Burlington’s Intervale
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12
RATING:


Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:180 Intervale Road, Burlington, VT
Hours:No posted hours
Fee: Free
Contact:

Local Motion, 802-861-2700, localmotion.org; Burlington Parks and Recreation, 802-864-0123, enjoyburlington.com/parks/bikepath1.cfm
 

Bathrooms: At Intervale Center
Water/Snacks: At Intervale Center
Map:

USGS Burlington and Colchester quads; localmotion.org/images/documents/fullguide.pdf
 


Take a pastoral ride on dirt roads and bike paths, past farms and along the Winooski River—all right in the heart of Vermont’s largest city.

Before you head back to your car, cap off your ride with a trip up Ethan Allen Tower to get a great view of Burlington.

You may never have imagined that you could bike through peaceful river valley farmland, along the banks of a lazily winding river, through floodplain forests and up to a stone castle viewing tower—all in Burlington. The trip described here is actually a shortened, 8.0-mile version of the excellent 10.1-mile Cycle the City loop, jointly developed by the City of Burlington and Local Motion, a nonprofit human-powered transportation advocacy group. The 8.0-mile trip described here is 100 percent bike paths and gravel roads, whereas the official loop includes some street biking and is a couple miles longer. If your family is up for the challenge, we highly recommend the full 10.1-
mile loop as well. More information and a map of the full loop is available at localmotion.org/images/documents/fullguide.pdf.

From the parking area, head north on the gravel road known from this point northward as Intervale Trail. Burlington’s Intervale is technically undevelopable for building because of its low-lying, flood-prone land, so it is now a 3,900-acre reserve that is protected as conservation and farm lands. This land has been farmed for thousands of years by native people and by settlers, and today you can bike along the gravel road and see the many small-scale and organic famers that now call this place home. Hop off your bikes to explore, meet some of the farmers/entrepreneurs, and take a stroll through the huge community gardens.

After 1.0 mile, the trail meets a large open field and the road splits. Take the left-hand fork and continue around the field and then along the banks of the Winooski River. This slow moving section of river makes for good swimming or fishing.

From the river, continue on the dirt road and follow the signs to the Ethan Allen Homestead. The small farmhouse at the Ethan Allen Homestead was the Revolutionary War hero’s home for his last years of life, and now serves as a memorial to his life. Inquire at the gift shop about tours.

From the homestead, follow the paved Beltline bike path north for 0.5 mile to a bridge over VT 127. After the bridge, the path enters Ethan Allen Park. Follow the paved bike path for 500 feet to an intersection. Stay left here and follow the gently rolling path for another 0.3 mile to a T intersection; make another left. Follow this path for 0.25 mile to your halfway point: the Ethan Allen Tower.

Lock your bikes to a tree, then head up the very short path to an open ridge with great views of Burlington. On top of the ridge is a 50-foot-high stone tower, complete with turrets and arrow slits, built in 1905 as a memorial to Ethan Allen (open weekends Mother’s Day to Memorial Day, open daily Memorial Day to Columbus Day). Climb the stairs to see the panoramic views of the farm, the Winooski River, and the city. Have a picnic on the ridge, then head back the way you came for a round-trip of 8.0 miles.

Plan B:

The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is a great rainy day option. One of the only freshwater aquariums in the country, it has a wide variety of hands-on exhibits. Also, several ferry sightseeing tour operators offering day and dinner cruises can be found on the waterfront. One inexpensive option to just see the lake from the deck of a boat is to take the Burlington–Port Kent, New York, ferry that leaves from the King Street Dock a couple blocks away.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Burlington has perhaps the widest array of eating opportunities in New England. It has something for everyone, including trendy food carts, pizza, Asian food, and high-end cuisine. For the most options, head to Church Street, a pedestrian-only stretch of restaurants, shops, and music venues. The kids will have a blast sampling tasty treats from the food vendors and watching the many street performers and musicians.



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