Kingdom Come

Feb 8, 2014
by Robert Rebholz  

Want to ride 120 miles of buff singletrack, a lift-access bike park, catch shuttle runs of thousands of vertical feet… and stay on the East Coast? Rob Rebholz and Joey B headed up to Northeast Vermont to check out the fabled Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain Resort.

Being from New York, Vermont is like your cool cousin that you only see a couple of times a year- but always have a great time with. I live in Buffalo and it is a solid eight hours of trucking for me to reach the Green Mountain State. Every time I go I always have a blast shredding the awesome all-mountain and gravity spots tucked in among the maple syrup distilleries and dairy farms.


A few years back I was at a jump jam at Highland Mountain and I met a talented rider from Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont named Knight Ide. Knight is from East Burke and he told me about the awesome trail riding near him called the Kingdom Trails. He also invited me to check out the new gravity park at Burke Mountain that he and Kyle Ebbett were working on.

I had meant to get up and visit him the last few summers, but the ten-hour drive to his neck of the woods and my hectic schedule left the Kingdom Trails at the top of my ‘to ride list’. This past summer I made a deal with myself to explore more of the East Coast riding that I had been sleeping on. After four days of 2,000-foot shuttle descents, endless laps in the buttery Burke bike park and exploring the stunning Darling Hill area, I couldn’t stop kicking myself for waiting so long to get up to the Kingdom.


Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me give you a quick history lesson on how all of this awesomeness came to be. The Kingdom Trails Association is a non-profit organization that stewards the trails in East Burke. Kingdom Trails got started by local mountain biking godfather John Worth over 20 years ago in an effort to legalize the growing trail system that he and his friends had created.

“By 1993 we had a decent network connecting the logging roads all over Darling Hill and Burke Mountain,” John explained when I visited his shop, East Burke Sports. “All of the trails were on private land and only half were legal- I was worried that we were going to get shut down.”

John enlisted the help of the former owner of Burke Mountain, Doug Kitchel, to garner support among landowners to open their properties up to mountain biking. “Doug really threw his influence behind our project,” John said candidly. “He went door to door to all of the major landowners to explain the economic benefits that mountain biking could bring to our community.”


In return for their support, the first board of directors of the Kingdom Trails was stacked with some of the biggest landowners in the area. A lawyer and bookkeeper came aboard and donated their time to help the Kingdom Trails get their non-profit 501(c)(3) status. This was a crucial step in the development of the Kingdom Trails because this designation gave the organization tax-exempt status. In short, it allowed them to dump all of the money earned from map sales, usage fees and membership back into the trail system.


Working with the local forest service, Kingdom Trails got approval to use state land to build trails. The area known as Darling Hill was the first area they developed, mainly because of its close proximity to town and how easy the soil was to work with. “Darling Hill is an esker, or shore of an ancient glacial lake,” John explained as we rode past a large dairy farm to the trailhead. “The sand was deposited there over thousands of years. You will literally go all day without seeing a rock up there when cutting trails.”


John took us on an epic ride on Darling Hill and I can personally attest to the buttery smoothness of the expansive network. The trails are pure flow country- leave your hands off of the brakes and pump through the endlessly linked berms. The rollercoaster-inspired Sidewinder trail and the scenic River Run trail left me wishing that I had a few more days in the Kingdom.


When we headed back to town we swung by the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center and linked up with trail manager CJ Scott. CJ showed us what we had ridden with John on the trail map and showed us his favorite rides from the summit of Burke Mountain. As CJ showed us more and more routes I realized that it would certainly take more than our abbreviated stay to scratch the surface of the 120-miles of singletrack that Kingdom Trails has built.


CJ explained to us that the Kingdom Trails sees over 60,000 visitors a year and those numbers are growing at a rate of 10-20% each year. The Welcome Center makes it easy for people to get dialed for their ride. Swing by and pick up your trail passes, maps and get any questions answered by the friendly staff. With three full-time and nine part-time employees, Kingdom Trails does an awesome job of making sure your riding experience is top notch while in East Burke.


