VMBA Vermont Upper Valley Region Mountain Bike Map

Map Overview

The Vermont Upper Valley Region Mountain Bike Map was produced by the Vermont Mountain Bike Advocates (VMBA) as a second in a series of maps designed to show which public town roads and trails are appropriate for mountain biking and which are not. The first map (VMBA Central Vermont Mountain Bike Map) was completed in 1999. The Upper Valley map was completed in 2001 using base data from the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) and information collected by VMBA volunteers.

The Upper Valley Map includes the towns of Bethel, Bradford, Brookfield, Chelsea, Corinth, Fairlee, Newbury, Norwich, Randolph, Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Topsham, Tunbridge, Vershire, and West Fairlee. Some of these towns are in an area of the Connecticut River valley known as the Upper Valley, hence the name of the map. Combining the Upper Valley Map and the Central Vermont Map, VMBA has now mapped all the towns of Washington County, all the towns of Orange County except Braintree, and the towns of Bethel, Norwich, Royalton, and Sharon in Windsor County.

Printing of the Upper Valley Map was funded in part by grants from Power Bar and from the Vermont Association of Snow Travellers (VAST). Production of the map was done completely by volunteer effort. VMBA members donated hundreds of hours during the summers of 2000 and 2001 to ride and evaluate the roads and trails and to lay out this map.

The State of Vermont classifies town roads as class 1, 2, 3, and 4 highways. Class 1, 2, and 3 are maintained for year-round automobile travel, with class 1 typically being major paved roads contiguous with state highways, class 2 typically being paved or high quality gravel, and class 3 typically being narrow gravel roads. Class 4 are supposed to be maintained for summer travel. However, many class 4 highways are not maintained at all, and may be washed out, overgrown, flooded, or blocked. Many are more like trails than roads and make good mountain bike routes. Other class 4 highways have been improved and are functionally class 3. Town legal trails (class 7) and state forest highways (class 5) also appear on this map and many are available for mountain biking. For simplicity, we refer to town class 4 highways, town legal trails, and state forest highways as primitive roads. Please note that some state forest highways shown on this map may be closed to mountain biking.

State and federal highways are identified on the map by their route numbers and appropriate shields. Many town highways are identified with names used by the Enhanced 911 emergency system (E911). However, some of these road names may have changed during the production of the map. Also, many roads are too short to label on the map.

A primary consideration for road and mountain bikers is whether a road is paved or not. All public paved roads are shown using a double line. Non-paved roads are single lines. Primitive roads are single dashed lines highlighted with colors described later.

The Map and the Assessments

Segments

For the purpose of assessment, the primitive roads are broken into segments that are terminated by intersections, dead ends, and changes in road class. Most of these segment end-points are easy to find while you are riding. Each assessed segment is identified by a number which refers to the written assessment on the back of the map. In most cases the road number text is placed close to the midpoint of the segment, but in other cases the segment is so short that the number is placed further away with a leader line from it to the midpoint of the segment. Roads with no assessment have no number text.

While riding, you may come upon intersections that are not on the map. These intersecting roads and trails may be private roads, driveways, logging roads, snowmobile trails, hiking trails, or new roads not yet included in the base road data. Please use the written assessments to help follow the route and avoid riding on private land.

Segments have three features to help you select routes and design loops to match your skill: an Overall Rating, a Difficulty Rating, and a Written Assessment.

Overall Rating

Each segment is highlighted with a color, which indicates the overall riding suitability.

Overall ratings are subjective and reflect the level of enjoyment the VMBA volunteer riders experienced. One superb trail may have a gentle slope easy to ride in both directions, with a smooth surface and excellent views. Another superb trail may have a difficult, but fun, technical section. A beginner may agree that the first trail is superb but should avoid the second. Refer to the written assessments to determine whether a segment is suitable for your ability.

Difficulty Rating

The difficulty rating is shown on the map using conventional ski trail symbols: a diamond means difficult; a square means moderate; and a circle means easy. These symbols appear only on segments longer than 200 meters, since the symbol does not fit on shorter segments. The difficulty rating is based on the harder of the technical and aerobic challenge for the harder travel direction. Technical difficulty is determined by the road surface and steepness. Aerobic difficulty is determined primarily by steepness but may also be affected by the road surface. For example, a steep, technically difficult road is aerobically more difficult than a steep smooth road. Refer to the written assessment for information on the technical and aerobic levels of difficulty.

Written Assessments

The written assessments appear on the back of the map. They contain all the data collected in the field by the VMBA volunteers. Volunteers evaluated specific parameters important to mountain bikers. In addition to the overall, technical, and aerobic ratings, the written assessments provide information on segment length and location, road width, other users, level of motorized use, surface type, suitability for wet-weather riding, riding direction, special attributes (views, lunch spots, biting dogs, etc.), maintenance needed, threats to the trail, ease of finding and following, landmarks, and additional comments.

The possible values for overall rating are "Not a class 4 - 7 road" (the base data is wrong), "Bikes not allowed" (possible in state parks), "Private or posted" (a landowner may dispute the town's classification), "Does not exist" (some roads have simply disappeared), "Completely unridable", "Don't bother", "Fair", "Good", and "Superb".

The possible values for technical difficulty are "Easy", "Moderate", "Hard", and "Brutal". Remember that we are assessing roads, not dedicated mountain bike trails, so a road that we say is difficult may in fact be easy compared to your favorite single track. The rating is for the harder direction of travel.

The possible values for aerobic difficulty are "Easy", "Moderate", "Hard", and "Brutal". This is Vermont, so be prepared for steep hills. The rating is for the harder direction of travel.

The possible values for road width are "Single track", "Double track", and "Wider than double track". Most of the roads are double track, meaning that they are just wide enough for a single normal size four wheel drive vehicle. Some are wider than double track, which usually means the road has been improved and may be threatened by development. A few roads no longer have any motorized use and have only a single track left.

Other users you may encounter include "Automobiles", "4-wheel drives", "ATVs / dirt bikes", "Horses", "Bikes", "Hikers", and "Farm Machinery".

The possible values for level of motorized use are "No motorized use", "Light motorized use", "Moderate motorized use", and "Heavy motorized use". Most of the roads have only light motorized use. Roads with heavy motorized use are usually threatened by development, but a few roads have become heavily used ATV trails.

Road surfaces are rated in approximate percentages of the following: "gravel", "hard packed dirt", "sand", "loose rock/cobbles", "overgrown", "grassy", "running water (rocky)", "running water (muddy)", "totally washed out", "standing mud", "under water (pond)", "forest floor", and "ledge".

Most primitive roads should be avoided in wet weather and early spring. These are rated "Avoid in wet weather" as opposed to "Okay in wet weather".

A few segments are better ridden in one direction. For these segments an arrow on the map shows the preferred direction of travel, and the written assessment has text such as "Ride going northeast only, otherwise impossible to ride". The reasons for a road to be rated as one way are "impossible to ride", "impossible to follow", and "impossible to locate one end".

The possible positive attributes are "views", "waterfall", "swimming hole", "great lunch spot", and "forest openings". The possible negative attributes are "biting dogs", "close to houses", and "excessive logging".

If drainage maintenance is required, the possible values are "Minor drainage work needed" and "Major drainage work needed". Likewise, if clearing maintenance is required, the possible values are "Minor clearing work needed" and "Major clearing work needed".

If the trail is threatened, the possible values are "Is becoming a regular road" (more like a class 3 road than a class 4 road), "Is disappearing", "Has significant damage to surface", "Is in danger of being thrown up" (the town is considering returning the ownership of the right-of-way to the adjoining property owners), "Has landowner posting", and "Is subject to a government ban on bikes".

If one end of the segment is hard to find, the written assessment has text such as "Hard to find southeast end". If both ends are hard to find, the text is "Hard to find both ends". If the route is not easy to follow, the written assessment has "Somewhat difficult to follow route" or "Very difficult to follow route". In these cases consult the landmarks section of the assessment.

The landmarks section contains information noted by the volunteer rider to help locate and follow the route.

The comments section contains miscellaneous information noted by the volunteer.

Parking

Parking spots were identified by the volunteers and are indicated by a "P" symbol. However, the map does not convey permission to park at the marked spots.

Navigation

Finding and following primitive roads can be difficult. Some might be illegally gated, obscured by logging, overgrown, or disguised as driveways or stream beds. There are no VMBA trail signs marking the routes. Before searching for the entrance to a primitive road, review its assessment. If the assessment says the entrance is difficult to locate, or the road is confusing to follow, the navigation tips below will be useful.

Latitude/longitude

The light green grid lines are latitude and longitude. Degrees of latitude and longitude are noted in the written assessments. If an assessment interests you, find it on the map by using its latitude and longitude. For example, segment #429 has "4358'N 7231'W" (43 degrees 58 minutes north latitude by 72 degrees 31 minutes west longitude). To find it, simply look for the intersection of the horizontal grid line labeled 4358' and the vertical grid line labeled 7231'. The midpoint of segment #429 is nearby.

Navigating with a Compass and Cyclometer

A compass and a cyclometer can help navigation on unfamiliar roads. This map's latitude/longitude grid is at true north. Because the magnetic declination in Vermont Upper Valley Region is approximately 16 degrees west, we recommend a compass with a built-in declination adjustment. The scale of the map is one inch equals one mile. When determining distances, expect some margin of error.

The latitude/longitude grid provides an easy way to estimate distances on the map. One minute of latitude (one north-south grid unit) is one nautical mile, which is 1.15 statute miles.

Navigating with a GPS

The ultimate tool for navigation is a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. The map grid makes using a GPS simple. Set your GPS to use the WGS84 (World Geodetic Survey 1984) datum. Set it to display position in degrees, minutes, and tenths of minutes. Latitude and longitude values are displayed on the map borders. The tic marks on the map borders are tenths of minutes.

Disclaimer

As noted above, the base data was obtained from VCGI. VCGI makes no warrantee of the accuracy of the data or its suitability for any purpose. Neither does VMBA. The assessment process is subjective. Conditions can change dramatically and may have changed substantially since the assessments. In the past few years the region has been subjected to floods, ice storms, wind storms, and droughts. Therefore, VMBA makes no warrantee of any kind about the accuracy of the assessments.

Responsible Mountain Biking

VMBA encourages mountain bikers to pursue our sport in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way that respects the rights of other trail users and private property owners. Do not ride on trails susceptible to erosion during excessively wet periods. The assessments indicate which roads are suitable for wet-weather riding, but it is the rider's responsibility to determine if a road is too muddy to ride. The assessments also note other user groups you may encounter on your ride. Please be respectful of others. If you find trails that are not mapped or assessed on this map, please ask for permission from the landowners before exploring.

In particular, avoid riding on snowmobile trails that are not also public roads. Many primitive public roads are used as snowmobile trails, and you will see signs maintained by the Vermont Association of Snow Travellers (VAST). However, many trails in the VAST network are not public, so be careful not to follow VAST signs where the VAST trail diverges from a public road.

VMBA endorses the International Mountain Bicyclist Association (IMBA) rules of the trails:

VMBA promotes trail advocacy through volunteer participation in planning, funding, establishing, and maintaining trails throughout Vermont. Please help VMBA continue to advocate for trails in Vermont and to produce more mountain bike maps for the public. Join VMBA now! To join, visit our Web site, www.vmba.org, print the membership form, and mail it with payment to:

   VMBA
   PO Box 563
   Waterbury, VT 05676

Acknowledgments

VMBA thanks the volunteers who devoted many hours finding and evaluating these primitive roads and creating this map. They include: Chuck and Judy Bond, Joe and Jeannette Segale, Cilla Kimberly, Jerry Lasky, Jennie Hubbard, Kate Carter, Tom and Amy Preston, Mark and Peggy Faucher, Dan Gottleib, Jean Kissner, David Porter, Jim Pratson, Eric Ryea, and Tom Masterson.

VMBA extends special thanks to the Vermont Association of Snow Travellers (VAST) and Power Bar for grants that helped pay for printing of this map.