The week after Columbus Day is usually peak season for viewing the fall colors in New England. Seeing the leaves on maples turn crimson, gold, orange, and pink is a joyous celebration of the season in these parts. But there’s a problem with the usual driving tour–one of you has to take the wheel while your beloved shouts exclamations of delight. This is the reason why locals slow down and enjoy Mother Nature’s finest colors from the saddle of a bike.
You usually can’t go wrong with any ride near Vermont’s Route 100 corridor, where ski resorts like Okemo, Killington, Sugarbush, and Stowe form the backbone of the Green Mountains. Near Okemo, Ludlow and the surrounding towns of Proctorsville and Reading provide backcountry roads with little car traffic and scenic views of freshly-painted steeples, mountain views, and ideal riverside picnic spots. Start with the 8-mile ride out of Proctorsville on Route 131 alongside the Black River. You’ll reach Downer’s Covered Bridge, built in 1840, before arriving at the Stoughton Pond Recreation Area, a perfect place to picnic before making the return trip.
Close to Sugarbush, a 15-mile loop skirts the mountains and enters Waitsfield and Warren via covered bridges. Start your ride at the junction of Route 100 and Route 17, turning onto the shoulder of Route 100 South. Considering the high peaks of Lincoln, Ellen, and Abraham to your right, the road is remarkably flat. At 5.4 miles, take a sharp left onto Covered Bridge Road. Constructed in 1880, the wooden bridge spans the Mad River. Turn left and ride through the village of Warren, making a point to stop at the Warren Store for lunch (known for their mega-sized sandwiches). Take your next right onto Brook Road and climb into Lincoln Valley. Dairy farms, green meadows, and fields of corn stand at the side of the now East Warren Road. The slopes of Sugarbush appear to your left and a rare round barn can be seen to your right. From here, you cruise downhill all the way to the covered bridge in Waitsfield, built in 1833.
In the historic hamlet of Stowe, the Stowe Recreation Path is popular with bikers, walkers, and snowshoers year-round. A little over five miles and ideally suited for families, the paved trail starts behind the Stowe Community Church on Main Street and weaves back and forth over the Little River to the foothills of Mount Mansfield. Gradually, the trail becomes more rural, venturing over rolling pasture where cows graze. Never far from the restaurants on Mountain Road, you can have lunch and then make your way back to town.
If you prefer fat tires to thin ones, it’s hard to top the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, near the base of the Burke Mountain. In the summer of 1998, a handful of dedicated northern Vermonters linked together more than 150 miles of singletracks and dirt roads. Head up to Darling Hill where immense century-old barns seem lost in the countryside. This is the best of Eastern riding—soft forest singletracks dusted with pine needles, sweeping up and down the rolling hills, all within an arm’s length of the colorful maples and tall spruces.
Viewing moose in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, home to Sugarloaf, is almost as easy as seeing squirrels in your backyard in other parts of the country. But remember moose are in rut this time of year, so watch out for irrational behavior. Across the road from the ski area, a former railroad bed lines the Carrabassett River, providing an ideal trail for the novice mountain biker. If you can look away from the glorious maples, you’re bound to see Bullwinkle and friends slurping knee-deep in some hidden pond.
What’s your favorite place to ride to enjoy some Fall foliage? Let us know in the comments below!