The first class condo we stayed at with was right in the heart of the bike park at Burke Mountain, so literally we woke up to the sound of free hubs spinning in the air. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I took in the awesome view from the Bear Path Townhome and watched as rider after rider hit the jumps on Knight Slayer. I knew that it was going to be a good day.


The plan was to hook up with Knight to ride the bike park and possibly shred some shuttle runs later in the day. Knight met us at the lift and gave us the low down on how the gravity scene got started at Burke. “I’m a stone mason and timber framer by trade,” Knight explained as the chair meandered up the mountain. “When freeride started happening it was my natural compulsion to grab my tools and build something.”

Knight explained that the first trail he built, the Freeride Trail, was made by following a moose track off the summit of Burke with a weedwacker and a chainsaw. As bike parks began popping up on the East Coast in the mid 2000’s, Burke Mountain showed an interest in building a park. They approached Knight to build a few trails and he brought in Kyle Ebbett to help him with the project.


“This is ‘Knight Slayer’, the first trail Ebbett and I built for Burke Mountain,” Knight explained as he pedaled into the first big step-down of the expert jump trail. It was easy to get confidence to boost the lippy jumps by watching Knight float them like it was nothing. When we got to the bottom, Knight filled us in that basically after he built a few trails at Burke, Kingdom Trails stepped in to help build more.

The partnership of the Kingdom Trails Association and new owner of Burke Mountain, Ary Quiros, is already beginning to bear fruit. Last year, Kingdom Trails applied for and won the Bell Built grant. The grant is a technical assistance grant sponsored by Bell Helmets to have IMBA Trail Solutions build a trail in the bike park. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to sample the work of legendary rider and trail builder Randy Spangler.


Randy had just finished edging up one of his signature flat-topped berms on the new trail he was building when we ran into him. I hadn’t seen Randy in a few years and he filled me in that he was now IMBA’s go to builder for gravity courses, dirt jumps and pump tracks. The Bell Built Grant that the Kingdom Trails won was for a flow trail, so Randy came out with a small crew and built a beginner flow trail that runs top to bottom at Burke.


“The big goal for the flow trail at Burke was to make it fun for the little shredders,” Randy said while stopping to wipe sweat and dirt from his brow. “But we made sure that these berms will put a smile on anyone’s face.”

Randy took a break to ride the new flow trail aptly named ‘Roly Grail’ with us. It was great to shred his creation with him and feel his craftsmanship first hand as we railed berm after linked berm. “The building went really fast because the dirt is so awesome here and we got rain right when we needed it,” Randy said as we stopped mid-mountain to check out a secret transfer line he’d built. “We were able to add a whole extra lower section because the work went so quickly.”


After checking out all of the trails in the bike park, Knight suggested we take a few shuttle laps on the upper mountain before sundown. We piled twelve bikes and riders into Knight’s oversized dumptruck and headed up the toll road to the top of the mountain. I sat shotgun and Knight explained the options we had from the top.


"There are three trails that go from the top of the mountain, the Freeride Trail, the DH Trail and Upper J-Bar. The Freeride Trail is pretty much old school gnar that goes straight down the fall line of the mountain and has mandatory gaps and drops,” Knight explained as the sun sat low on the horizon. We already had a full day of riding, so we opted against riding the 'hain' and decided to ride the more mellow Upper J-Bar.


Like the lower section that runs through the bike park, Upper J-Bar is an absolute blast to ride. The amount of stonework that has been put into that trail is mind blowing. It seems like every single rock has been placed in the perfect spot to keep flow going through the rough chunder. It was awesome following Randy, Knight and the rest of the East Burke crew and watching them shred everything in their path.


After J-Bar we did another lap from the top of the Downhill Trail. There were tons of wicked natural rock rollers and some nice steep sections. After the steep bit at the top we got into a really nice bit of flow country on Dead Moose Alley and Camptown.

Our car was at the Welcome Center, so we were able to jam one more trail in before we had to set sail. Burnham Down connects Burke Mountain to the center of East Burke and features more woodwork than any trail outside of North Vancouver. The area is a massive marshland, so the wood bridges are as functional as they are fun!


As we loaded the bikes on the truck and said goodbye, the sun was finally setting behind Darling Hill. I stopped for a moment to appreciate how much work Kingdom Trails, Burke Mountain and local riders had put in to create this thin slice of heaven. We hadn't even left and I was already planning my next visit to Burke.


