Beloved Trails in Northeast Kingdom Secured

snowy hill top with bikers

Land on Darling Ridge in Lyndon, VT to Remain Open for Mountain Biking, Hiking, Skiing, and More

December 21, Lyndon, VT — Seven miles of trails in the heart of the popular Kingdom Trails network have been secured after a major community effort, the Vermont Land Trust and Kingdom Trail Association announced. The Kingdom Trail Association today acquired 271 acres on Darling Hill Road, and conserved the land to ensure it remains undeveloped and open to the public in the future.

Stretching from Darling Hill Road to the East Branch of the Passumpsic River, the land has sweeping views of Burke Mountain and includes trails leading to Heaven’s Bench, a favorite rest stop in the 100-mile trail network. When a key parcel here went up for sale in 2019, the future of these beloved trails, and surrounding scenic meadows and forest, was at risk.

The Kingdom Trail Association and Vermont Land Trust came together to save the land for the community and visitors, with funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, an anonymous gift of $150,000, and contributions from over 740 local businesses and community members.

Hailed as one of the best trail networks in North America, Kingdom Trails receives as many as 135,000 annual visits by mountain bikers, Nordic skiers, trail runners and snowshoers. A 2016 Vermont Trails and Greenway Council study found that the network generates more than $10M a year in economic activity for the region.

“Vermont is extremely fortunate to have recreation destinations like Kingdom Trails. When we work together to secure their future, we’re helping our rural communities and economies thrive,” said VLT President and CEO, Nick Richardson. “It’s been thrilling to see Vermont’s landscape appreciated, expressed in a groundswell of support from the local community and as far as Montreal and the Boston area.”

The campaign to save land on Darling Ridge received support from businesses and community partners, including the Burke Bike Barn, Langlais Family Tree Farm, East Burke Market, several chapters of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Brewster River Mountain Bike Club, Inc., Libby’s Meat Market, Passumpsic National Bank, Kingdom Coffee Roasters, Crosstown Motors, Century 21 Farm and Forest, Community National Bank and the Passumpsic Valley Land Trust.

“Through cooperation and dedication, Kingdom Trails has gone from a grassroots project to a nationally recognized treasure,” said Chris Hibshman, owner of the Village Sport Shop Trailside, located on Darling Hill Road. “This effort to protect trails and the beautiful and iconic ridgeline of Darling Hill is vital to ensure the future for the Kingdom Trail network and its surrounding community.”

The newly conserved Darling Ridge property consists of 40 acres purchased from long-time owners Martha Corrock and Finn Gunderson and 231 acres previously owned by Ariel Quiros. It has scenic and productive farmland, as well as healthy forests, streams, and wetlands that provide wildlife habitat and contribute to water quality and carbon sequestration. The conservation easement held by the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will ensure the land will remain undeveloped and available for public recreation as well as farming, forestry, and educational activities.

“We are so grateful to all who have helped us to purchase this spectacular land on Darling Hill and to join the 100 other landowners who make Kingdom Trails possible,” said Abby Long, executive director of the Kingdom Trail Association. “Owning this land allows us to sustain the trails on one of the most visible and visited areas of the network, and also be a steward of the river, forests, and farmland which are vital to the future health of the Northeast Kingdom.”