The Slate Valley contains a mixture of gravel roads, paved roads, rough class 4 roads and the D&H Rail Trail, offering some very good cycling in Vermont and eastern New York. The area features quiet roads, charming villages, friendly people, valley roads and trails, mountain roads with good climbs, little traffic and scenic views. SVT has mapped 16 different routes out of the village of Poultney, Vermont in the heart of the Slate Valley.
Ride Start All rides begin at the D&H Trail kiosk at the intersection of Church and Knapp streets in Poultney. To reach the kiosk from Main Street, turn north on Depot Street from Main Street and then east (right) on Church Street until you come to the D&H Trail. If you are travelling to Poultney south on Route 30, turn right (west) onto Church Street and travel until you reach the D&H Trail. There are several places you can park.
Route Terrain Ratings Each route is rated based on the average for this area, which is somewhat flatter than other places in Vermont and generally hillier than other areas in the northeast. The routes with easier terrain generally stay in the valley and go north and south from Poultney. The routes become progressively hillier as you go east into the Taconics. As one person wrote on SVT’s Facebook page, “bring your climbing legs.”
Technical Hardness Ratings All the routes use public roads or a rail-trail. Nine of the 16 routes use gravel roads, paved roads and a rail trail that are generally smoothly surfaced and offer no technical difficulties. Seven routes use sections of unmaintained 4th class roads that do present some technical difficulty and require the ability to ride bikes on rough terrain.
The Gravel Ride Network is a series of different length loops on roads that explore the different areas and terrain of the Slate Valley.
Each of the rides has a map and a complete cue sheet (linked below).
13.4 miles, Moderately Hilly
8.2 miles, Moderately Hilly
14.0 miles one way, Moderately Hilly
14.2 miles, Moderately Hilly
14.4 miles, Moderately Hilly
15.5 miles, Flat
This ride is a longer version of the North Poultney Loop and uses the first and last parts of it.
As you leave the North Poultney Loop on Lewis Road just north of Ward Road, you ride past two of the oldest farms in the area. You continue to explore a valley to the east before climbing over some hills and enjoying a great descent to South Road in Castleton. You then return south on Lewis Road where you connect up with the D&H trail and return to Poultney.
This pleasant loop first visits East Poultney and its historic green before turning north through terrain with light hills. It then turns west to reach the D&H Trail in what remains of North Poultney. Turning left on the D& H trail for your return to Poultney, be sure to notice the old North Poultney cemetery that sits across Saltis road on a small hill.
A quick study of the maps of the D&H Trail posted on any of the Vermont D&H kiosks shows a missing section in New York – the maintained Vermont trail ends two miles south of Poultney and then begins again in West Pawlet, 14 miles to the south. The trail does continue north from West Pawlet through Granville and Middle Granville, but this section is not shown on Vermont maps.
This route shows you how to ride on quiet roads and the relatively new six mile section in New York to connect the Poultney and West Pawlet sections of the trail. There is still an inaccessible section of the trail between Poultney and Middle Granville that is not open due to landowner issues.
On the New York section of the D&H Trail in Granville you will ride past the Slate Valley museum which is worth a visit. The museum has interesting displays of the history of the slate industry, the towns and its people. Upon leaving Granville to the south the trail once again becomes a lovely path through the woods with some good views of the surrounding hills and pastoral landscape.
Another very rich section of slate quarries lies north of Poultney along several scenic roads.
This route starts on several sections of paved roads that are favorites of the local roadies. The route goes to one of the last, and certainly the most visible, quarry sticks, an old mechanism to lift large slate blocks out of the quarry pits.
On this route you have a slate quarry on one side or the other for almost 3 miles. One of the quarries, on the right side of Evergreen road is a quarter of a mile in length. The road then runs east to Lewis Road and then to the D&H Trails for a flat and straight return to Poultney.
On this route you meander the hills and hollows to the east and north of Poultney village. The route visits East Poultney and then gradually ascends to the top of Watkins Hill road where it follows a stream downhill.
On the descent you may want to take some time to look left into the gorge on your left with its nice waterfall. On a warm day, this part of the ride will provide a bit of coolness as you enjoy the downhill run to the bottom.
From here on it is an easier return over gentle rolling terrain to the D&H Trail and back to Poultney.
The section of the D&H Trail between Poultney and Castleton is a favorite of local riders, runners and walkers. The trail offers quiet pedaling with pastoral views and the coolness of several wooded areas on a hot summer’s day.
You cycle through the campus of Castleton University and reach the trail’s end on the east end of Main Street in Castleton. Stop for a snack and enjoy the many interesting architectural buildings that line both sides of the village’s wide main street.
Continue the ride through the university via its main entrance and rejoin the trail for the return to Poultney.
