Four days in heaven Northern Loop
Our trip included three days of destination riding and one day of discovery at the top of the Northeast Kingdom – Canaan, Vermont. Depending on the amount of time you have there are plenty of opportunities to day trip in many areas along the way.
Riding in Vermont provides variety of trails and scenery – tight winding trails through trees, riding wide open flat fields and being on the top of the world with vistas that are hard to beat.
February 1: Day 1
Hardwick to Canaan and Wallace Pond, 124 Miles
The day is bright and clear with perfect snow cover as we left our trailers in the parking lot at Dana’s Auto Sales in Hardwick. The VAST intersection, CA67 is right behind the parking lot.
A wide groomed trail winds through rolling woods and over fields to East Hardwick then a short way through woods again to the LVRT rail bed trail.
We have a smooth ride east, past woods, ponds and fields on 24 miles of rail trail to just outside of St. Johnsbury, after stopping for coffee at Marty’s 1st Stop in Danville.
The well-groomed trail begins to wind into the mountains of Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom.” This trail then turns onto about 6 miles of pipeline right-of-way which rolls up and down hills in a line straight as an arrow. From this point on until we stop for lunch there is not much sign of human habitation. The views are magnificent and there are occasional sightings of moose.
February 2: Day 2
- VAST 2011
Northeast Kingdom Trails, 55 miles
For breakfast, we rode into Canaan and crossed over into West Stewartstown, NH to the Spa Restaurant. While there, we met Dana Mason a groomer extodinaire, who offered to guide us around some of the Essex County trails.
We rode back into Canaan, fueled up then rode the trail in the woods through a deer yard where we saw several deer. The deer will pay no attention to you as long as you don’t get off the snowmobile.
It had snowed during the night leaving about 8 inches of fresh powder on the trails which had been groomed the day before. It was very pretty as we rode west, then south and then northwest on trails winding through rolling forest land and past small ponds. The trails reminded me of riding out west in powder; it was a glorious day of floating on air.
Newly fallen snow on the tree branches sparkled like diamonds. When we stopped, the silence was deafening.
Canaan has a real unspoiled Vermont charm that lets you feel like you have transported back to a great time from the past where you can enjoy our land like our forefathers did.
The trail took us to within a quarter mile of the Canadian Border in Norton, VT, where we stopped for a great lunch at Pidge Roy’s Chez Pidgeon restaurant. We then headed east on the trail back to Maverick Moose Lodging. It began to snow really hard. When we got back, Mark Choquette offered to drive us to the nearest restaurant for our supper, (the trail visibility being poor). (That’s the great thing about the people here…they are so accommodating.)
- VAST 2011
At intersection EX62, near Granby, we turn north and ride along the VELCO powerline right-of-way. There are mountains on each side and forest as far as the eye can see.
At intersection EX50, we take a side trail into Bloomfield for fuel and a late lunch at Debanville’s General Store and Café. Then back up the side trail to EX50 where we head northeast again through mountainous forest.
We arrive in Canaan and have a delicious steak dinner at the Northland Restaurant. It is early evening when we ride the 8 miles west to our night’s lodging at Wallace Pond.
At Wallace Pond, we meet our hosts, Mark Choquette and Carole Pouliot. The warm, comfortable cabins of the Maverick Moose Lodging are certainly welcome after the long day’s ride.
February 3: Day 3
- VAST 2011
Wallace Pond to Jay Peak, 62-75 miles
Another clear blue-sky day. We rode back into West Stuartstown, NH for breakfast at the Spa Restaurant, then west to Norton, and on toward Derby. The trail crosses Derby Pond where we zipped past ice fishermen in their shanties. (There is an alternate trail, if you don’t want to ride across ice.)
At Derby, we had a good lunch at the Cow Palace, an interesting place with a huge stuffed bear and next to an elk ranch with herds of magnificent elk roaming about behind a high fence.
In Derby the trail runs past stores, motels and restaurants before heading out into woods and farm fields. The trails can run across the ice on Lake Memphremagog or around it which is why the variation on the distance of this leg.
The route that we took went past Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse south of Newport, where a huge collection of clothing, parts, used and antique snowmobiles are sold and on display.
The snow was deep but powdery on the trail, crossing some of the mile-long fields in this mostly farmland part of the trip. As we rode, we could see the day’s destination, Jay Peak, far across the valley.
We arrived in Jay and went to our hotel, the Cedarwood Resort Lodge. We met the owner and delightful host, Ann Cota. We relaxed in the lounge in front of a blazing fire in the fireplace. This is a most impressive place. We had a topnotch dinner and a very nice room.
February 4: Day 4
Jay to Hardwick, 76 miles
It was a partly sunny, partly cloudy day. After breakfast at the lodge, we rode out, excited about the fact that the trail this morning would take us up to the very top of North Jay Peak.
As the trail zigged and zagged up the mountain, the trees appeared to get shorter. At the top... what a view!!! All the trees seemed small, until we realized that the groomed trail was on top of about 15-20 feet of snow pack.
Reluctantly, we headed down the other side of the mountain where we experienced the trail to be in wooded terrain that was fairly steep and hilly.
The trail now turned south. Stopping for lunch in Montgomery Center, we ate at Bernie’s Restaurant (delicious chowder).
Leaving Montgomery Center, the trail runs above a picturesque stream in the woods, for a mile or more, before cutting through Hazen’s Notch. The Notch has a steep rock wall almost 1,000 feet high on one side….spectacular, with huge icicles of different colors!
After the Notch, the trail takes us over the ridgeline of Lowell Mountain on the old Bailey-Hazen Military Road. (That Revolutionary War soldiers would pull cannons up this steep road is amazing.)
The trail now turns toward the villages at Albany and East Albany before turning south again toward East Craftsbury and Hardwick with more open fields and short runs through woods.
We arrived back in Hardwick and had an early dinner at the House of Pizza (right on the trail, ¼ mile south of CA67 on VAST 14).
Know before you go
Plan. This is the fun part as you can get together and discuss all of your options. Review the trail conditions and any trail closures that are on vtvast.org.
Map your route. Tom’s way of doing this is to write down the intersection numbers in order so time is not wasted when reaching an intersection pulling out the map.
Be flexible. This is snowmobiling and conditions change – snow, intersections, trail conditions and intersections can change from what is on the printed map.
Allow extra time. If your plan includes a trail that crosses water and conditions do not permit it a reroute around can take longer. We avoided most water crossings for this trip as we thought others might want to try it.
Have a good time. Enjoy the nature and the people you meet as both are part of the journey. Understand that with a ride of this nature trail conditions will vary and plans will alter.
A map showing the route that we took.
Will be put up shortly.