Welcome to Cycling in the Slate Valley!
The Slate Valley contains some of the best cycling in Vermont and eastern New York. It has quiet roads, charming villages, friendly people, more valley roads than mountain ones, little traffic and scenic views. We present 11 cycling routes (16 counting the variations) that begin and end in the village of Poultney, Vermont in the middle of the Slate Valley. Each of the rides has a map and a complete cue sheet for each length version. The routes are a series of different length loops on roads that explore different areas of the Slate Valley.
Also we highly encourage you to check out the Slate Valley Trails website at slatevalleytrails.org. There you will find maps and cue sheets for a number of “Gravel rides.” Look under the Gravel Ride Network tab. There are links to local mountain bike trails, rail trail and bike path networks as well as a number of great hiking spots. The website is still being updated so check in from time to time to find improvements and additions.
Click on the route title to view the map!
– 15 Miles, Unpaved roads and rail trail
This short loop is for cyclists who want to pedal interesting, unpaved roads. It climbs into the hills east and north of East Poultney and up the “Loop Road”, a very old road that now has three separate names. On the long downhill, the road descends next to a gorge that has several waterfalls. A hybrid bike is most suited for this ride as it is mostly on hard-packed dirt roads and a crushed cinder trail.
This loop takes you to Castleton on the bed of the old D &H Railroad line. It returns to East Poultney on rolling dirt roads where traffic is very sparse. This ride is best suited for hybrid bikes as it is almost entirely on crushed cinders and hard-packed dirt roads. By returning to Poultney on the rail trail, you can shorten the ride to 15 miles and avoid all hills.
– 15 or 17 Miles, unpaved roads & rail trail
In October 1844 more than 200 people gathered at Ascension Rock behind William Miller ’s farm to await the second coming of Jesus Christ. When He did not appear, the day became known as “The Great Disappointment”. You will not be disappointed by this scenic route that ventures into New York to visit Ascension Rock. The route also passes several quarries and visits nearby Fair Haven with its grand mansions around the town green. The 24 mile version offers a grand vista after the William Miller Farm then follows pleasant, rural roads before rejoining the shorter version.
– 15 or 24 Miles
Rides to the north of Poultney
– 23 Miles
This route runs north to visit two area lakes – Lake Bomoseen and Glen Lake. After Lake Bomoseen the terrain becomes more rural and hillier with three long and noticeable hills. The route then runs south to Fair Haven before returning to Poultney.
– 38 Miles
This nice loop circles three of our local mountains. It runs east through Middletown Springs and features a long gentle grade followed by an equally long downhill run into West Rutland. There you turn west and cycle into the stately town of Castleton. From there you ride on quiet and scenic roads as you return to Poultney.
– 40 or 51 Miles
The highlight of this ride is Hubbardton Battlefield, the site of the only Revolutionary War battle fought entirely in Vermont. You visit the village of Castleton then ride north for seven miles through a pretty valley, gaining altitude steadily and then climbing more steeply the last 1.25 miles until you arrive at the top and the site of the battle. The battlefield and its museum have some of the best views around. On the shorter version you turn around and enjoy a downhill run on the roads you just climbed. The longer version features a great downhill plunge as well as a second climb. On both variations you return to Castleton and then to Poultney.
– 5 Miles
This route goes from Proctor High School to Pine Hill Park, Rutland.
– 5 Miles
Bike down Killington Mountain. Note from Killington Resort: “Mountain biking is a challenging experience, complete with all the hazards and dangers associated with being in a rugged, outdoor environment.”
– 2.5 Miles
“The Feeder Canel was established in the early 1800’s for boats to bypass The Hudson River when Logs were floated down to local lumber mills. In 1990, Glens Falls and the surronding communities established a Walking/Biking trail along the canel from the Feeder Dam down to the Champlain Canel outside of Hudson Falls. Today with improvements the trial has evolved into a stone surfaced outdoor trial where you can see anything from deer feeding to geese swimming in the river.”
Rides to the south of Poultney
– 24 Miles
This route heads south to the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, New York through the heart of the southern Slate Valley and is a good sampler of the valley sights. There is $5 admission charge if you wish to go inside the museum. At the museum you can learn about this unique area and the people who immigrated to work here. From the museum you return to Vermont and pass several large quarries. The route then travels to Wells and up the east side of Lake Saint Catherine before visiting historic East Poultney. The store in Wells is known for its baked goods, especially the muffins. There is a short, 0.3 mile section of smooth, hard packed dirt in this ride.
