|Source:||Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)|
|Address:||1 College Street, Burlington, VT|
|Hours:||No posted hours for trail; contact Local Motion for current bike ferry schedule|
|Fee:||Free for day use; contact Local Motion for current bike ferry fees|
|Bathrooms:||At Local Motion Bike Shop, North Beach Campground, Leddy Park|
|Water/Snacks:||At Local Motion Bike Shop, North Beach Campground, Leddy Park|
USGS Burlington, Colchester, and Colchester Point quads; localmotion.org/programs/islandline/trail
Bike from the urban core of Burlington past peaceful wooded shoreline to the grand causeways that cross Lake Champlain—all on level-graded, dedicated bike paths!
This delightful bike trip has so many highlights: a flat, easy grade for the duration, a beautiful wooded shoreline ride, interesting stops and beaches along the way, a giant causeway that slices through Lake Champlain, and a bike ferry connecting sections of the causeway. The path is paved for most of the way, and the causeway is fine-packed stone dust. Any type of bike will be able to make the trip, and even the youngest bikers will have a great time on shorter sections. There is some street cycling on this route, but all street sections of the Island Line Trail south of Grand Isle are on quiet residential streets, are marked clearly, and have separate lanes for bikes; north of Grand Isle some sections are along a state highway with a shoulder and are recommended only for older or more experienced bikers.
As described, this south–north route begins near ECHO along the Burlington waterfront and heads north. If you want a shorter trip, there are many parks along the lake to the north that make ideal starting points if you’d like to arrange a shuttle. Each section of the trail is described below, so just pick what works for you and set off. Remember that the distances are listed one-way. All of the starting and ending points listed below have parking and access to the trail.
Local Motion to North Beach Campground (1.9 miles)
Local Motion—a Burlington-based, nonprofit bike and pedestrian advocacy organization—has a bike shop along the Burlington waterfront. It has bike rentals, drinks, snacks, and maps and makes an excellent starting point for a bike trip. This flat and easy section passes by the inline skating rink (converted to an outdoor ice rink in winter) and the Burlington Skate Park as it makes its way north to North Beach. This is a lovely urban beach with sunbathing and swimming, but its municipal campground, a rarity in New England, really sets
North Beach Campground to Airport Park (4.5 miles)
This section becomes more wooded and quiet as it follows the Lake Champlain shoreline and passes several beaches, all worth exploring. Along the way, the fantastic Leddy Park hosts an indoor ice arena, as well as a great swimming beach loaded with driftwood. Hours can be spent beachcombing, playing in driftwood forts or swimming along this section. Leddy Park also has parking and restrooms. Stop by the Auer Family Boathouse, otherwise known as “Charlie’s” (located just to the south of the Winooski River Bridge) to enjoy a serene park-like setting on the water, ultra low-cost boat rentals, and a small snack bar. Play in the swings and pet the friendly dogs before heading back on the trail.
After crossing the bridge, the trail goes through more woodland and then follows city streets for several blocks before arriving at Airport Park.
Airport Park to Grand Isle (4.7 miles)
This is the most majestic and distinctive section of the trail. Not only will you ride your bikes on an elevated causeway through the middle of America’s sixth largest lake, but you also have the unique pleasure of taking a bike ferry that connects two sections of causeway. (The causeway is open year-round, but the bike ferry operates Friday through Sunday, mid-June through Labor Day, then weekends-only through Columbus Day. Check localmotion.org for schedule updates).
From Airport Park, the Island Line Bike Trail heads north through dense woods before emerging onto the raised causeway that crosses Lake Champlain to Grand Isle. Originally built for trains, this causeway has been retrofitted with firm stonedust and restricted to bikers and walkers. The path crosses a bridge (a great spot for some jumping and swimming), and soon reaches the bike ferry which will deliver you to the southern tip of Grand Isle. If the bike ferry is closed, this is still a worthwhile section to bike.
North End of Causeway to Grand Isle State Park (8.1 miles)
This section is for older or more experienced bikers as it does involve a mix of biking on bike paths, quiet rural roads, and busier state highways with shoulders. Getting to Grand Isle State Park is fantastic though, and the park makes for an amazing bike camping destination if your family is up for it. Getting here from downtown Burlington means a 19-mile day on loaded bikes, but you will be rewarded with a peaceful campground on the shore of the lake, beautiful campsites and lean-tos to rent, and a perfect introduction to the world of bike camping. Nothing beats marshmallows by the fire along the lakeshore after a day of biking and the satisfaction of knowing you got there under your own power! Be sure to take the bike ferry schedule into account when planning your camping trip.
The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center near the trailhead 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 at the waterfront near ECHO there are several ferry sightseeing tours operators offering day and dinner cruises. A cheap option to just see the lake from the perspective 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 Vermont. There is 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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