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Underexposed EP20—Pittsfield, VT

A lazy image

During my journey in creating the Underexposed Series, I’ve come to organize the country into memorable drives, and favorite rides, rather than by state or region. One of my main reference points in New England—and an absolute favorite stretch of pavement—is the Vermont Route 100. Perhaps little known outside of the Green Mountain State, the VT 100’s southernmost point starts in Killington and continues north for 217 miles before almost running into the Canadian border.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

Pittsfield, VT

Along the way, the VT100 passes by several world class trail communities including Waterbury, Stowe, Rochester, and others. The drive is stunning in any direction, but if you’re traveling north from the start, don’t miss the incredibly quaint, incredibly Vermont-y town of Pittsfield: population +/- 550.

Adjacent to one of the state’s most prominent resort communities in Killington, Pittsfield, VT serves as the home for many of the resort employees. The town is quaint and infused with the natural beauty of its surroundings that are a draw for outdoor recreationalists. The White River runs through town and just east of its convergence with the Tweed River (and about 1,100’ higher) sits South Hill, whose western aspect hosts the spectacular Green Mountain Trails.

Underexposed EP20

Green Mountain Trails

The Green Mountain Trails are a 36-mile spaghetti bowl network of switchbacks, rock slabs, fall lines, roots, and loamy ruts that rush through a New England forest replete with natural springs, spruce, fir, and red and white pine. The trails are all built on private property and are among the most technical you’ll find in the state.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

There are a number of trailheads that allow access from varying points. I started at the parking lot closest to the top, right next to Fiona’s Cabin, one of two rustic stone huts situated along the hillside. Obviously starting near the high point will mean that your ride will finish with a climb, but that just comes with the territory.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

It would take a few days to actually ride everything here, and even more time to feel comfortable on the distinctive terrain. One of my favorite things about mountain biking in Vermont is how much love for jank (read: technical features of a nonsensical nature) there is throughout the state, and GMT is a perfect place to cut your teeth on that style of riding.

My ride started with a climb lasting a few hundred feet over a couple of miles to the very top of the mountain, marked by the second stone hut (Shrek’s Cabin). At the summit you are treated to a 100-mile panoramic view of the Green Mountains. It’s worth taking your time to take it all in.

Behind Shrek’s is the start of Devil’s Throat, a double black rated trail that certainly earns its designation, with steep root and rock sections that are rarely dry. The trail is fairly unrelenting from start to finish, and you can add a little extra to the descent by making a left turn at an inopportune point onto Wrong Way, which continues down the same terrain.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT
Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

My visit was marked by rain showers and intermittent sun, so the trails were slick with the light oscillating frequently between dappled and dark. From Wrong Way I used a tricky connector to get to Upper Bubba, eventually finishing on Bubba.

It’s a decidedly gnarly route down the mountain, bordering on reckless if you’re in the right (or wrong) conditions, which proved to be the case during my ride. That said, it also flows quite well once you relax and begin to see how Matt Baatz put it all together.

Staying light on your wheels, keeping your heels down and eyes up are critical to this route. Of course there are many trails here that are less Type 2 fun and much less precarious in nature, but it’s also quite refreshing to sink your teeth (proverbial) and tires (literal) into these off-cambered roots, rocks, and waterfalls during a time when a growing number of trails are all beginning to ride similarly, regardless of location.

Mountain biking is an inherently risky proposition, but modern bikes and an ever-evolving approach to riding styles certainly lend some confidence to often uncertain situations. It’s during those situations that I think we can achieve an increasingly rare focus, or presence, when your mind doesn’t have the luxury of wandering off because the moment demands your full attention. The Green Mountain Trails are a rugged and beautiful reflection of their surroundings, and any bumps or bruises collected on the way down will surely have a story worthy of the mountains from which they came.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

Know Before You Go

Advocacy: The Green Mountain Trails are built on private property and have one primary caretaker: Matt Baatz. Matt has lived on or adjacent to the trails for a decade, and while he’s the mastermind behind the trails, the GMT does utilize volunteer work, material donations, and is a part of the Ridgeline Outdoor Collective (formerly RASTA). Matt lives and breathes these trails, and anything you can do to help facilitate the continued growth and success of the network is greatly appreciated, either by joining ROC or making a donation.

Stay: Here’s where it gets especially rad. Of course the proximity to Killington means that there are numerous hotels, motels, B&B’s, Airbnbs, etc. Camping is also free in the Green Mountain National Forest and is a first come, first serve affair. That said, if you are looking for something completely different and wish to take in the natural beauty of these mountains, then consider renting out Shrek’s Cabin at the summit of the trail network. There’s a built-in bunk for two, fireplace, kitchen, potable water, a pot belly stove, and unmatched views at sunrise and sunset.

Take Note: Rubber compounds aren’t always front of mind when it comes to bike setup, especially now when parts are as scarce as they have ever been. That said, it’s frequently wet in this part of the country, and these rocks might as well be ice when there’s a little bit of moisture on them. I would suggest sticky compounds if you have a choice when riding here, or keep the tire pressure low and consider inserts to reduce the risk of flats. Chutes, slabs, and rock gardens abound and you’re going to want to make sure you’re ready for them when planning a ride at GMT.

Underexposed EP20 Pittsfield, VT

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