To summarize. I will live here. Did someone say country home for the weekends? Because this is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places IN. THE.WORLD. I almost don’t want to tell you that so it stays undisturbed, but the locals who live there are such an incredible people that it would be disservice them to not have as many visitors as I can send them to their slice of heaven on earth.
This is part 1 of 3 in the Vermont series, because there is just so much to say it can’t be condensed. This will summarize my trip and what I experienced in a short 48 hours, and will elaborate how how to visit for mountain biking (part 2) hiking/kayaking (part 3) in separate pieces. With that, let’s jump in.
First of all, if you’re going to Vermont, you’re not in NYC anymore Todo, and you’re going to need some equipment. So beyond a simple water bottle and bug spray, here are four essentials to Vermont life. Boots, back pack, and head lamps are all needed to get around on a daily basis, and if you’re going to tackle the most incredible trails in America – so is a helmet. So Prime that stuff so it’s here for next weekend and let’s go.
This is not my first time to Vermont. But living in NYC, my urge to get into the outdoors grows intensely, and I’ve been “back to my roots” more and more lately. While I’ll always love the Poconos and Colorado, Vermont is a special, almost magical place. It is near impossible not to disconnect and re-find yourself here – whether it’s not televisions and wifi in your farm cottage or getting up at 4:30am to experience a sunrise on the mountain alone. (Seriously – did I mention I am heading back up this weekend??)
Here is my personal experience of East Burke – or home of the Kingdom Trails.
Where to Stay – Wildflower Inn
We were graciously put up by Jim and Mary, the owners of the Wildflower Inn. This farm turned bed and breakfast is easily one of the most quaint, quintessential places you can stay in this farmland. Not only are the owners incredibly welcoming (you’ll see them wandering the property, sipping coffee before breakfast in the lobby or even popping into the kitchen to help with dinner – in their Oboz hiking boot of course). You also might run into them hiking and biking the trails. Being such fans of mountain biking, they have been involved with Kingdom Trails since conception (over 100 miles of privately owned land with bike trails – one of the top trails in the world) and have helped it to continue to grow, including hosting the NEMBAfest (which I will add is on my bucket list for next year!).
I mean this view, amirite? And who doesn’t love a good ole s’mores on the camp fire. The best part about being here is that you truly can unplug. There are no televisions in the rooms (and there is wifi, but let’s tell the kids no), and with so much to do from sunrise to sundown, you have no reason to even coop up in the cottage.
Insider tip #2: Get up for the sunrise. Set your alarm and wake before dawn to walk up to the Heaven’s Bench. Talk about being alone with nature. It’s so quiet you can hear the earth crunch beneath your feet and the wet grass swish against your legs. You won’t regret it.
Perks of the stay: When I say no televisions, I mean it. There are NONE. Before you freak – embrace it. You should be outside from sunrise to sundown here anyways! From the bikes to the outdoor pool (omg the views!) to the hiking, and outdoor food options.
What to eat
East Burke is a tiny little town, but there are some things you just HAVE to eat. Come on, you KNOW food is always on the top of of my trip experience.
Treats: Maple Creemee
It’s a soft serve twist cone with vanilla and real Vermont maple syrup blended into it. It will change your life (and your pant size) and totally worth it. You can scoop one up right downtown East Burke.
Lunch: Cafe Lotti
This place just oozes coolness. Another city-turned-Vermont transplant, the owner Johnny and his wife decided he wanted to live here (shocker!). They purchased the coolest old building in town and saved its bones making it quite a beautiful and explorative venue for refueling. The sandwiches and coffee aren’t bad either! So mid-day, I recommend popping in for a break and just taking time to look around while you nosh on artisanal sandwiches and juices that would rival a Brooklyn cafe.
Breakfast/Dinner: Wildflower Inn
The locals actually make pies that they buy to serve. It’s like gram just making her pies like usual and then tourists devouring them. The strawberry rhubarb pie was some of the best I have ever eaten – if you don’t order the pie, you will regret it.
As for breakfast – they understand your paleo and vegan eating issues. Who would have thought you could travel to the most remote areas of Vermont and get a paleo breakfast that is seriously delicious – it’s not just a plain egg on a plate.
