About this Itinerary
For over 100 years the small town of St. Albans, Vermont, has been the home of the Central Vermont Railroad (now New England Central Railroad), earning it the moniker Railroad City.At its heyday, the town saw over 200 trains a day passing through. Today, St. Albans is the northern terminus of the Vermonter, a passenger train that runs from Washington, D.C., but the town sees only a fraction of the rail traffic that once passed by. Cyclists, however, can now take advantage of a stunningly beautiful “North Kingdom”corridor left behind by the railway in the form of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail (MVRT). This 26-mile crushed stone trail travels from St. Albans to Richford, near the Canadian border. Gorgeous scenery, few crowds, and a devoted local following that keeps the route in remarkable shape, make this trail a true gem.
Today, St. Albans is a quiet town of about 7,000 people tucked away in northwest Vermont, about halfway between Burlington and the Canadian border. The town’s past as a prosperous railway hub is evident in its architecture, which features a number of beautiful Victorian and Craftsman homes, both popular styles during the height of the railroad era. Stay in one of these historical properties, at the Back Inn Time B&B. Situated in the heart of the town, the Victorian house was built in 1858 and since that time has had only three owners. The beautifully restored inn features five guest rooms each with a private bath, a full gourmet breakfast, exquisite gardens, four porches, and is easily accessible to the MVRT. To reach St. Albans from the Burlington Airport, we recommend renting a car. The town is easily accessible from the airport along I-89N and the drive will only take about a half hour.
The MVRT follows a 26-mile section of the old Vermont and Canada Railroad corridor that extends north from St. Albans. Eventually, there are plans to create a link all the way to the Canadian border, but as of now the trail ends about two miles shy of the Richford-Abercorn Border Crossing (although the border can be reached by biking along VT-139). While it is possible to bike the entire trail in one day, given that the crushed stone will make riding a little slower than on a paved surface, our itinerary divides the route in two leisurely days. Unfortunately, the nearest bike rental shop is North Star Sports in Burlington, so, if you need to rent, factor this in to your planning. North Star offers hybrid bike rentals for one or more days, but be sure to call ahead to reserve bikes, especially in the warm summer months.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the Back Inn Time before setting out. As always, bring full water bottles, but note that there are a number of places to stop along the way for food and water. Our itinerary today will take you approximately 16 miles out (32 miles roundtrip) to Enosburg Falls. From the inn, the trailhead is about 1.5 miles away, mostly on residential streets. Take a right on Fairfield, the first left on High Street, and a left on Lakeview Terrace (7th left). Take a right at the intersection with Route 7 and look to your right for the bike on a post, marking the entrance to the MVRT.
You will note that the MVRT is an incredibly well-marked trail. Mileage markers, map kiosks, excellent signage, as well as seasonally available portable restrooms, are located along the entire route. Shortly after setting out, the trail runs alongside a number of scenic farms and over a trestle bridge in Sheldon Junction. As you ride over the bridge, notice the boards that are slightly newer looking than the others. In June 1984, a derailment took place here resulting in the locomotive dangling over the water and critically damaging the bridge. This incident led to the abandonment of the railway as it was determined that with declining rail traffic it was not cost effective to repair. Today the bridge serves pedestrians and cyclists on the MVRT. The town of Sheldon (which lies just to the south of the bridge) has an interesting history as a popular summer resort in the 1800s due to its mineral springs. Spring water was bottled and sold as a miracle cureand huge resorts sprang up to host the numerous visitors to the town. Eventually, the springs fell out of fashion and Sheldon became an important mill town, which is still a significant employer today.
In Enosburg Falls, stop in the center of town by the red caboose and former train depot. The depot is now home to the Enosburg Falls Historical Society and on Saturdays from June through October it’s open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Take a few minutes to visit the small museum’s railroad artifacts and climb aboard the old caboose if you are here during opening hours (the museum will also open by appointment). Turn around to retrace your route back to St. Albans. One the way back, stop for lunch at The Abbey Pub and Restaurant, which you will have passed trailside before arriving in Enosburg Falls. The restaurant has been a fixture in the area for over 40 years;relax and enjoy the surrounding views as you fuel up before heading out on the MVRT.
Back in town, stop by St. Albans Historical Society on the town square to peruse the small museum’s artifacts and exhibits highlighting the town’s history from Revolutionary times to the present day. The Society is housed in an old school building and among the exhibits is a re-creation of an old barber shop and doctor’s office. A large focus is also paid to the town’s railroad history. Learn about the St. Albans raid, the northernmost land action in the Civil War. The event involves a raid by Confederate soldiers who came to St. Albans via Canada to rob banks in order to divert Union troops’attention. They were successful with the robbery and managed to escape to Canada with today’s equivalent of over $3 million dollars.