Thanks again to John Worth and CJ Scott of the Kingdom Trails Association as well as Ary Quiros, AJ Seibel and Tom Leyman of Burke Mountain for making our stay a memorable one. Thanks also to Knight Ide and Jennifer Ide for being amazing hosts. I also want to give heartfelt thanks to Jack Dator of Bear Path Townhomes for showing us what truly first class accommodation feels like. Big thanks to all of the riders that took their time to shoot with us, including Day Ide, Leif Trott, Randy Spangler and all of the locals who made us feel at home.

I'd also like to thank all of the folks that allow me to share these experiences. Thanks to Hans Heim and Jeff Kendall-Weed at Ibis Cycles, Scott Boyd at the Hayes Group, David Parrett at Thomson, Mark Jordan at Fox, Karl Wiedemann at Thule, Willie Ford at POC USA, Erik Hauge at Dakine, Jeff Wilbur at Cateye and Jeremiah Stitch at Bert’s Bikes and Fitness.

Check out Skiburke.com, Kingdomtrails.com, Eastburkesports.com and Bearpathtownhomes.com to make your stay in East Burke an awesome one. Also be sure to watch for the dates for the world famous NEMBAfest at the Kingdom Trails as well as the Eastern Enduro Series Burke Mountain race.


41 Comments

  • + 14
 I'm from Montreal and Kingdom trails is by far my favorite place to ride. From the moment you step into town. You get greeted by smiling faces of people who work there and people out for a ride. Doesn't matter what you ride, what size wheels you have or what language you speak. You always get help and compliments from the locals.
For these reasons is why I always make the drive down a couple times every season to ride there. By far one of the best things to do is to get a group of friends, a campsite and just spend a long weekend or a couple of days just riding the trail network. My buddies and I always come back with amazing stories from there.
Once the snow melts from where I am and KT open for the spring, I'll be loading up the car and heading down to ride again. I loved this article and reading it made me miss summer even more :/
  • + 4
 I'm from the north of Montreal, we have tons of trails around here, but only a few have a flow comparable to that of the kingdom. These trails we'll make you shout out loud as you fly through their twisty single track. Awesome. I think that most of their trails are somewhat easy (until you open up the gas)...but never boring and if you want to initiate someone to MTB this is the right place. The bike park is also very cool but they need more lines IMHO, Jester with it's huge ( i mean huge) berms will intimidate any novice rider but it's so cool.Try it.
  • + 11
 Nice write up Joey. Thanks for helping spread the word that there really is riding on the East Coast worth traveling to.
  • + 2
 What i meant to say was, good write up Rob, Joey, thanks for the comic relief and don't forget the maple syrup
  • + 3
 that was a sweet day of shuttling and such...good times!
  • + 0
 Riding Jester a few years ago lit a fire in our local crew in Camden, Maine. Thanks, Knight; your inspiration flows wide and deep!!
  • + 2
 We grew up traveling to the NEK multiple times a year and it is insane how much it has grown in the past 15 years. I remember when they first put in that freeride trail from the top of Burke and how insanely gnarly it was and probably still is. If you can ride that whole thing, you're god on a bike. I just hope that the logging hasn't affected too much more of the trails out by the Tody's Tour/Tap N' Die area.

If you want to bore yourself, here's an edit from 2006 of a couple trails to give you an idea of the flow to be had... www.pinkbike.com/video/27750 It's like an amusement park for mtbers. (sidewinder is the trail at the end, it's changed a lot since filming this with a potato)

If you're a fan of the NEK, check out Barre, VT. Some of the same guys who work at NEK started building trails there with the help of locals. They were in the process of adding in much more trails the last time we went which was 6-7 years ago. It's a town filled with old quarries (50 if I remember right) and equipment. There's a lot of classic granite riding as technical as you want or flowy.
  • + 1
 Knight and the rest of the crew truly do an amazing job in East Burke. I've never been to a more welcoming, friendly and mtb oriented city in my life, even after spending most of my life in the mountain west part of the country. The work that KT and Burke has done is second to none, if you haven't been there and you have a passion for riding, do yourself a huge favor and go check it out. After visiting Kingdom and the rest of what VT/NH/ME have to offer it entirely changed my outlook about living on the east coast. There is more trails to ride than you could ever keep up with in a lifetime. New England is quickly gaining on the more famous riding destinations in CO and UT.

