The Mad River Advanced Loop is the quintessential Vermont mountain bike ride, and one of the hardest and most consistently techy non-DH rides in the state. It combines the technical aspect with plentiful amounts of Vermont scenery and well-built trail features. Tucked in the Mad River Valley, near Sugarbush and Mad River Glen resorts, this is a must do VT ride for the experienced rider and food enthusiast (more on that later!).
The Advanced Loop trailhead can be found at the American Flatbread parking lot in Waitsfield, VT. The entrance is marked by a forked tree with a bike wheel lodged in it- there is no sign or trail map here. I’d recommend using the MTB Project app, the loop is well marked here. Just after the entrance, there is a wide, flowy singletrack named Revolution, followed by a short crossing onto Dana Hill Road into Evolution, another fun, flowy section to climb. Evolution is crossed but not used on the loop descent, so you might want to turn around and hit some of the downhill features/berms on you ascent – I did!
The loop takes you across multiple beautiful Vermont woodland scenes. This conifer forest was filled with mist and ferns, and was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in this state lately. We saw numerous small waterfalls, a variety of gorgeous otherwise untouched forest, and even saw a herd of deer while we were biking. The scenic nature of this ride absolutely does not disappoint.
Once you are through the flowy introduction, you get into the difficult portions of the trail. “Clinic” is a 1.2 mile long section of more root and rock than I’ve ever seen in one place. There are well built descents down root gardens and rooty ascents around every corner. I’m impressed with the level of rock work, especially cool rock “bridges” built through streams that take you along the path of the water.
After Cyclone, it is back to Evolution or Revolution depending which way you go, with a nice relaxing flowy descent out. I have on small issue with the trail, and that is signage. If you follow the blue arrow, it (mostly) takes you on the advanced loop, but signs are few, small, and often not super clear. It’s surprising to see a trail that someone has clearly spent loads of time on with so poor signage. I’d recommend using the MTB Project app, as the loop is well marked on the app and the built in GPS function makes it easy to ensure you are going the right direction.
The best part of this ride might be that it ends at American Flatbread. This Vermont gem is in a well decorated, old Vermont barn, situated on an active farm that contributes ingredients to the pizza. The pizza is phenomenal, with local beer selections that included Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead (although the beer menu changes). This pizza was literally the best pizza I’ve ever had. Absolutely phenomenal! There are only a few seating times, you might want to call ahead before you go ride.