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the gardens of the Back Inn Time or curled up with a book on one of the four cozy porches. This evening, stop by One Federal Restaurant & Lounge located one block from the town common. Serving fresh, locally-sourced food ranging from steak and fish to pasta and chicken, this casual dining spot features four dining areas and an outdoor courtyard. Be sure to check out the restaurant’s backyard garden.
After another delicious homemade breakfast, drive approximately a half hour from St. Albans to Enosburg Falls on I-105N. In town, turn left on Main Street And, at the intersection with the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, turn right to park at the next corner by the red caboose and old train depot, which you recall from the day before.
Today’s route will take you about 20 miles roundtrip. Heading north on the MVRT, you will notice that despite appearing flat, the trail does have a slight grade as you head toward Richford. This section of the trail provides lovely farms vistas as well as views of the Missisquoi River, which it follows. Birdwatchers should be alert as this area is particularly rich in avian life. Common birds in the area include plovers that frequent the wetlands, especially around mile marker 25. One of the unique aspects of the trail, which summer visitors will have an opportunity to appreciate, is Corn Alley.Corn is an important crop in this area and for several miles the trail is lined by rows of corn on both sides, making for a fun ride when the cornstalks are at their tallest. Also look for views of Jay Peak, a popular ski resort, off in the distance.
Enjoy the downhill return to Enosburg Falls. You will have noticed on both sections of the trail that the corridor goes through individual farms. Farms in this region produce such a large volume of dairy goods that back in the day of the railway the trains would stop at each one to pick up products for shipping. Now the farms use other modes of transportation to get their goods to market. It is important to recognize, however, that along most of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, bikers are traveling through private property, so please show respect at all times.
Back in Enosburg Falls there are a few options for lunch. We recommend stopping at Park Side Grill, a local diner serving good, basic American diner fare such as grilled cheese, cheesesteaks, and burgers. The diner is located in the middle of town (turn left on Main Street and look for it right after the town green).
Before returning to St. Albans, visit one of the more unusual sites in the area, Cold Hollow Sculpture Park. The park features 50 large-scale modern sculptures by nationally-known artist David Stromeyer. The land is owned by the artist, who also lives here, and who has opened the grounds to visitors to experience his large-scale sculptures in an organic setting unbound by urban constraints. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the art, and children in particular will enjoy the opportunities to walk through pieces, but everyone will delight in the artworks’interesting juxtaposition against the rolling Vermont meadows. The park is located about 5 miles from downtown Enosburg Falls. To reach, follow VT-108S and bear left at Tyler Branch Road. Take a right on Boston Post Road and look for the park on your right.
An iconic image of Vermont is the covered bridge. Neighboring Montgomery County is often referred to as Vermont’s Covered Bridge Capital, as seven of these historical structures can be found here. While it is the opposite direction to St. Albans, take a short road trip through beautiful back country roads to see all seven bridges. If returning directly to St. Albans, continue south on Boston Post Road and bear right on Route 36 in Bakersfield and continue onward to the town.
Tonight enjoy dinner at Twiggs Gastropub. Located on the town common in St. Albans, the restaurant features a festive environment with live music many nights, and a pub menu that puts a modern spin on classic favorites. Choose from gourmet burgers such as the Yumster (Havarti, alfalfa sprouts with mushrooms and chipotle mayo), several types of flatbreads, and a selection of mac ’n’ cheese dishes.
If you can stay another day in the area, visit the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in nearby Swanton. Established in 1943 to provide a habitat for migratory birds, the refuge supports an environment mostly for wetland birds. Visitors can walk miles of well-maintained trails to look for the more than 200 species that come to the refuge. The fall migration is a particularly spectacular time when 20,000 to 25,000 migrating ducks pass through. The refuge is also home to more than 300 nests including those of bald eagles, osprey, and great blue herons.
Spend time exploring the vibrant city of Burlington. Located only a little over a half hour south of St. Albans, Burlington has enough to keep you occupied for days. Bike the 14-mile Island Line Rail Trail from Burlington to South Hero and enjoy spectacular views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, bike over a 4-mile causeway, and take a short bike ferry. See a performance at the historical Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, go sailing aboard a traditional New England schooner on Lake Champlain with Whistling Man Schooner Company, and visit the quirky Shelburne Museum which features a vast collection of Americana artwork. Also wander Church St. Marketplace, the shopping and dining hub of the city, and enjoy one of the city’s many fine restaurants.
No trip to Vermont is complete without doing some hiking. While in Burlington, stop by the visitor center located just off of Church Street to get details on where to go to enjoy the numerous hiking opportunities the Green Mountains has to offer. Throughout the state, you will find amazing hiking, zip-lining, canoeing, kayaking, and mountain biking opportunities. Vermont’s small size means you won’t have to travel too far to take advantage of them.