Our new tandem bike is finished and this was our first “overnight” trip, meaning transporting the bike and everything else we need to travel with. We had heard about a railtrail that crosses Lake Champlain and it looked amazing. Making the time for a 4-day weekend, we set off, to see what we could see.
The Island Line Trail includes the Burlington Bike Path, which is where we started our adventure. We found plenty of places to park even on a Saturday morning near the waterfront in downtown Burlington. Additional places to park are available both north of the waterfront and south to its terminus at Oakledge Park.
We had to stop for photos almost immediately as we headed north. Long before we got to where the trail crosses Lake Champlain, we were stunned by the lake views along the way. The bridge crossing the Winooski River was a great place to stop as well.
One section of the trail requires biking through a neighborhood, but the signs were pretty clear, and we found our way north, back onto dedicated trail. While the southern portion of the trail is paved, the section near the shore where it crosses Lake Champlain is gravel, mostly hard packed, but not something those riding street bikes would enjoy.
And once we got a short distance off shore into the lake on the trail, signs started warning to take care. Wind, waves, and ice have taken a toll on the trail. Erosion of the edges is pretty severe in places, requiring riders to travel single file. Most fellow travelers heeded this warning, but it felt a little tense at times as riders hurried by us.
This is a popular trail, and the edges of the trail are quite damaged. In fact, the trail will be closed for repairs starting September, 2019, and is not scheduled to reopen till 2020. The trail was repaired in 2018, but clearly once again was damaged and is in need of repair. Check before heading out to visit, to be sure the trail is open.
Near South Hero Island, where the trail ends, a ferry allows for travel across the open water which allows for boat traffic to cross the trail. We missed the ferry (it operates seasonally, and we could have taken it, but chose not to wait till it returned to our side.) But the next day, we drove to South Hero Island (there is a causeway, Rt. 2, to the island) and made our way to Allen Point. Several parking areas allow for walking, biking and fishing access out to the remaining section the Island Line Trail that juts into Lake Champlain.
We arrived near sunset, and were treated to stunning views of the Adirondack mountains, and Lake Champlain.
Of interest were also the massive blocks of marble that were used to stabilize the railbed.
Would we go back? In a heartbeat. If you plan to go, be sure to check if the trail is open. Part of what makes this trail so amazing also makes it very vulnerable to wind, waves, and weather. We felt really lucky to get out on the trail before it is closed for repairs.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.