The Island Line Trail, is comprised of two distinct sections. The 7 mile paved Burlington Waterfront Bike Path to the south, connects to the 5 mile unpaved Colchester-South Hero Causeway section to the north via a new trail bridge spanning the Winooski River. Dedicated in 2004, the Burlington & Colchester Trail Bridge replaced the Winooski River bike ferry linking the two trails to create a continuous 13.5-mile Vermont regional recreation path.
We arrived on a cloudless day in August, to enjoy a summer bike ride on the Colchester section of the Island Line Trail. We chose Airport Park on Colchester Point Road for our base of operations. There is ample parking, modern restroom facilities, drinking water, a picnic area, playground, ballfields and more. It also provides easy access to both the unpaved Colchester Causeway Trail and the northern end of the paved Burlington Bike Path.
Although The Causeway Trail, best suited for mountain bikes, begins at the northern end of Airport Park adjacent to Airport Road, we wanted to check out the new 0.5 mile long, elevated, wood-decked bike trail bridge located just a block to the south. We were glad we did. The beautifully designed bridge is a an Island Line Trail highlight and a popular stop to rest, lunch, fish, boat watch and take in river views.
Biking back to our starting point at Airport Park, we pedalled north onto the Colchester Causeway section of the Island Line Trail. The gravel and dirt path passes through the 200 acre Colchester bog, owned and managed by the University of Vermont. The spongy, poorly drained soil, rife with water lillies, grasses and other plant life provdes a rich wetland habitat favored by many bird species. We stopped to admire several snowy egrets wading in the marsh. Their long, pencil thin necks punctuated the landscape like exclamation points.
The trail then passes the 56 acre Porter Natural Area. This land was acquired by the Lake Champlain Trust and transferred to the Town to serve as conservation land. Continuing north, the trail extends into the middle of Lake Champlain with Malletts Bay on one side and Law Island on the other, along a marble causeway built by the Rutland Railroad in 1899. This 3 mile stretch provides spectacular views of the lake, the Green Mountains, the Adirondack peaks in New York State, and of course, stunning sunsets.
The Island Line Trail comes to an abrupt end at “the Cut”, a 200 foot open water gap in the causeway that allows large boats to pass through. A bike ferry with wave attenuating docks and a 16-passenger boat runs from Spring (opening day) through mid-October enabling trail users to reach the Champlain Island of South Hero.
Note: Ferry Fees apply, so bring moolah. Fees help support this important transportation and recreational resource in the region.
At any other time of the year, this is the turn around point for the 4 mile return trip back to Airport Park. Advocates are working toward establishing permanent service.
Once across "The Cut", whether you are planning a day trip or an extended vacation exploring northern Vermont, South Hero and the Champlain Islands, additional miles of additional cycling can be found on a network of paved and unpaved, quiet back roads including a 363-mile principal cycling route around the entire Lake, known as the Champlain Bikeway. Interconnecting "Theme Loop Rides" intersect the bikeway and lead to many interesting destinations such as Vermont's longest sand beach, Vermont's largest campground, State Parks, fish hatcheries, orchards, Black Spruce bogs and wetlands ideal for wildlife viewing, Revolutionary War villages and many other historical, local and geological points of interest.
The Lake Champlain Region Bikeways Road Map and Guide featuring the 363-mile Champlain Bikeway and its network of connecting theme loops can be found at The Local Motion Trailside Center, located on the Burlington Waterfront Bike Path (see For More Information below).
Mayes Landing is one of 40 properties saved by the Lake Champlain Land Trust and managed by the Winooski Valley Park District. Located at the north end of the Burlington Bike Path at the base of the bridge, it is only accessible via the bike path or by boating up the Winooski River, just past the northern terminus of the Burlington Bike Path. There are no faciities but it's a great place for a picnic lunch. Use leave no trace ethics and carry out what you carry in.
Colchester Reef Lighthouse
This lighthouse warned ships of dangerous reefs from 1871-1933. It was moved to the Shelburne Museum in 1952 and it remains there on display. The base of the lighthouse can be seen from the Causeway.
Allen Point Ferry
Ferry service takes bicyclists across the cut in the Colchester-South Hero causeway to the Allen Point Access Trail in South Hero.
2016 Bike Ferry Schedule
Spring: May 27 - June 16, 2016
Summer: June 17 - Sept 5, 2016
Fall: Sept 6 - Oct 10, 2016
South Hero - Colchester Causeway (Allen Point Access Trail)
VT Department of Fish & Wildlife Access Area located at the other side of "The Cut" at South Hero. The scenic, flat, gravel path runs for 1.2 miles on a marble-clock causeway built in 1900 as part of the Rutland Island Line. The first 0.75 miles from the parking area is a shared corridor with cars. The rest of the trail is a dazzling, non-motorized path that juts out into Lake Champlain.
Access: Route 2 north to South Hero village. Left turn on South Street. Continue 2.5 miles and turn right onto Martin Rd. Go 0.3 of a mile and look for the Allen Point Access trail on the left. There are two parking areas. Walkers and cyclists who drive to the trail should park at the northern parking area by Martin Road.
Champlain Paddlers Trail
The Champlain Paddlers Trail runs parallel to Causeway Park for about 2 miles
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.
The most remarkable features of construction was the three and a quarter mile marble-block causeway stretching through the lake from Colchester Point to Allen's Point at South Hero. It was the largest rubble embankment in the world, the greatest height being 40 feet from Tromps Point to Bow and Arrow Point.
Rail operations ceased by 1961. Over the next 20 years the causeway deteriorated. In 1965, the entire corridor was purchased by the State of Vermont and the tracks were removed. Burlington's Bike Path was rehabilitated and completed in 1986.
For More Information
Burlington Parks & Recreation
645 Pine Street
Phone: (802) 864-0123
Local Motion Trailside Center & "The Cut" Ferry Info
(On the Burlington Bike Path)
1 Steele St. #103
Phone: (802) 861-2700