Vermont Rail Trails

Biking

LVRT

Biking on Vermont’s Rail Trails

For most folks, enjoying a recreational or family bike ride means getting away from cars. And there’s no better way to escape traffic than to ride one of Vermont’s rail trails. Here’s a step-by-step guide to biking and enjoying the rail trails, one of our most precious recreational opportunities.

Two individuals riding e-bikes

What is a Rail Trail?

Rail trails are multi-purpose, public paths created from former railroad corridors. Flat or following a gentle grade, they traverse Vermont’s downtowns, villages, and rural countryside. Ideal for bicycling, walking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, equestrian, and wheelchair use, rail trails are extremely popular for recreation and transportation. Since the 1960s, more than 26,000 miles of rail trails have been created across the United States.

Two individuals riding bikes

How Do I Find a Rail Trail to Ride?

For details on rail trails across the country, head to https://www.railstotrails.org/, the official site of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC). Here you’ll learn about the rail trail movement and how to get a rail trail started in your area. This site will take you to https://www.traillink.com/. Select your state and BIKING or MOUNTAIN BIKING and you’ll see all the trails close to you. For details on rail trails in Vermont, head to https://railtrails.vermont.gov/.

One individual riding a bike

The Right Bike

Almost any bicycle in good working order is fine. Mountain bikes, hybrids, and comfort bikes all will work great. In fact, because rail-trail grades tend not to exceed three percent (the maximum a train can climb), 10 or 12 gears are plenty. E-bikes are permitted on the rail trails.

Vermont rail trails have 10-foot-wide, firm, compacted crushed-stone surfaces with 2-foot grass shoulders and wheelchair-accessible grades. A wide tire is better than a narrow one (road bike). Unless you’re an experienced cyclist, it’s best to avoid riding the trails on super-skinny tires.

MVRT

Safety

The first rule of safe cycling: Always wear a helmet. Being away from cars greatly reduces, but can’t eliminate, the potential for accident and injury. In the case of a fall, a helmet will drastically reduce the risk of serious injury. Still, be especially careful at bridges, overpasses, and other trail transitions.

Rail trails can be busy thoroughfares on weekends or near trailheads. The most common cause of accidents is riders colliding, so keep your distance and slow down when passing other trail users. Teach your kids to say, “on your left” when overtaking, or get everyone a bell.

More information on Safety and Trail Etiquette can be found on the Etiquette page of the Vermont State rail trails system website.

Tips for a smooth trip:

  • No matter your mode of recreation, we recommend carrying a fully charged cellphone, food, water, headlamp/flashlight, and a first aid kit. Cycling the rail trails? It’s possible in any season with the right equipment.
  • It is important to have your bike tuned up before the start of the season.
  • We strongly recommend you bring the following items:
    • Spare inner tube (at least 1)
    • Tire Lever
    • Mini bike pump
    • Multi-tools (with Allen keys, screwdrivers, etc.)
A person looking out onto a pond

Parking

Information on formal parking can be found on the Vermont rail trails maps. Overnight parking is an option with permission at some trailheads. For more information, contact the rail trails Program Manager.

Two kids riding bikes

Day Trips

The biggest difference between preparing for a rail trail ride and a recreational spin on public roads is that you need to be self-contained. Because rail trails get you away from cars, you can’t depend on gas stations for pit stops or snacks.

So, bring plenty of water, one more snack or energy bar than you think you need, and provisions for flat tire repair (a pump, a patch kit, tire levers, a spare tube, a wrench for wheel removal). Because you’ll see a steady stream of cyclists who can help you, you don’t need to know how to fix a flat. When someone stops to help, pay careful attention so you can do it yourself next time.

Bathroom facilities are located every dozen miles or so at trailheads or in Villages or Downtowns. More facility details can be found on the trail-specific interactive maps here https://railtrails.vermont.gov/trails/. Be a good citizen and please be respectful of private land. Don’t trespass, climb fences, or leave gates open.

Two children resting on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in Vermont.

Longer Trips

Riding the longer rail trails can create an opportunity for challenging, multi-day family bike trips. Gauge the distance by the age of the kids. For 6-8 year-olds, 20-25 miles a day is plenty. Pre-teens can handle 30-40 mile days, depending on the terrain.

Camping and lodging details can be found at https://vermontvacation.com/plan-your-visit/.

Carrying gear is easy with a trailer. If you’re a cycling family, you may have kept that child trailer for errands. Time to turn it into a rail-trail gear hauler. If you haven’t already, remove the seat and pack the trailer evenly from front to back. You can carry stuff for 4-8 people, depending on how light you travel. Shuttle services are available for certain trails. Contact the rail trails Program Manager for more details https://railtrails.vermont.gov/contact/.

Don’t have access to a trailer? Simply install rear racks on a couple of the bikes. Then purchase bags (called “panniers”) that attach to the racks. By filling the bags and strapping things onto the tops of the racks, you can carry essentials comfortably. And, if you need more capacity, you can add racks and bags to the other bikes on the trip.

Rail trails create unique opportunities for recreational cycling. They allow you to ride all day without worrying about cars. For families, they’re the perfect training ground for our next generation of cyclists. So get out there and enjoy your local rail trail!

An individual riding their bike on a trail

Rules & Regulations

Allowed Uses

The Vermont rail trails are open for non-motorized uses, with the exception of snowmobiles, motorized wheelchairs, and authorized maintenance vehicles. You’re sharing the trail with others, so be a good ambassador!

Pass & Yield Guidelines

  • Stay to the right of the trail except when passing.
  • Yield to the slowest users, and yield to livestock and other animals.
  • In the winter, yield to snow machines.
  • In other seasons, yield to horses.

Clear communication is key! Give a clear warning and SLOW DOWN before passing other trail users. All users should operate at a reasonable speed and should slow down when engaging in passing maneuvers, especially when passing other user types.

two cyclists on the delaware & hudson rail trail in rupert, vermont.

Quick Facts

  • Vermont law prohibits the operation of snowmobiles on streets and highways. The maximum snowmobile speed limit on state lands is 35 mph.
    E-bikes are permitted.
  • Motorbikes, ATVs, and ORVs are not permitted on the trail.
  • Camping on the trail, in the trail right of way, or at trailheads is prohibited.
  • Overnight parking at trailheads with VTrans permission.
  • Discharging firearms from or across the trail is strictly prohibited.
  • Smoking, alcoholic beverages, and illegal drugs are not permitted on the rail trail right of way.

For further information, visit our Etiquette page.

A parent and child biking on a trail
Two individuals nordic skiing the rail trail system
Two children biking on the LVRT
A family walking on the Rail Trails
A person biking during a sunset
Vermont Rail Trails*** July 2, 2024