When it comes to spending time outdoors, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has everything you could ask for in terms of natural beauty and recreation. It’s easy to spend your days in this remote corner of Vermont biking, paddling, fishing, or hiking. This rural region of Vermont is home to more than 37,500 acres of public lakes and ponds, 3,540 miles of rivers, and arguably the best mountain biking in the country.
Here are four ways to enjoy the outdoors in the Northeast Kingdom:
Bike Kingdom Trails
Established in 1994, Kingdom Trails offers an extensive network of mountain biking trails around Darling Hill, East Burke village, and Burke Mountain. Interconnected trails wind through wide open fields and thick woods for all abilities. Some of the network’s more legendary trails include Tap n’ Die, Sidewinder, Troll Stroll, Kitchel, Tody’s Tour, Coronary Bypass, Pines, and Webs. For kids and beginners, there’s also a designated area (with one trail called Chutes & Ladders), that’s easy and fun for all ages. The Village Sport Shop Trailside on Darling Hill offers rentals, gear, services, and a small bar and outdoor patio to grab a cold beer after biking. You can also find lessons and guided bike tours offered by Kingdom Experiences. (478 Route 114, East Burke; KingdomTrails.org; 802-626-0737)
Paddle the Clyde River
The Clyde River winds 34 miles from Island Pond to West Charleston all the way to Lake Memphremagog on the Canadian Border. Part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the river is ideal for kayaking or canoeing. Rent kayaks from Clyde River Recreation, and take a leisurely paddle for 4.5 miles before entering Pensioners Pond. The river, which once attracted anglers form around the country in the early 20th century, is known for landlocked Atlantic salmon. Paddling on the Clyde is a perfect way to disconnect from the grind and reconnect with nature.
Getting there: From Interstate 91, take Exit 23 to Route 5 north to Route 114 to Route 105. Clyde River Recreation is located at 2314 Vermont Route 105.
Hike around Lake Willoughby
Lake Willoughby in Westmore is one of the most scenic lakes in Vermont. The two mountains on either side of the lake—Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah—offer excellent hiking as well. Standing at 2,751 feet on the eastern side of Lake Willoughby, Mount Pisgah is the steeper climb of the two and offers magnificent views of the White Mountains. Mount Hor, which has an elevation of 2,648 feet, can be accessed from trails on the Civilian Corps Road. The Mount Hor option is a great hike for young kids and offers a beautiful lookout over Lake Willoughby.
Getting there: From Interstate 91, take Exit 23 to Route 5 north to Route 5A north. Parking for the Mount Hor road will be on your left about a half-mile from the southern tip of the lake; keep going north to access the Mount Pisgah trailhead, which is located on the right side of Route 5A before the lake.
Fish in Lakes, Ponds and Rivers
If you’re going fishing in Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom is the place to find salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and perch. The region is home to a variety of glacial lakes, remote ponds, and winding rivers, including Ricker Pond in Groton State Forest, Miles Pond in Concord, Harvey’s Lake in West Barnet, and the Passumpsic River, which flows through all three counties of the Northeast Kingdom. You can’t go wrong. (To learn about all of the great places to fish, read the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northeast Kingdom Fishing Guide) Photo: Ryan Quick/Flickr
Where to Stay:
The Wildflower Inn
Located on scenic Darling Hill is The Wildflower Inn, which offers 24 rooms, a pool, and Juniper’s Restaurant—not to mention views far and wide of Willoughby Gap, Burke Mountain, and Stannard Mountain. Jim and Mary O’Reilly have been welcoming guests to The Wildflower Inn for more than 30 years. The Wildflower Inn also serves as the hub for Kingdom Trails. After a day of biking, head over to Juniper’s restaurant at the inn, which serves up steaks, seafood, salads, burgers, pasta, and more. (2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville; 802-626-8310; www.wildflowerinn.com)
Where to Eat
Inside this early 19th century building that originally served as a local church is where you’ll find some of the best coffee, pastries, and sandwiches around. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the church became a series of local bars, and eventually operated as the popular Willy’s Restaurant for a number of years. After sitting empty for the last decade, the building caught the attention of Johnny and Linda Lotti, who had moved to the area from Massachusetts and jumped at the chance to open a coffee shop. Not only is the food delicious, but the setting is bright, offbeat, and welcoming. Sit inside or out on the front patio overlooking Main Street in East Burke–either way it’s a treat. (603 Route 114, East Burke; CafeLottivt.com; 802-427-3633)
Juniper’s Restaurant at The Wildflower Inn serves breakfast on weekends and dinner Tuesday-Saturday with indoor and outdoor seating in one of the most scenic settings imaginable. Dine on scallops, duck, lamb, steak, or salmon. The restaurant offers the largest gluten-free menu in Vermont, and its motto is “Savor the Food and Drink in the View.” It’s all good. (2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville; 802-626-8310; www.wildflowerinn.com)
After a morning or afternoon on Kingdom Trails, nothing beats a tasty taco. Trailside Taqueria, located next to the Village Sports Shop Trailside and owned by The Wildflower Inn, this no-frills taco stand serves chicken, beef, and vegetarian tacos, as well as also vegan and gluten-free options. (2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville; www.facebook.com/Trailsidetaqueria; 512-364-9653)
Burke Mountain Confectionery (for dessert)
Just north of East Burke village is a tiny shop where big chocolate flavor is created. Tom and Nancy Taylor are the owners of Burke Mountain Confectionary, makers of chocolate truffles and chocolate bark. The couple relocated to Vermont from Tennessee in 2013 and never looked back. Their store on Route 114 is where you can find treats ranging from Dark Chocolate Maple Bacon Truffles to Maple Creemee Sticks. (2697 Route 114; burkemountainconfectionery.com; 802-745-8482)
*Disclosure: My recent visit to the Northeast Kingdom was organized by Brick PR. Lodging, meals and some activities mentioned in this post were complimentary.