Here's to many more years of continued success and growth at KT and beyond. Great job with what you guys are doing up there and keep up the great work!
  • + 6
 Q Burke most certainly has cut ties with KTA. The mountain was once part of NEMBA fest but will not participate this year. This is a matter of public record: Google it. It's a damn shame too, because it's a classic case of cutting of your nose to spite your face. There's a faint glimmer of hope for reconciliation (because more mature members of the ownership group had to step in). But don't hold your breath.

I'll be at KT this year... enough times that I'm buying a season's pass. Don't think the mountain will be getting a dime of my money, however, until they come back with hat in hand to KTA and make it right. I'll pedal my fat a$$ up to lower J Bar and let fly from there. And you can kiss my fat a$$ if you think I'm going to pay for a lift ticket to do so.. and good luck catching me. Q Burke will cave when they realize they're spending more in labor costs to keep riders off of their trails w/out passes (and the revenue they come with). And I voted a million times to help them win the Bell grant... I'm riding that one too.
  • + 1
 Having said that... if you haven't been to KT, definitely give it a whirl. Absent the mountain it's not techy at all... miles and miles of sweet singletrack. Put on your big boy legs and bust out a 30+ miler with a couple thousand feet of climbing. And then coast back into town, take a dip in the river, and have a cold one (or ten). It's pretty cool to be there in prime season... the town is flooded with mountain bikers from all over. But the trails never seem crowded. Except for when all those Quebexicans in full lycra kits and lefty Cannondales form a pace line to climb up all the good downs. Some trails should be one way only on weekends. That's about my only gripe.
  • + 0
 The decision to move NEMBA fest was made by KT and it was made mainly because the majority of people who attend NEMBA are XC riders and Darling hill is where most of the xc trails are. The logistics of moving all of those riders to Darling hill and back was tricky. The good news is, all of this local political bs will have no impact at all on your riding experience when you come here.
  • + 1
 I was told NEMBAfest riders couldn't take the lift up to the bike park trails this year. Makes me wonder if its worth it since you'd have to buy a festival pass and a Burke lift pass. Hope they sort things out, the last two years of being able to switch bikes going to-and-fro from the bike park to the KT singletrack was the most fun I've ever had on a bike. Does anyone have any more details on what happened between Burke and KT?
  • + 4
 I love Burke and have many great days there. Burke cutting ties with KT is not going to end well. Every time I was up there last summer I heard whispers about Ary "Thanks Dad" Quiros. These rumors actually came true when he made a very public show about cutting ties with KT. Seeing how he responded to concerned mountain bikers (scroll down here: groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/uvmba/jM5cnYOfTh0) and pretty much every other action he has taken since he took over gives me zero confidences in his ability to keep anything going up there. Everyone says that Quiros and KT are talking, but has anything actually been resolved?
  • + 3
 Unfortunately, the new owners of the newly re-named "q-burke" have severed ties with the Kindom Trails Association...the group that brought riders to the area in the first place. So q-burke gets to keep their newly built Bell trail built with the sweat and calloused hands of the KTA and its members.
  • + 1
 They are working on an agreement.
  • + 0
 good to hear that things are being worked out; hope they can dial it all in.
  • + 3
 To XC and trail riders: if you have 3 days to spend at KT, here's my suggestion: ride the trails for 2 days and reserve 1 day to ride the flow trails. Buy a chairlift pass, take it easy on the way up bragging about previous ride w. you buddies and have fun again and again down Jester, Knight Slayer and the other trails or fhe park.
  • + 2
 I'm from Quebec city, Can. KT is only a 3.5h drive from home (including the customs break!) and is an annual pellerinage for me and my riding buddies for the past 8 years and I can attest of the creativity, ingeniosity and continuous improving the crew at KT treat their network with. Every season brings its share of new trails or improved existing trails. They're all a blast to ride and going 2-3 times a year is not yet enough for us. Good thing the trails are now open to fatbike during the withe season 'cause winters gives us the blues of KT. Can't wait for 2015 and ride Sidewinder on the white stuff! Final advice: practice your French, fellow riders from the US 'cause if you come during one of our long weekends (3rd weekend of May, 1st we of Sept or 2nd of October), the good dudes of the Quebec province take the place over but don't worry! We love rippin' these trails in good company of our neigbours. Tip: While you're at KT, bring your passport, plan a few more days to your trip, drive 3.5hours north of the border and come give a try to our trails, mainly Vallée-Bras-du-Nord and Mt Ste-Anne, both in the greater Qc city area. You'll love the trails, the city, the folks and the girls of course! :-) Cheers! See ya there... or here!
  • + 2
 This place is fantastic, really enjoyed my visit there when living in the east. Fond memories of linking upper j bar to jbar through the bike park to burnham down to the bottom at the bike shop where you could swim in the river to refresh and chill by the bike shop loaded with smiling mountain bikers.
  • + 1
 Kingdom trails is truly one of the hidden gems of the mountain bike world. I got into mtn biking here 6 years ago in high school and have seen it grow into something even more amazing then when I started now. Living in Oregon now there are no places I have been on the west coast outside of Whistler that come close to the overall community KT brings to the table. Great article, love seeing the NEK getting more press.
  • + 1
 Love the Kingdom. I got up 4-6 times each summer from Brooklyn and spend the whole weekend. Trails are fantastic and East Burke Sports knows what they are doing! Riding all day and then floating in the river with a beer in hand is pretty much the perfect day. For those of you riding in burke for the first time - hit the Pond Loop to warm up and then take White school back across. Way better than climbing straight up the road right off the bat.
  • + 5
 such bike good trails many berm wow
  • + 1
 “Darling Hill is an esker, or shore of an ancient glacial lake,”

An Esker is not a shoreline of an ancient glacial lake, it is a product of subglacial runoff channels depositing river-like deposits. Other than that the Kingdom Trails are awesome.
  • + 3
 I want to give a huge shout out to the trail crew at kt. They do a great job staying on top of huge network
  • + 2
 Except for the Scarpino guy... what a douche Wink
  • + 2
 Beware of that wallride guys... turn your suspension rebound down... trust me. East Burke is my favorite place to ride in Vermont. I absolutely love it there. Keep it up KT
  • + 0
 Thanks for all the info. If you live in Buffalo NY, that would be awesome if you did a write up on the lack of anyplace at all to ride,and why there's such a hostile and anti-fr/dh attitude from the local club here.
  • + 1
 Yeah... How does a mountain bike journalist make a living in Buffalo of all places? Seriously though, is there a secret stash of trails in that part of the state that we aren't aware of?

Not trying to be a jerk, it's a real question.
  • + 1
 Is there a secret stash of trails in that part of the state? Nope, there's no SECRET stash, but there are roughly 50 miles of amazing East Coast singletrack in the Ellicottville, NY area, just south of Buffalo. Check out all of our WNYMBA-built (Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association) trails at wnymba.org. Come for the weekend - you'll love it and guaranteed, you'll come back!

Our big news is that WNYMBA is an East Coast finalists for a 2014 BellBuilt Grant, just like the one that Burke Mountain won last year. PLEASE, PLEASE. PLEASE - help us out by voting for our BellBuilt grant application between May 5th and May 18th! Check out WNYMBA's BellBuilt video, either on the WNYMBA website, or on the bellhelmets/bellbuilt.com website and help bring a Flow Trail to Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY. No charge to ride at Holiday Valley, now or at any time in the future.
  • + 3
 I'm in Ohio and am might try to plan a trip!!!!
  • + 2
 east coast!! weee!
  • + 2
 I only ride park
  • + 1
 Nothing but fun Braaappp!!!
  • + 1
 what do you know about fun, ace? Cool
  • + 1
 Uphill riding only
  • + 2
 Up, down, and sideways. It is all there.
  • - 2
 Qburke has not severed ties with kt at all. This is a great write up and great things are to come for the qburke and kt.
  • + 1
 They haven't? Huh...
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