One of New England's most visited and spectacular rail-trails, the Island Line Trail (formerly known as the Burlington Bikeway) skirts the waterfront in the hip college town of Burlington, strings together a series of shoreline parks and offers spectacular views of Lake Champlain and New York's Adirondack Mountains. Best of all, the relatively flat trail features a unique and scenic trip out over the lake on a marble causeway. Note, 7 miles of the south end are paved, while the remaining miles on the north end are gravel, and some of it soft.
The trail's official start point is at the Oakledge Park trailhead on Flynn Street in southern Burlington, which offers plenty of parking and amenities. The route leads north along the waterfront. At 2.1 miles, you'll reach the Union Station trailhead on King Street. (If you opt to begin here, bring extra change for the parking meters.)
Pause to admire lake views at the public North Beach Park trailhead at mile 3.4. A seasonal snack bar serves a variety of food and beverages. At mile 5.1, you'll enter Leddy Park in Burlington's New North End. The city's largest park, Leddy provides full amenities, parking, a sandy beach, a picnic area with tables and grills as well as more lakefront vistas.
A few miles north, you'll reach the Winooski River Bridge. This beautiful span—and the associated 0.5-mile elevated boardwalk across the Delta Park flood plain—is the crucial link that united the Burlington Bikeway and Colchester Causeway rail-trails in 2004, after 15 years of planning.
The causeway itself lies farther north, just beyond Colchester's residential neighborhoods and Airport Park. Built in 1900 atop huge marble boulders, the 2.5-mile raised railbed slices across Lake Champlain for unparalleled views. As you sail along the crushed stone surface, you'll have a sense of skimming the water's surface. The causeway ends abruptly out on the lake, where a seasonal bike ferry operated by Local Motion connects with South Hero.
To reach the Oakledge Park trailhead in Burlington, take Interstate 89 to Exit 13 and follow I-189 south to US 7. Turn right on US Route 7 north, then left on Flynn Avenue. Follow Flynn to its end and look for signs to Oakledge Park.
To reach the Airport Park trailhead in Colchester, take Interstate 89 to Exit 17 (US Route 2). Follow signs for US Route 2/US 7/Lake Champlain Islands/Colchester. Turn right onto Theodore Roosevelt Hwy./Route 2. Continue for 3 miles before turning right on Bay Road, and then take another right onto West Lakeshore Drive. West Lakeshore becomes Holy Cross Road and then Colchester Point Road. Trail parking is on the right at Airport Park on Colchester Point Road.