Full disclosure. I live near Pine Hill, and I ride there at least weekly. With that said, I truly believe that this is one of the best cross country mountain bike trail systems in the state. The trail quality is superb, the variety is great, and there are features and bridges scattered around that make the park very fun. You could take your first ever mountain bike ride here, or be an advanced rider, and find appropriate trail here. There is an amazing mountain bike community surrounding the park, and you can find people to ride with at 5am or with lights at night. It’s also amazing for families, with many kid friendly trails and an amazing set of kid group rides throughout the summer.
Pine Hill is built and maintained by the Pine Hill Partnership, a non profit volunteer organization. The park itself is on Rutland City land, donated in 1921 by Henry Carpenter. Volunteer work is also contributed by many in the community, including the local schools, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Youth Works, Green Mtn College, College of St. Joseph’s, Girls on the Run from Fair Haven and recently the State Police cadets. This park is a labor of love from so many different hands. And the trails show it. The trails have the best drainage of any place in the state. In the summer, you can often ride minutes after a rainstorm and find the trails completely dry. The dirt also has a fair amount of mineral content, and has a nice grippy consistency throughout the park.
One of the great things about this park is that each trail has a different flavor, and different sights to see. You won’t get bored here. There are endless ways to link the trails, and frequent variety in the types of trails- some are rocky and some are rooty, some have excellent berms while others have technical features. One of the most recent trails, Jigsaw, has rock “rivers” pieced together through flat rocks found in the ground. The park has a multiple uniquely shaped bridges, two cliff drops, a 10’ tabletop jump, multiple small to medium rock features, and a 270 degree cloverleaf: most of which are rideable at many ability levels, but with plenty of advanced features to keep you interested long term. There’s even a 100 foot suspension bridge! Purpose built for biking! Recently while biking on the front range in Colorado, I had a realization: many places don’t have purpose built mountain bike trails, rather they are hiking or horse trails you can also bike on. Pine Hill is the opposite, with an entire trail system that was built for mountain biking (but you can run there if you want to).
The forest that Pine Hill is placed on is beautiful in its own right. I have seen deer, owls, ospreys, scarlet tanagers, multiple species of woodpecker, countless squirrels and chipmunks all inside the park. Just adjacent to the park in the larger forest beside it, bear, coyote, bobcat and even moose have been spotted. There are a large number of visually impressive mushroom species that seem to pop up every spring and summer after periods of rain. Riding here solo can often be very rewarding if you like to see nature; just be sure to keep your eyes open. Check out this recent nature report by our local naturalist, Tom Estill.
If you’ve read a few of my trail writeups, you’ve probably noticed I like signage. That’s likely because I’m spoiled with perfect signage. Just look at those trail signs! Every intersection is clearly marked with an intersection number, trail signs that were all updated this year (2017), and additionally show the way to major landmarks like Rocky Pond or the trailhead. This combined with free maps at the trailhead, and there’s no reason to get lost here. Also of note, you can ride across the ridge on the Carriage trail to nearby Proctor, which is a nice several mile pedal out and back. Recently, the trail system has extended to include the nearby Redfield trails, which while not purpose built singletrack, can be a nice mileage extension to your ride.
As I mentioned earlier, Pine Hill has a great mountain bike community surrounding it. Throughout the year, there are adult group rides, women’s bike skills clinics, weekly kids rides, and a recently formed high school mountain bike team. The park/Rutland Rec hosts several fun small biking races, most namely the Droopy Pedal (cross country) and Droopy Downhill (Enduro-ish style) races. These are fun, family oriented races with kids and adults racing together. For events check the Rutland Recreation webpage: www.rutlandrec.com. Even in the dead of winter, there is activity here through a burgeoning fatbike community!
My favorite part about this park is that it is so kid friendly. My two kids have been riding here since 2 years old, starting on tag-a-long bikes, and Strider bikes are also not an uncommon sight. The only obstacle to younger kids is climbing into the park from the parking lot. Once kids turn 7, they can join the Rutland Recreation youth mountain bike group in the summer that occur twice a week, led by parent volunteers. It’s awesome to see the swarms of kids ripping around and learning to love the sport.
To wrap things up, Pine Hill sums up one of the main things I love about mountain biking; a community of all ages and types coming together to create an amazing park with a common interest. The park is great to ride, and if you have never been, it should be on your short list.