Jen Charette, velomom.com
Vermont is known for maple syrup, green farmlands, artisan foods, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and now, mountain biking. If you live on the East Coast or Eastern Canada and are looking for a family mountain bike trip, the Kingdom Trails in East Burke Vermont are a must and closer than other epics like Moab and Crested Butte. Trails are open May-October.
The once sleepy New England town of East Burke is now a mountain biking Mecca and the town is filled with mountain bikers all summer that come ride Kingdom Trails’ 110 miles of singletrack. In 2008, Bike Magazine rated the Kingdom Trails the best trail system in the USA. Almost all of the trails are on private property – one of the trails I rode went through someone’s driveway. As to not confuse anyone, they had a trail sign right there next to their house! The Kingdom Trails Association(802-626-0737; kingdomtrails.com) has a small office where you buy a trail pass and get all your trail info. It’s a must stop before you ride.
Since we were there in the fall, the weather was a little hit and miss. Most days had some rain or leftover moisture from rain. The trails hold up well to the rain but I had to really pay attention on those roots. There are lots of roots. We don’t have too many roots in Colorado so I really had to adjust my riding to stay upright! If you are coming to the area for less than a week I would highly recommend going with someone that knows the trails, hiring a guide or doing a lot of research beforehand. I spent 1.5 days just figuring out the trails. On one 2 hour ride I rode 27 different trails. This a trail network where you go in and out of different trails constantly. My head is still spinning trying to remember what I rode but these trails stand out as must rides for the Intermediate rider. Sidewinder, Jaws, Tap n Die, Kitchels, Heaven’s Bench, and East Branch.
There also are plenty of beginner trails and a pump track (similar to a bmx track) to keep the entire family entertained. If you have a little ripper or want to be ripper yourself, be sure to check out the gravity school that is held every weekend. They have a Gravity 101 lesson for adults and kids on Saturdays and a kid’s only session every Sunday. Gravity School instructors introduce you to the sport through bike setup, body positioning, balancing, cornering, braking, shifting, and basic riding techniques.
There are a number of condos, inns and campgrounds in the area. We stayed at the Burke Bike Barn which is a funky and somewhat rustic renovated 1840′s timber frame barn. The barn contains 2 units, each with its own kitchen, living/dining area, and 1.5 baths. The larger unit has three bedrooms and sleeps 6 while the smaller unit has 2 bedrooms and sleeps 5. Doug, who restored the barn, is who you will deal with. He and his wife are more than accommodating and easy to work with. They dropped off a bunch of toys and have just about anything a family would need. The White School trail is right outside the door and will take you to all the other trails.
If you need bike rentals you can get them at East Burke Sports or The Village Sport Shop.
At the end of the day you have the option of a few restaurants in town or beer and pizza six miles down the road at the Trout River Brewing Company. I hear the ice cream at Chappy’s is delicious but they were closed for the season so sadly I can’t confirm.
Climbing the Red
Erica Lineberry, cragmama.com
Looking for a spectacular backdrop from which to enjoy the tremendous autumn display in the Southeast? How about the Red River Gorge in Kentucky? Arguably one of the best sport climbing destinations in the country, “the Red” (as it is commonly referred to by local (as it is commonly referred to by local climbers) contains hundreds of world-class routes suitable for climbers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities!
While the stereotypical Red River Gorge pump-fest consists of steep climbing that navigates through heavily-chalked huecos and pockets, there are plenty of vertical, technical lines, as well as numerous high-quality crack climbs to be had, if you know where to look. Ray Ellingtons’s Red River Gorge Rock Climbs (3rd Edition) is the most recent guidebook for the area, and will prove to be an invaluable resource for planning your visit.
Not interested in climbing, but still want to enjoy some sweet Kentucky sandstone? Grab your hiking poles, saddle up at the stables, or even sign up for a gondola ride – all are great ways to enjoy all of the intricate geological features found here. A weekend of natural arches, bridges, and beautiful fall color awaits!
For more information on climbing, check out http://www.redriverclimbing.com/
For more information about the natural arches, check out http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/default.aspx
Fall Getaway: Grand Canyon National Park
Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
Six years ago we gave up on Thanksgiving Day. It’s one of our favorite holidays, but we decided, why just celebrate one Thanksgiving day, when you can have the whole week (at least in our school district) for Thanksgiving Adventure? Goodbye crowded grocery stores. Goodbye hot stove. We loaded up and took our sons to the Grand Canyon.
In a word, that Thanksgiving was perfect. We hiked, read books, relaxed and visited the Park’s historic galleries. We watched birds and mountain goats, drank hot chocolate on the veranda at El Tovar and played games. We ate our Thanksgiving dinner among strangers in a beautiful dining room with breathtaking views and a cozy fire. The weather was cold, yet we took long hikes into the canyon on three different trails. Driving home, we realized that, in this single trip, we had the makings of a memorable family tradition.
Go Back In Time
Late fall is a spectacular time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. The summer crowds are gone and the temperatures can be cold (we’ve even awoken to snow). But the skies are usually clear blue, the trails are lightly trod and the Canyon lies in peace. While the deciduous trees at the rim have lost their leaves, the cottonwoods partway down at Indian Garden are golden with fall color. At the river, summer has these trees still in hold. One of the things we love most about hiking below the Canyon rim in autumn is that each step down is a step back in geologic and seasonal time.
Backpacking to Phantom Ranch
We’ve returned to Grand Canyon National Park at Thanksgiving every other year since our first visit. It truly is our family tradition. On one of our “off” years, we arrived the week after Thanksgiving and backpacked to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River. Our sons were in 5th and 7th grade at that time and they didn’t miss a step. They beat us to the camp by 30 minutes and were lying in the sun with their shoes off when we arrived. Two days later, we were back in winter, heads bent against a frigid breeze as we topped the rim. After cleaning up and bundling up, we headed to the dining room at El Tovar for a cozy meal next to the fire. It wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but we still gave thanks – for each other, for the journey we’d just completed together and for this amazing place we’ve come to love.
When You Go…
Fall is a beautiful time to visit the Grand Canyon whether you go in September, October or November. The North Rim is higher in elevation than the South Rim, making it cooler in the warmer months, but closed after mid-October. While Thanksgiving weekend on the South Rim is crowded compared to other fall weekends, it still is much less busy than summer.
Even if you do find yourself at the Grand Canyon during a busy time, take a hike. We’ve been told by Park Rangers that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever venture even 100 yards below the rim. The trails are well-maintained and well-signed. You will need to carry water no matter what season you visit, but if your kids can hike even a mile, this is a journey you won’t want to miss.