This ride takes you to Pond Hill Ranch at the top of Pond Hill for one of the finest views in the area. The ride begins on delightful rolling roads then gets hilly on the long climb up Pond Hill and Pond Hill Ranch roads.
At the top it is worth going around to the west side of the rodeo stadium to take in the expansive westward view to the southern Adirondacks. You then finish the ride on mostly downhill roads all the way back into Poultney.
If you want some lively entertainment, come back for the rodeo which is held on Saturday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Quarry Hill is a long ridge in South Poultney and Wells that has some of the largest and richest active slate quarries in the Slate Valley. The highlight of this ride is a climb to the top of Quarry Hill that yields an expansive view of a large active quarry and good views to the southeast toward Haystack Mountain and the Three Sisters.
You first ride south from Poultney on the Points South route to downtown Granville for a brief visit to New York. From Granville you return to Vermont and turn north toward Poultney. After climbing to the top of Hilltop Road you are rewarded with the scenic view. You are then further rewarded by a good descent to Route 31 where you return to Poultney.
If you make it up the “wall” on Norton Road, you won’t complain about any of the other hills. This ride will allow you to use the lowest of your low gears as you grind up the two long climbs.
You do have the first six miles on paved roads to warm up before turning onto Norton Road. You then begin to climb for almost a mile before reaching a very steep but short pitch to the top. After you recover, you can relax and enjoy the downhill schuss into Middletown Springs. The ride continues up the hills to the south of this lovely small hamlet with a long climb on Coy Hill Road.
Once over a short section on the 4th class Mountain Road, you will have a long downhill run that descends 1,200 feet to Lake St Catherine. This long downhill is a nice reward for all your hard work in the first half of the ride with a word of caution as you descend a rough and steep section of Lamb’s Hill road. You then return on paved roads to Poultney.
This route runs to the east and north through East Poultney village and along the west side of Bird Mountain, known locally as Birdseye Mountain. It features two long climbs, both of which offer good views.
The first climb includes a three mile section on Ames Hollow Road, a 4th class road that has a one mile section of very rough road, one of the toughest in the area. When the rough road ends you are rewarded with a good view of Bird Mountain to the north and a great downhill run.
The second climb to Pond Hill Ranch rewards you with expansive views to the west toward the southern Adirondacks. The route then features a long downhill run to Route 140 where you return to Poultney.
This route features three good climbs: Hilltop Road, Sawmill Hill Road and Dayton Hill Road. As the route heads south, it features a great view from the top of Hilltop Road and then visits the village of Wells. The Wells store is known for its muffins and baked goods. Just be aware that if you stop for food in Wells, you will encounter the longest and hardest climb, Sawmill Hill Road, within a half mile of the store.
On this route you explore the hills in nearby New York State that are just west of Poultney village.
Cycling south from Poultney you go through the hamlet of Raceville. You then turn north and ride the highlight of the route, the climb up Quivey Hill Road with its one mile long rough 4th class section.
After Quivey Hill Road the route continues north and offers constant hills before a long downhill run and the return to Vermont.
This route shares the first 14 miles with The Missing Link route to ride south from Poultney through Granville and the New York section of the D&H trail to the village of West Pawlet.
From West Pawlet you leave the trail and turn north on scenic and hillier dirt roads. You then cycle on paved roads on the south and east sides of Lake St Catherine before returning to Poultney.
Ah, three 4th class roads, including the two toughest in the area as well as over 2,500 feet of climbing! There are several long climbs and some very good views.
The route runs east toward Middletown Springs and climbs “the wall” before turning north on unpaved North Road that becomes a very rough 4th class road before descending into West Rutland.
The route turns west and then south as it climbs up to and over the rough section of Ames Hollow Road. Once past the rough section enjoy the long descent into East Poultney and Poultney villages. You have earned it!
The name says it all. This long route features over 3,000 feet of climbing on four climbs, including one up Endless Brook and Lamb’s Hill roads which is over a thousand feet from the bottom near Lake St Catherine to the top.
Another highlight is the climb above the village of Pawlet that culminates in a one mile section of medium difficulty 4th class road on Chett Clark Road. If you decide to wimp out and not do the last climb up Hilltop Road, you can use the flatter finish used by the Points South route to return to Poultney.
The ride features several good views (Tadmer Hill Road, Waites Hill Road, Rupert Mountain Road, Briar Hill Road and Hilltop Road) and visits two scenic villages, Pawlet and West Pawlet.
The annual Stone Valley 50 gravel grinder race held every September uses this route with a slightly different start and finish in Poultney.
There are five significant climbs and three 4th class roads, including the always tough Ames Hollow Road and Dayton Hill Road with its collection of mud puddles.
A quick look at the map shows that Route 140 bisects the route into north and south sections. If you have less time and energy, you can elect to ride either half. Both are worthwhile and scenic rides.
Stone Valley 50