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Last summer, I was invited to join a preview of Trek’s (Un)paved trip collection, with lots of awesome destinations off the beaten path. Few places are better suited for a cycling trip than the Green Mountain State, with its expansive mountains, unspoiled back roads and delicious fresh local cuisine.
It’s even better on a gravel bike, which confidently handles everything from pavement to rural roads. Whether you’re a first-time gravel rider (like me) or a gravel junkie, these fully guided trips cater to everyone. But beyond the bikes, the stunning scenery, wonderful camaraderie and professional guides offered an unforgettable experience.
For the past 20 years, Trek Travel has hosted cycling getaways around the world, with options ranging from self-guided trips to luxurious guided adventures. As gravel biking becomes more popular, so does the demand for relevant trips like this one.
Whether you’re ready to join a Trek Travel adventure or you’re simply curious, this detailed review can give you a better sense of what to expect. Here are my thoughts on the entire experience, broken down by the bikes and gear, routes, guides, food and accommodations.
Bikes & Gear
Trek set us up with Checkpoint gravel bikes. If you’re interested in exploring mixed terrain, this quick Trek gravel bike review can help you decide whether the Checkpoint is right for you.
Instead of catering to a specific niche, such as racing-oriented road riders or adventurous mountain bikers, Checkpoint is more of a one-size-fits-all solution. The lineup ranges from the entry-level aluminum ALR 5 up to the premium SLR 9 eTAP with a carbon frame and a SRAM RED eTap AXS drivetrain. Gravel riding can be challenging, but the Checkpoint’s massive tire clearance, Shimano GRX drivetrains and progressive geometry makes it a beast on sketchy terrain.
There’s also a big price range to fit your budget. You can stick with the affordable alloy bike or spend more on a sleek carbon frame. It’s a really comfortable ride – even for beginners. And if you’re used to road riding, the identical geometry will put you at ease.
To ensure comfortable riding, we could use the stock components, including Bontrager saddles and platform pedals, or bring our own. I used SPD pedals and my compatible Bontrager shoes for a familiar setup.
Trek supplied pretty much everything else, including Garmin Edge 1030 computers with GPS navigation. Our routes were pre-loaded with the Ride with GPS app, and were easy to follow thanks to turn-by-turn directions and navigation alerts. At times, you might find yourself pedaling alone, which makes GPS guidance a must.
And don’t forget to save room in your luggage for any swag you get during the trip. We received Bontrager WaveCel helmets, cycling socks, jerseys and shorts and a personal gift from our guides.
Most of our cycling was in Stowe, a bucolic town in northern Vermont nearly 40 miles east of Burlington. We got a taste of the famous Gravel Growler, a sweeping loop through the heart of Stowe and surrounding areas. From the relatively flat recreation trails through valleys to longer climbs on dirt farm roads, the classic Vermont scenery didn’t disappoint. If you’re dreaming of iconic red barns and covered bridges, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each day in the saddle.
This 19-mile ride from Burlington to South Hero Island was mostly flat, with just under 500 feet of climbing. My favorite part was the final stretch of the Island Line Trail, culminating with a short trip on the Local Motion Bike Ferry to carry bikes between Colchester and the Hero Islands. The entire crossing takes just a few minutes, with beautiful water and mountain views along the way. Considering the amount of climbing ahead over the next two days, it was the perfect introductory ride.
The only full day of our trip, Saturday’s ride was the longest and most challenging. Options included a 14-mile trek with over 1,500 feet of climbing or an avid 28-mile route with over 3,000 feet of climbing. The entire group was up for the challenge of the avid ride, which featured a 4.5-mile climb. It was long but very manageable, with an average grade just over 4%.
The rest of the ride was rolling terrain, with some shorter and steeper climbs (and plenty of fun descents) for a rewarding day in the saddle. Temperatures soared into the mid 90s, but we cooled off with some delicious cold brew at the end of the ride. More details on the tasty food and drinks below!
Our final ride featured flat sections and rolling hills, offering a chance to recover a bit or pick up the pace. It was 13 miles long with 1,056 feet of climbing. Some sections overlapped with Saturday’s ride, but there was also plenty of fresh ground to cover, including another long, steady climb with an average 4% gradient.
My favorite part was the covered bridge, which was really fun to ride through – and a great backdrop for an iconic photo. There are over 100 covered bridges in Vermont, including this gem just outside of Stowe.
It’s safe to say that our guides, Kyle and Brent, made this much more than a cycling trip. They worked hard to make sure that everyone had a great time, from the first pre-ride meetup to the final farewell.
Before each ride, they offered a detailed overview of the route and warned us of any tricky or potentially confusing spots. We were also briefed on important safety tips to minimize the risk of injuries or discomfort.
Our bikes were diligently checked before each outing and stocked up with full water bottles and pre-loaded maps on our Garmin cycling computers. It’s worth noting that Trek Travel guides are also certified mechanics and can fix everything from flat tires to broken chains and more.
Kyle and Brent also made sure each ride was fully supported. The Trek Travel shuttle appeared in strategic locations along each route, supplying essentials like snacks, sunscreen and hydration tablets. It was also available to transport anyone who couldn’t finish (although our group completed every ride).
Food & Accomodations
Even a moderate bike ride can blast up to 450 calories per hour, and we definitely burned way more than that on our outings. Fortunately, we had plenty of chances to refuel with delicious meals. Vermont has tons of farms and fresh produce, especially during the summer. It’s often used in the tasty dishes the local chefs whip up.
One of my favorites was a delicious farm-to-fork lunch at Wheeler House, a historic site in Burlington featuring food prepared with fresh farm-grown ingredients. Vermont also has lots of quality beer brewed in-house, and we sampled some at the Idyletime Brewing Company in Stowe on Friday night.
Saturday’s ride ended with lunch at Prohibition Pig, a restaurant and brewery featuring Latin street food and over 20 craft beers on tap. Our final group dinner was at Bistro at 10 Acres, a bucolic spot with an amazing view of the mountains. Having expert chefs prepare delicious and creative meals, like the Coconut Vadouvan Curry, was a culinary treat!
We spent all three nights at the Green Mountain Inn, a charming historic hotel in the heart of Stowe. It had a nice blend of modern updates (like the Jacuzzi tubs in most rooms!) and classic country charm. Surrounded by quaint local shops, it’s also the perfect place to hunt for classic Vermont gifts. The location was ideal for this trip, as we pedaled out directly from the hotel parking lot on days 2 and 3.
From the beautiful bike path along Lake Champlain to the rolling farmland around Stowe, we covered a surprising amount of ground during our short stay in Vermont. Despite all the time in the saddle, we also got to explore some of the area’s most iconic attractions. It was the ideal mix of time on and off the bikes, with fun opportunities to explore Vermont’s hidden treasures.
Stops included the legendary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, where you’ll find everything from Netflix Original Flavors to Doggie Desserts, and a sugarhouse tour at the Trapp Family Lodge. Our enthusiastic guide taught us about the centuries-old traditions used to make that delicious maple syrup you can dump on pancakes, waffles, ice cream, veggies and just about anything else.
Overall, this was an unforgettable experience that exceeded my expectations. Vermont’s idyllic countryside is simply breathtaking, and we mostly had the rural roads to ourselves. The bikes were top-notch and the guides ensured that everything went smoothly.
Trek Travel did a great job planning the adventure down to the finest details, so we could just focus on relaxing, having fun and discovering the joys of gravel riding. I highly recommend this Trek gravel bike trip if you want an active vacation that will spoil you with high-quality bikes, personable guides, well-planned routes and fun local activities.