The Burlington Waterfront Greenway is an 8-mile urban legend, recreational route and cycling extravaganza that skims Burlington, Vermont along the Lake Champlain shoreline. It's the southern segment of the scenic 14 mile Island Line Trail. Not just for locals, the Island Line Trail is the gateway to the extensive Lake Champlain Bikeway and Waterway Trail system.
For the most part, the bike path travels on and along the re-characterized railbed of the Rutland-Canadian Railroad. It runs from Oakledge Park at it's southern terminus to the mouth of the Winooski River where it connects to the 5-mile Colchester Causeway Trail in Colchester to the north. A half-mile long, elevated trail bridge spans the river, linking these two trail segments. The Island Line Trail continues, arcing out into Lake Champlain along a gravel causeway to the Allen Point Access area where you and your bike can travel aboard a Bike Ferry to South Hero / Grand Isle; Lake Champlains' largest island to explore destinations and scenic back roads.
There are mise en scénes all along the Burlington Waterfront Greenway and connections to 6 waterfront parks and historic, cultural and social points of interests. Across the lake are unobstructed views of the southern Adirondack Mountains. Discover that perfect picnic area, trailside bench, waterside boathouse or beach house for a bike ride pick-me-up and to witness the sunset as it illuminates a path across Lake Champlain.
Where to begin your ride.
While visting Burlington VT our hosts took us on a guided bike tour of the entire Island Line Trail. We were introduced to the bike friendly folks at the Local Motion Trailside Center operated by Vermont's only statewide cycling advocacy organization. They also spearhead the Bike Ferry operations. They are conveniently located along the bike path between King and Main streets next to the historic Union Station in the heart of Burlington.
Open seasonally, they can outfit you for your bike ride. They offer bike rentals including tandem bikes and kid trailers. Need a water bottle refill, Cycling The City Map, recommendations, a snack or a really cool T-Shirt?. Trailside tables are located just outside.
Bikes & Beaches
Bike to Burlington Vermont's largest and only lifeguarded beach. Facilities include picnic areas with grills, a snack bar and Beach House restaurant with a Tikki bar and live music.
Outdoor outfitters offer kayak, canoe and standup paddleboard rentals as well as kayaking classes and expeditions out on the lake. Hey! There is even a foot shower to wash your feet before putting your cycling shoes back on.
Alternatives are Leddy Park (hiking only) and Oakledge Park. Both offer swimming (no lifeguards), picnic areas with grills and restrooms..
Camp right along Lake Champlain at the North Beach campground. It's a very convenient overnight stop on a longer bike trip or a weekend cycling getaway. The Burlington Bike Path travels right through the campground.
North Beach: 60 Institute Rd, Burlington. Located just off the Burlington Bike Path at the end of Institute Road off North Avenue. Parking fees apply if you arrive by car.
Reservations: 1- (802 ) 862-09428. While the beach is open all year, certain facilities and amenities are open seasonally.
Bike to Scenic Viewpoints & Fire Towers
Ethan Allen Park Tower
A four mile network of paved and natural surface paths wind through Ethan Allen Park; named for Vermont's most unusual and flamboyant Revolutionary War and folk hero. The trails are part of the 10-mile marked "Cycle The City Loop".
The trails travel through a picturesque and idyllic forested setting overlooking a quiet stretch of the Winooski River. The bike paths lead to several unique points of interests including a whimsical gazebo set beneath a dense tree canopy and a 40-foot high stone lookout tower atop the city's highest point. From the top there are commanding views of the city, Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. The tower is open seasonally.
Access via North Avenue, Ethan Allen Boulevard, and the 127 Bike Path across the Bridge.
Bikes & Lighthouses
Burlington Breakwater Lighthouses
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Burlington, VT was the third-largest lumber port in the nation during the canal era. It was an important hub for canal traffic as it provided a connection to the Hudson River, the Great Lakes, and north to the St. Lawrence River.
A granite breakwater was built to protect the harbor from the fierce northern elements. The Southern Light Tower (circa 1857), and the Northern Light Tower (circa 1890) were built on Lake Champlain. Battered by the elements for over 100 years, the wooden lighthouses have gone through several transformations. The City of Burlington wanted to restore the aesthetics of the original lightouses and reconstructed them based on photographs of the originals.
There are fabulous views of both lighthouses from the Burlington Waterfront Greenway. The 46-foot North Light is located near the city's new fishing pier; the 160-slip Burlington Harbor Marina. The 26-foot South Light is close to Perkins Pier located at the base of Maple Street in Burlington Harbor.
Historical Notes: Transforming City Waterfronts
Most waterfronts have historically been a center of shipping and industry. The 1800’s Burlington waterfront was the country's third largest port. Every available space was used for lumber storage, rail siding, shipping, naval and coastguard activities and other commercial endeavors. The waterfront, once a long sandy crescent of beach, was landfilled right up until the 1950's. As the city and it's economic priorites changed over time, urban decay set in making the area an inhospitable and inaccessible place.
Transforming the Burlington waterfront into a world class community resource and internationally known recreational destination was a monumental task.
An industrial site until the 1960s, the Urban Reserve was purchased and cleaned up by the city of Burlington to preserve forty-five acres of prime waterfront property as a "land bank" for future generations. Residents have had the challenge and opportunity to participate in planning for it's future. Recent renovations included stormwater improvements, removal of dock pilings, cement and a major realignment of this stretch of trail. It now traces the Lake Champlain shoreline.
Plantings, social spaces, a skate park, museum, parkland, affordable housing were thoughtfully added - this waterfront bike path has been totally re-characterized.
Rails To Trails
In 1899 the 3.5 mile causeway was built by the Rutland-Canada Railroad to connect the New England seacoast with the Great Lakes region crossing this stretch of Lake Champlain. The line included 41 miles of track, six miles of marble causeways and trestles, and four drawbridges. Built in only one year, the Rutland and Canadian was a spectacularly scenic railroad. Rail operations ceased by 1961. The Rails To Trails conversion began in 1973. In 1986 the Colchester Causeway Bike Path was completed.
Burlington Parks and Recreation
Phone: (802) 864-0123
Website: Burlington Parks & Recreation