White River Junction, once an important New England railroad hub, is the gateway to a surprising variety of outdoor activities in Central Vermont. You name it. Mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and fly-fishing. This area is also popular with bicyclists who have long been attracted to the superb network of paved and dirt country roads with minimal traffic that connect the surrounding quintessential New England villages like charms on a chain. Road and mountain biking experiences range from pretty bike rides along rushing rivers and streams, past pastoral Vermont countryside and rolling green hills to challenging mountain climbs.
Our featured bike ride begins in Woodstock, Vermont. Founded in 1768, the village is a vital, artful blend of New England tradition, stately elegance and rural small town charm. Over 30 miles of paths and trails connect 1,260-foot Mount Tom, 1,200-foot Mount Peg, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and other natural areas with the heart of Woodstock Village. The town of Quechee, the end-point of this featured bike ride, borders Woodstock about 8 miles to the east. Both towns are popular week-end get-away destinations and boast covered bridges, historic bed-and-breakfast inns and resorts, main streets lined with classic general stores, eateries and craft studios and shops. Village Greens are bordered by magnificent restored late Georgian, Federal Style, and Greek Revival homes. The white church spires silhouetted against the Green Mountain pastures of Central Vermont provide the finishing touch.
The Woodstock River Road to Quechee bike ride is the perfect rejuvenating cycling excursion to do in the Spring. If you visit after Memorial Day when the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park opens (see Historical notes below), you will also have the opportunity to explore Vermont's only National Park before or after your ride. Other spring time activities include the Billings Farm & Museum annual Sheep Shearing Weekend and the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival & Crafts Fair. The Woodstock Covered Bridges Half Marathon Weekend which consistently draws 2,000 race participants, takes place the first weekend in June. Lodging may be difficult to come by during these events and weekends in general are usually busy times for this popular tourist destination. That being said, get an early start on your bike ride or plan your visit during the week for a quieter experience. Pick a sunny day after a long dry spell for the best all around experience.
The Route: Woodstock River Road to Quechee, Vermont Bike Ramble
River Road is a pretty country lane that winds it's way along the Ottaquechee River for 8 miles to Quechee where it becomes Quechee Main Street. You'll bicycle past some of the most beautiful eighteenth and nineteenth century homes in Woodstock, woodlands and classic red barns. The rolling, bright-green hillsides dotted with black and white cows set against a backdrop of evergreens and hardwood trees provide the quintessential Vermont touch. Other special highlights of this ride include three covered bridges, old mill towns and plenty of scenic river and mountain views.
The bike route travels over a combination of lightly-trafficked paved and dirt road sections which are best suited for mountain bikes or hybrid bicycles. Depending on your fitness level or how much time you have to spare, you can opt to do this ride as a 16-mile (round-trip) half-day excursion, an 8-mile one-way jaunt if you park a car at one end or a six mile round-trip photo op if you pedal out to the picturesque Taftsville Covered Bridge and back.
The route begins from the Billings Farm Museum parking lot. Head east on River Road. In about 1.5 miles you'll come to a fork with High Pastures Road. Stay to the right and continue pedaling to one of Vermont's oldest covered bridges. The picturesque Taftsville Covered Bridge, built in 1836, carries River Road over the Ottaquechee River in Taftsville, Vermont (see Historical Notes below). This is the three mile reference point of your ride. We hope you brought your camera along.
At several points along the way, the road bends in close to the river. The sound of rushing water from the snow melt tumbling over the river rocks and the sight of people in high waders standing in the river casting for trout is another sure sign of Spring.
River Road eventually becomes Main Street in Quechee, VT. Continue cycling until you arrive at the old mill restored by pottery and glassware maker Simon Pearce. The mill’s turbines have been rebuilt and now supply hydro-power to the building, which houses a restaurant, shop and glassblowing studio where our described ride ends. Note the modern covered bridge next to the Mill.
At Dewey’s Mills, just east of Quechee Village on Route 4, the Ottauquechee River turns abruptly southward and plunges into the narrow, rocky cleft of Quechee Gorge. Walk across the Quechee Gorge bridge for a giddy birds-eye view of the 165 feet deep, mile long gorge or enjoy a fifteen minute hike down the trail to Dewey's Mill Pond dam.
The VINS Nature Center is located 1/4 mile west of Quechee Gorge on Route 4 in Quechee, Vermont. It features one of North America's most impressive collections of live birds of prey such as owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons; a nature trail leading to the Ottauquechee River with a bird blind and other natural points of interest; a nature store; and a variety of entertaining and educational programs such as Predators of the Sky, Fledgling Corner, and Quechee Gorge hikes.
Historical Notes & Attractions
Much of Woodstock's charm comes from a succession of conservationists and benefactors; George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings and Mary F & Laurance S. Rockefeller.
The 555 acre Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park was the boyhood home of George Perkins Marsh, one of America's first conservationists, and later the home of Frederick Billings. The property became Vermont's first and only National Park when the estate's residential and forest lands was given to the American people by its most recent owners, Laurance S. and Mary F. Rockefeller in 1992.
The park's focus is on conservation history and land stewardship. It operates in partnership with The Woodstock Foundation, Inc. and the adjacent Billings Farm & Museum. It is the oldest sustain ably managed woodland in North America, with mansion and formal gardens, sugar maples, 400-year-old hemlocks, covered bridges, and rambling stone walls. Twenty miles of well-maintained gravel carriage roads and trails are available for hiking and horseback riding only.
Established in 1871, The Billings Farm is a living museum and one of the finest working Jersey farms in America. Learn about the art of Vermont dairying - past and present. Programs and exhibits allow visitors to experience life on a 19th-century Vermont farm first-hand. Visit the 1890 Victorian-style farmhouse, with its creamery and ice house, or watch the afternoon milking of the cows.
Nearby Covered Bridges:
Some of the most picturesque covered bridges in Vermont can be found within an eight mile radius of Woodstock.
Middle Covered Bridge: 139-ft span over the Ota River on Mountain Avenue, opposite the Woodstock village green. It was built in 1969 as a reproduction of an authentic Town Lattice bridge. It replaced the former iron (Union Street) bridge.
Taftsville Covered Bridge: Built in 1836 and overlooking the hydro-electric dam on the Ottauquechee
Note: Flooding caused by Hurricaine Irene in 2011 caused extensive damage to the Taftsville covered bridge. It is currently undergoing repair work.
Quechee Covered Bridge: Although not historic, this 90-foot long bridge, spanning Ottauquechee River on Waterman Hill Road in Quechee village is spectacular due to its size, views of the dam and massive boulders below. Best in the Spring when water levels are high.
Note: The current bridge in Quechee has been blockaded and rendered unusable due to damage caused by Hurricaine Irene in 2012. Plans are underway for the construction of a replacement. The new covered bridge is expected to about 18 feet longer, however, 2 feet wider and several inches higher.
Lincoln Covered Bridge: Built in 1877, this 137-ft Tied arch design was completely restored in 1988. On Driving west on Route 4 out of Woodstock you will pass the bridge on the on the left.
Parking is available at the Billings Farm and Museum parking lot on Route 12 and River Road. To get there:
From Interstate 89, take Exit 1. Follow Route 4 West about 13 miles, through Quechee and Taftsville to Woodstock. Turn right onto Route 12 North and bear right after the iron bridge, continuing 1/4 mile and park in the designated lot.
From the West: Rt. 4 East from Rutland. Follow signs to Rte 12 North in the village of Woodstock. Turn left onto Rte 12 and travel 1/2 mile out of town. Bear right onto River Road for main entrance.
For more information
Woodstock, VT Area Chamber of Commerce