The focal point of the Mad River Vally Backroads Mountain Bike Tour is the Mad River, which carves a narrow valley between the Northfield and Green Mountain ranges. The bike route takes you through National Historic Register sites, classic New England villages, covered bridges and offers awesome views of some of Vermont's highest peaks. You'll ride past hillside farms, over dirt roads lined with stately sugar maples; and along the Mad River.
If you choose to include the optional section north and east of routes 17 and 100 in your ride, be prepared for the bike trips' most rugged terrain, all on unpaved surfaces. The main route is more gentle and incorporates some lightly travelled paved roads. The bike route begins with a good climb, and has one prolonged descent, so a degree of fitness is required.
During the summer, cap off your ride with a visit to one of the areas most popular local swimming holes (see our Bikes & Beaches feature article for details). This ride is also spectacular during the fall foliage season.
The Main Route : Mad River Valley Backroads Mountain Bike Tour
Turn east at the village's main intersection and go through The Great Eddy Covered Bridge over the Mad River. Just below the bridge is a popular swimming hole. (watch out for strong currents). Climb out of the village.
0.4 miles: Take your first left onto Common Road. The route climbs steeply for 1.2 miles on paved surfaces before reaching Waitsfield Common. If you don't want to ride the optional extension (option 1), you have just completed the most difficult part of this loop. Bear right here onto Common Road and cruise along a high plateau for about 3 miles on a dirt road, passing occasional farmsteads and panoramic vistas.
4.4 miles: Bear left back on the paved surface of East Warren Road. You will encounter some roller roller coaster hills before leveling out into the town of Warren.
8.4 miles: Just after you pass Airport Road, the pavement bends sharply to the right. You're in for an exciting 2-mile descent along Freeman Brook into the village of Warren which is a National Historic Register site.
At the "T" intersection in the village, turn right to continue the loop but first, make a left and take time to see this picturesque hamlet. Warren Village is a National Register site (see Historical Note below).
Backtrack cross the Mad River and turn right onto Route 100 North.
Continue north, paralleling the river until the intersection of Routes 100 and 17 (Optional extension begins here. Turn left onto 17 for extension). To finish the main loop minus extension just continue north on Route 100 through the settlement of Irasville. You will find a variety of shops and stores. Head back to Waitsfield.
16.3 miles: Arrive at the village of Waitsfield.
Turn left onto Route 17.
1.02 miles from the intersection, take your first right onto Number Nine Road. Climb steeply, bearing right at an island of mailboxes. Soon you will reach the Bragg Hill Farm, circa 1843, providing spectacular views to the south and east.
Bear right at the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Bragg Hill, then left onto Kew-Vasseur Road (3.0 miles).
Climb once again to another marvelous vantage point, descend into a small basin, climb again and descend to a "T" intersection (4.5 miles).
Turn right onto Center Fayston Road and descend swiftly for 2.6 miles to Route 100. The last part of this descent is very steep so check your brakes at the top.
Turn right onto Route 100 South and pedal 1.6 miles back to the Village of Waitsfield (loop total is 8.7 miles).
The Mad River
The Mad River's milling power and fertile floodplain were magnets for 18th and 19th century settlers. Reminders of those bygone times abound in the architecture and landscape features of the valley. The latter half of the 20th century has witnessed the valley's renaissance as a recreation and resort center, hosting several downhill and Nordic ski areas, a particularly scenic segment of the Long Trail, year round events and festivals, and a full complement of services, goods and accommodations.
This scenic hamlet is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts many fine, well-maintained 18th- and 19th-century structures. Greek Revival is the prominent architectural style. Waitsfield had its origins as a milling settlement, but quickly evolved into the main commercial center of the Mad River Valley.
The Great Eddy Covered Bridge
On the national Register, this span is the second oldest covered bridge in Vermont and the oldest in continuous operation. Built in 1833, its braces were actually hewn from tree crotches.
A National Register site. Although it had its beginnings as a mill village, all of its early mill and dam sites have been lost to floods and fires. However, over 70 historic structures remain in this tight cluster of residences, commercial buildings and churches. The covered bridge at the far end of the village dates to 1879 and was built by one man.
Take I-89, exit 10 at Waterbury Village to Route 100 South. In the Village of Waitsfield, public parking can be found across from the Library on Route 100.
For more information
Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission