Exit 5 off I-89 to VT 64 west. Go about 3 miles to VT 12 north. Proceed to the Village of Northfield and park at Depot Square in the heart of town. From Montpelier (exit 8 off I-89) take VT 12 south to Northfield.
This Vermont Covered Bridge mountain bike tour in Northfield, VT offers scenic cycling over a combination of paved and unpaved roads and the opportunity to enjoy five of Central Vermont's iconic, historic covered bridges set against hillsides painted with shades of green in spring and summer or brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in autumn.
The main Northfield Bike Tour Route begins and ends in the heart of Northfield, VT. Located about ten miles from Montpelier, Northfield Village is a college town with a compact urban center and a long, diverse history. The Dog River, a popular trout stream, bisects the town nearly in half on it's journey to the Winooski River. Northfield's rustic edge is just to the north in the "Falls" area. This is where you'll find four covered bridges straddling a clear mountain stream in close proximity to eachother.
The main Northfield Covered Bridges Bike Tour takes cyclists on a 12.3 mile journey over paved VT Routes 12 and 12A, but most of the route travels over maintained dirt roads. Although there are two short, leg burning climbs, it's a relatively easy ride with gradual climbs and descents broken up by level stretches. Everyone will enjoy this short bike ride that travels on backroads through classic Vermont landscapes. There are cool forests, expansive mountain views, rolling farmland, mountain streams and the Village of Northfield where the bike tour begins and ends.
Depending on how much time you have, you can extend or shorten your ride. A 10.7 mile loop ride that travels over winding dirt roads and takes you through the Moseley Covered Bridge is also an option. See Northfield Covered Bridge Bike Tour map above for different loop ride possibilities.
Note: Both the historic Upper Cox Brook Bridge and the Stony Brook (Moseley Bridge) are currently closed due to severe flood damage caused by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. While many areas of central Vermont and the upper reaches of the Mad River Valley did not suffer severe damage, low-lying areas were not as lucky. Both bridges are currently impassable and the approaching roads as well as several other roads in the area are washed out. Northfield, VT is no stranger to adversity and flooding throughout its long history (see historic notes below). We have no doubt that this resilient community will rebound quickly.
In the meanwhile use caution and check ahead for terrain and road conditions.
Main Bike Route
0.0: From Depot Square ride east on Wall St., across the railroad tracks and Dog River. Turn left onto Water St. following along the flood plain of the river, a popular trout stream.
1.2 miles: After passing Terry Hill Rd., the road turns sharply to the right and up Dole Hill Rd. Climb steeply for almost a mile, past Norwich University Cemetery. There are good views of the Dog River valley from the top. Descend, bearing left at a grassy triangle.
2.8 miles: At stop sign turn left onto Smith Hill Rd. Descend to the intersection of Rt. 12A.
4.1 miles: Turn left onto Rt. 12A, pass under a trestle and take the first right onto Bull Run Rd. (4.4 miles).
For the next 2.2 miles the ride takes you through a cool streamside forest over gently rolling hills. Turn left onto Winch Hill Rd. The turn comes just after crossing the fourth bridge over Bull Run. The climb up Winch Hill is very steep and may require some walking for the less fit. The good news is that the climb only lasts about 1/2 mile. Bear left at the top. After a mile the views to the west will be spectacular, with Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, visible on a clear day. After 3 miles Winch Hill Rd. drops back into the valley.
10.3 miles: Turn right at intersection with Rt.12A.
11.2 miles: Turn left at intersection with Rt.12. Pass Norwich University and continue down Main Street with it's many historic homes, returning to Depot Square for a total of 12.3 miles.
Option: Moseley Covered Bridge Loop Ride
This optional ride takes you through Moseley Covered Bridge over winding, backcountry dirt roads along the Stony Brook River.
From Depot Square, take Wall Sreet across the river. Turn right at the intersection, and take the first left onto Union Street, which becomes Union Brook Rd. as it leaves town. Ride uphill on Union Brook Rd. for about 1.8 miles and turn left onto West Hill Rd. The road becomes dirt as you climb into beautiful horsefarm country. Descend the hill to an intersection (4.5 miles), bearing left along a wooden fence, across from a brown farm house. Bear left again at the next intersection (5.5 miles) onto Stoney Brook Rd. Descend 2.8 miles through the woods and through the historic Moseley Covered Bridge back to Rt.12A. Return to Depot Square for a total of 10.7 miles.
The village has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride since being chartered in 1781. In 1848 it became the headquarters for the Central Vermont Railway. Vermont’s governor, in an apparent vendetta, vowed to "make grass grow in the streets of Northfield" and moved the railroad headquarters to St. Albans. In 1866 Norwich University, a private military academy, moved to Northfield. Today is the mainstay of the town. In the 1890’s the granite industry moved in, only to leave for nearby Barre during the Depression. The knitting and woolen industry and expansion of the University brought Northfield back again and today it is a thriving community.
Northfield Covered Bridges
The five covered bridges of Northfield, Vermont are among it's most treasured and symbolic historic resources. All are listed on the Historic National Register.
The Upper Cox, Lower Cox, Northfield Falls, Slaughterhouse Covered Bridges
Two miles north of Northfield Village in the hamlet of Northfield Falls is an impressive collection of four rcovered bridges. All straddle the Cox River, a tributary of the Dog River and are located within a few hundred feet of each other.
The Northfield Falls (Station Bridge, First Bridge), Lower Cox (Second Bridge) and Upper Cox (Third Bridge) were built in 1872 and are all located on Cox Brook Road off of VT RT 12. This is the only place in Vermont where one historic bridge can be seen from another, in this case the Northfield Falls and Lower Cox Bridge.
Just off of VT 12 on Slaughterhouse Road, .3 miles south of town, is the Slaughterhouse Bridge, also built in 1872.
Stony Brook Covered Bridge
The Stony Brook Covered Bridge (Moseley Bridge), built in 1899 marks the end of the covered bridge building era in Vermont. It straddles the Stony Brook river in the southwestern section of Northfield off Vermont Route 12A. It is one of only two historic bridges with a King Post Truss design left standing in Vermont.
For more information
Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission