based in Waterbury. Guided rides not only take you through the entire Waterbury network, but to neighboring trail systems including fellowship of the wheel’s 100 miles of trails, and the Waitsfield and stowe networks. Music, food, rides, movies, beer, camaraderie, all for less than $50. Vermontmountainbikefestival.com.