Biking Covered Bridges in Vermont
After a few days of driving interrupted by a few detours (Niagara Falls, the Erie Canal), we finally arrived at our vacation destination–Burlington, Vermont. There, we settled in for a weeklong visit with a friend I’ve known since first grade. But because fish and house guests begin to stink after three days, we planned a mid-week diversion away from her home.
We set our sights on the town of Shelburne, just south of Burlington, for a couple of reasons. We could visit the Shelburne Museum in the morning, enjoying its extensive decorative arts collection. Then, in the afternoon, we could cycle Chittenden County nearby.
I came across some great bicycling resources while planning our trip. One of them was the Green Mountain Bicycle Club. Billing itself as Vermont’s largest and oldest bike club, Green Mountain maintains an archive of day-touring routes around the state. One of them–Covered Bridges of Chittenden County–passes very near the Shelburne Museum and loops through rural Vermont to take in a number of the historic wooden structures, then skirts Lake Champlain before returning to Shelburne. Bicycling, rolling hills, a lake and covered bridges–deal me in.
Our starting point, Shelburne Country Store, was less than a mile north of the museum entrance. We went inside to buy hard maple sugar candies and came out to change clothes in the car. Then we pulled our bikes off the rack and began riding south on Falls Road in search of those covered bridges. Green Mountain’s cue sheet steered us onto a narrow paved road without shoulders. That made me nervous, especially combined with the traffic driving fast out of town. It also felt as though I was working extra hard on the bike. I thought it was due to my under-inflated cyclocross tires, but later discovered the first half of the route climbs 550 feet in elevation.
Happily, the route eventually took us off the busy paved road and onto quiet gravel. After about six miles and a couple of good, hard, sandy climbs, we coasted down a wooded hill to the first bridge. We thought about turning around there, but changed our minds after examining the cue sheet and noting that the next bridge was just a few miles down the road. The day was warm and sunny and our legs were strong, so we decided to ride on. At the second bridge, we realized we’d already covered nearly half the route. What point would there be in riding the same terrain back? On the way to the third bridge, we came upon a group of people on rollerskis. We all left an intersection at the same time and enjoyed racing each other (Mr. Spoked and I won). The sun was lowering in the sky when we rode across the final bridge, in a park on the shores of Lake Champlain.
We’d put 28 miles on the bikes by the time we returned to the Shelburne Country Store. The weather had been perfect, and drivers had given us plenty of clearance. One of them chatted us up at a convenience store where we stopped for water. And the maple sugar candies we’d bought at the Shelburne Country Store were fine energy boosters; be sure to stop at the store for some old-fashioned treats if you ride this route.
Look for a detailed cue sheet (with a map) for the Covered Bridges route on the Green Mountain Bicycle Club website.
Other posts in the Velo Vacay series:
- Niagara Falls (Bike New York)
- Erie Canal (Bike New York)
- Champlain Islands (Bike Vermont)
- Montreal (Bike Quebec)
- On the Burlington Bike Path (Bike Vermont)
- Great Allegheny Passage (Pennsylvania Bike Trails)
Entry filed under: Bicycling, Recreational rides. Tags: Champlain Bikeway, Chittenden County, covered bridges, covered bridges in vermont, Green Mountain Bicycle Club, Shelburne, Shelburne Country Store, Shelburne Museum, Vermont.