By: Quinn Campbell
I always tell people that East Burke and the riding community which surrounds Kingdom Trails is the best place to live or play if you love mountain bikes. And I realize, you may read that statement and think to yourself, “Everyone says their hometown riding location is the best.” But I’ve visited and sampled some of the premier cycling meccas on our continent, and I really, truly, mean it. Nothing compares. And here’s why: There are the obvious reasons– more than 120 miles of pristine single track which straddle Darling Hill and circle the town of East Burke, filling the woods with lines of rich dirt that snake between sugar woods and pine forests. Locally sourced burritos as big around as your fist, which can be devoured no more than a minute from the trail head, and the only outdoor tiki bar in the Northeast. But all of the best riding locations have a similar composition, what’s special about East Burke is the multigenerational group of skilled local riders.
The small mountain town is called home by riders from the ages of 50 to 10 and they contribute something positive to the area. I like to simplify the generations into three larger categories. There are the “OG’s”, those in their 40’s and 50’s who witnessed, supported, and created the first legitimate mountain bike trails in the North East Kingdom. They know everything about the region and have provided a foundation for the growth of every generation to follow. Many of them have invested their lives in the area and remain deeply involved in the continual growth of Kingdom Trails and the mountain industry which revolves around the riding mecca.
The 2nd age group makes up the largest portion of East Burke’s riding population, as is the case with most mountain towns that center themselves around a bike or ski culture. The cyclists in their 20’s and 30’s provide the majority of the driving force behind the area’s industry. Running bike shops, bars, restaurants, and hosting events which allow Kingdom Trails and the Burke Bike Park to deliver a well rounded tourism experience for those traveling to sample pristine dirt, and a vibrant mountain town lifestyle.
Finally, there’s a gaggle of kids who chase the rear wheels of the area’s more experienced riders. Ranging in age from 10 to 18 most have grown up in or near East Burke amidst a community that’s focused on enjoying where they live by way of two wheels. All members of the youngest group are wildly talented in their own right, which comes naturally with a wide variety of terrain at their fingertips. They’ll eventually be responsible for the direction and structure of the North East Kingdom mountain bike culture. But for now they’re focused on doing better wheelies than their friends and riding uphill as little as possible.
I’ve spent time in both Whistler, British Columbia and Durango, Colorado– among others– and they’re riding is unarguably fantastic. The mountains are massive and everyone who lives there is in pursuit of an outdoor adventure lifestyle. But, almost everyone that lives there is 28. I have yet to visit a riding destination that possess a similar multigenerational connectivity to East Burke, Vermont, and that makes the East Coast town special. There’s a grain to the culture because people of all ages ride together. The youngest learn from the oldest, which cultivates a community that’s wholeheartedly devoted to the mountain town we call home.