And for the kids – teddy bear pancakes, because, it’s the little things.
For dinner – the menu always changes and here you won’t find the typical rich and heavy home cooked meals from down on the farm. There is a reason this place is packed at night. From scallops to prefectly cooked steak (and oh PLEASE get the brussels sprouts!), you’ll go to bed with a smile on your face.
Snacks: Trailside Taqueria
After all the calorie burning you’re going to do, you’re gonna to come back totally invigorated and hungry. That’s why Jim has a nice little taco tent set up outside the Village Sport Shop. As an avid taco truck visitor in NYC, I can tell you that these make the cut. They are simple and delicious and pair well with a cold beer that is also served with a view just outside the shop as well. Seriously, they have this all laid out perfectly for you to visit.
What to do: Mountain Bike Kingdom Trails
As stated, this is the abridged version – there is just SO MUCH to say about kingdom trails but the best way to describe it is to let it tell you itself. The locals are such enthusiasts themselves that they came together to create trails on their own private property for anyone to enjoy. This isn’t your average trail through the woods. You’ll pop out next to a farm and ride past cows, horses and chickens (watch out!), or you’ll take magical strokes through an early morning field still filled with fog and dew. Like jumps and roots, narrow bridges and water? They have that too – with over 100 miles (and adding about 3 more each year) there are tons of places to wanderlust on a bike here for days.
Where to start? Pop into Kingdom Experiences (they have a main location downtown and one at the Wildflower Inn). Whether your a pro or a novice, they’ll set you up on how/where to go and which trails are best for your abilities or viewing pleasures. Stop into the Village Sports Shop on site as well to rent your bike(s) – so you don’t have to lug yours up (however, I also asked if you could LEAVE your own bikes there in storage and YES YOU CAN. So if you prefer to leave your bikes instead of bringing them back all year – you can). They have all the gear you’ll need from helmets to tune-ups to of course very cool fashion wear (and hipster hats that are not easy to pass up!).
Insider tip #1: Yes, they in fact DO have kids camps! They will take the kids (no matter what level) from 9am-12pm each morning to learn how to ride. They even put Max on a bike with NO PEDALS to learn how to balance (since this city kid still uses training wheels). This means mom and dad get to ride the trails, sip coffee or explore downtown East Burke kid-free for a few hours.
BEST SECRET OUT THERE: Are you guys ready for this? I don’t even know if I should mention this because as I said, I don’t need my new favorite getaway covered in “city-diots” but you guys – listen. You can buy a YEARLY PASS to Kingdom Trails for only $75 or for an entire FAMILY for only $150. That is for a full year people – that includes biking and skiing in both the summer and winter (did someone say FAT TIRES???).
**Fat tires are what you use in winter and in sand on the beach to ride bikes off-road.
What to do: Kayak the Clyde River
You’re in Vermont – so see Vermont. Do something cool like kayak down a river. We did a 5-mile stint with Clyde River Recreations that ends by crossing the lake back to base. Let’s just say it’s quite a workout for the arms when your partner isn’t doing much of the help.
You can go as fast or slow as you want, making the trip around 2-3 hours depending. Pack some snacks, water and bug spray (a MUST), and just take in the simple solitude as you paddle your way back downstream.
You can be any skill level for these – it’s basic paddling and they do have two-person boats so you can take the kids along!
What to do: Hike Lake Willoughby
Okay so you’ve biked and kayaked and you still have a little time left in your weekend (we did this ALL in under 48 hours!) before you head back to the city. You’re going to want to throw those Oboz back on and see what should be considered on of the other wonders of the world – Lake Willoughby.
This glacier-made lake will transport you to another time and land. In fact, its as deep as it is tall. If it’s Instagrammable shots you’re seeking – this is your place.
Whether it’s from the ground and beach or hiking up the side of the mountain to get an aerial view, there are tons of trails (and short, kid-friendly ones too – we did this one less than .5 miles up with the kids) ranging from beginner to avid hiker.
So, since I’ve now totally sold you on heading up to Kingdom Trails in Vermont – when are you joining us?
A huge thank you to Brick PR for pulling off this trip and hosting us in the beautiful Wildflower Inn and showing us around Kingdom Trails.