– 28 or 38 Miles
The roads on this loop are by far the ones most used by local and visiting cyclists. After starting with a nice eight mile warm up ride to Middletown Springs, you head south down the valley, continuing your gradual ascent until you gain a total of 500 feet over 13 miles. On the shorter version you turn onto East Wells Road and get your reward with a three mile downhill run into the village of Wells. The longer version continues south to the village of Pawlet, a quintessential small Vermont town with an interesting general store. On both versions you can stop at the Wells general store for great muffins, just the right fuel for a noticeable hill on your return trip north along Lake St. Catherine, through historic East Poultney and into Poultney.
– 32 or 43 Miles
This very scenic and hilly route first heads south and west from Poultney into New York state before heading back north on a delightfully scenic road with grand vistas of the southern end of the Adirondack range. The longer version offers more views and more hills before visiting to Fairhaven and returning to Poultney. The shorter version visits the William Miller Farm before joining the longer version. There is a short, 0.3 mile section of smooth, hard packed dirt in this ride.
– 45 or 58 Miles
What is a ride in Vermont without crossing a ridge? You cycle east to Middletown Springs and then continue over a ridge to the village of Tinmouth. The route then heads south to Danby Four Corners before turning west over the ridge again (about a mile grade) where you get to enjoy one of our best downhill runs into Pawlet. The shorter version returns to Poultney on the same roads used by the Pawlet Loop version of The Classics. On the longer version, you turn south to West Pawlet and enter New York to visit Granville. It offers a grand vista of the entire valley followed by a great downhill run. The longer route then joins the shorter version and returns along the eastern shore of Lake St Catherine and through East Poultney.
– 65 or 34 Miles
The 34 mile loop at the southern end of this scenic route is by far the flattest road bike ride around. From Poultney the route heads south to the village of West Pawlet and then parallels the bed of the D&H Railroad as it follows a picturesque valley to the town of Salem, New York and the countryside made famous by Grandma Moses. The return heads north through an equally scenic valley to West Hebron before visiting West Pawlet, Wells and East Poultney. An alternate start from near the post office in West Pawlet shortens the route to the southern (and flattest) 34 miles. There is a short, 0.3 mile section of smooth, hard packed dirt near the beginning of this ride.
Road Conditions and Safety
Vermont rural roads are often casually marked. It is not unusual to find one road of an intersection marked, but not the other. You will find some intersections with hand lettered signs and others with no markings at all. Consequently, the cue sheets describe what you find at each intersection to keep you on route. If that fails, consult the map.Vermont is a very rural state with a high percentage of lightly traveled roads. While this makes for pleasant and scenic cycling, local motorists aren’t used to seeing groups of cyclists on the roads. Vermont and New York both define the bicycle as a vehicle and expect that cyclists obey all laws pertaining to vehicles. Therefore, ride single file, obey traffic laws and wear a helmet.
Bicycling is an inherently dangerous sport — those cars are a lot bigger than you are and potholes are unforgiving. The user assumes full responsibility when cycling these routes. The authors and website manager make no guarantee about the relative “safety” of cycling or the rides. And always ride defensively.
One downside of our rural roads and harsh winters is the sometimes poor condition of the pavement. You will find roads that change from good pavement to broken sections with open cracks with little or no warning. We suggest you be very careful if you expect to ride in pace lines and draft the rider in front of you. Some road sections are perfectly suited for drafting while others simply invite disaster.
Each of the rides has a map and a complete cue sheet for each length version. The routes are a series of different length loops on roads that explore different areas of the Slate Valley. Nine of the routes use completely or mostly paved roads, two use mostly unpaved roads and a rail trail.
While we rate the area “Vermont flat”, do not be fooled. This area has a lot of hills and would be rated “hilly” in other areas of the country.
All rides start in Poultney at the entrance to Green Mountain College, at the intersection of Poultney’s Main and College streets. You can park in any parking spot on Main Street. Please do not park on the college circle. While all the routes start from Poultney, you can begin a route in any of the towns it passes through. Good alternative starts can be found in Castleton along Main Street, in Fair Haven along the town green, in East Poultney behind the Baptist church, in Wells along the Wells green, in Pawlet near the library or in West Rutland. Similarly, you can ride each route in either direction. While the hills are somewhat easier in the suggested direction on some of the routes (long version of Hubbardton Retreat, Timmouth Trek, Mountain Roundabout and the Wells Loop version of The Classics), other routes can be ridden in either direction with similar difficulty.