The Burlington Bike Path – also known as the Island Line Rail Trail – is a great way to see Lake Champlain and explore the outskirts of Burlington, Vermont. In this post, I share everything you need to know about cycling the Burlington Bike Path all the way out to the Colchester Causeway.
If you’re looking to enjoy the best views of Lake Champlain, the Burlington Bike Path is your answer. Stretching all the way from Oakledge Park to South Hero (sort of… we’ll get into details below), this 28-mile roundtrip ride offers some of the best views of Lake Champlain and is a great way to spend a day or afternoon.
There are hidden beaches to swim from, rocky ledges to sunbathe on, hiking trails to explore, and even a bike ferry to transport you and your bike past the Colchester Causeway split so that you can continue your journey into South Hero.
Burlington Bike Path FAQ’s
How long is the Burlington Bike Path?
So the actual Burlington Bike Path is 8-miles one-way (16 miles roundtrip). But what most people refer to as the Burlington Bike Path is actually the 28-mile roundtrip Island Line Rail Trail which combines both the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway. Together, these two off-road cycling paths extend 28-miles from Oakledge Park south of Burlington to South Hero in the north.
Burlington Bike Path length = 8 miles one-way | Oakledge Park to Delta Park
Colchester Causeway length = 6 miles one-way | Airport Park to South Hero
Island Line Rail Trail length = 14 miles one-way | Oakledge Park to South Hero
Where does the Burlington Bike Path start & end?
The Burlington bike path starts at Oakledge Park south of Burlington and ends at Delta Park near the Winooski River.
You can then continue on to cycle the Colchester Causeway, which officially starts at Airport Park all the way to South Hero. The Colchester Causeways is made up of gravel rather than paved tarmac. This full route is known as the Island Line Rail Trail.
Is there a place to rent bikes along the Burlington Bike Path?
Yes! The Local Motion Bike Shop is located right on the bike path across from the Ferry Dock Marina in Burlington. They have a huge fleet of bike rentals including adult bikes, e-bikes, tandems, kids bikes, and tow-alongs.
Local Motion has also been instrumental in helping Burlington develop more bike-friendly streets and they were the folks behind getting the bike ferry up and running. I highly recommend renting from them so they can use the funds to do more two-wheeled good in the community!
Is the Burlington Bike Path Paved? What kind of bike do I need?
The first 9 miles of the Burlington Bike Path are paved from Oakledge Park to Airport Park in Colchester. Once on the Colchester Causeway, the path turns to gravel all the way out to the Causeway. It’s still possible to ride a road bike on the gravel path, but slightly wider tires – like a gravel bike – would be ideal.
What is this Bike Ferry?
The bike ferry allows riders to transit the ‘Cut’ in the Colchester Causeway. The Cut is a wide opening in the Causeway that allows boat traffic in and out of Mallets Bay from Lake Champlain. While it’s only another mile from the Cut to the end of the 14-mile Island Line Rail Trail in South Hero, the bike ferry allows commuters and riders to pass freely.
The bike ferry, also run by Local Motion, operates every day throughout the summer and on weekends during the fall. It is free to use, but they gladly accept donations to keep it up and running.
Note: check the bike ferry schedule beforehand to make sure it’s running.
A Brief History of the Burlington Bike Path & Island Line Rail Trail
In 1899, the Rutland-Canadian Railroad built the Island Line Railway as a direct connection between Southern New England and Lake Ontario. The last Island Line train ran in 1961 and in the early 1980’s residents of Burlington began to rally around the idea of turning the old railway into a trail.
Since then, there has been incredible community support surrounding the Island Line Rail Trail. There was an initial bike ferry that crossed the Winooski River until 2004 when the Burlington & Colchester Trail Bridge officially opened.
A second ferry was launched in 2005 to span the 200ft cut that separates the Colchester Causeway from the Lake Champlain Islands. Today, the Local Motion Bike Ferry carries well over 300 passengers a day and provides trail access from Burlington to the beautiful Champlain Islands.
Best Stops Along the Burlington Bike Path
There are a number of fun stops and interesting sights along the Burlington Bike Path. Starting at Oakledge Park, these are are a few of my favorite sights and places to eat along the way.
Best Sights & Stops
Oakledge Park Treehouse: Before you start your ride, get your ‘kid’ on and go play in the circular treehouse at Oakledge Park!
Burlington Earth Clock: Also located in Oakledge Park, the Burlington Earth Clock is a round circle of standing stones. Kind of like Stonehenge on a much smaller scale.
“The Earth Clock measures the sun’s journey north and south along the horizon through the cycle of seasons. In the center of the circle is a sundial. When you stand on the dateline in the center of the sundial, your shadow tells the time of day.” – BCA Website
ECHO: The ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain is a hands-on nature museum that is worth a stop especially if you have kids. Learn about the history of the lake, view the live animal exhibit, and experience the “joy of scientific discovery and wonder of nature.”
North Beach: This beautiful beach is located just a few miles outside of Burlington and right off the bike path. The sandy beach stretches for several miles in either direction and during the peak summer months, it’s one of the most popular places to be.
Rock Point Trails: Just past North Beach, there is a small park on the left with rock steps leading up into the forest. This is Rock Point and it’s a beautiful place to stroll around on the forested paths. The land is owned by the Episcopal Church of Burlington, but they welcome walkers and hikers. No bikes allowed, so be sure to bring a lock.
Delta Park: The Burlington Bike Path ends at Delta Park just past the Winooski River. You’ll cross over the Burlington & Colchester Trail Bridge and then coast along an elevated boardwalk that winds through Delta Park. If you’re into birding, this is a great place to spot blue herons and other wildlife.
The Colchester Causeway: Eventually, the forest to either side of the trail will drop away and you will enter onto the Causeway. The Causeway is a long, narrow stretch of trail that is bordered on one side with Lake Champlain and on the other side with Mallets Bay. It is stunningly beautiful. It can get breezy and chilly on the Causeway, so pack a light jacket.
The Local Motion Bike Ferry: The Causeway has a break in it to allow boats to enter Mallets Bay, so in order for cyclists to finish the final mile of the Island Line Rail Trail, there’s a bike ferry to shuttle them across.
The bike ferry operates every day throughout the summer and on weekends during the fall. It is free to use, but they gladly accept donations to keep it up and running.
Best Restaurants & Cafes
Skinny Pancake: The Skinny Pancake is a staple in Burlington. Located just a few minutes away from the Local Motion bike shop, it’s a great place to have a late lunch after returning from the Causeway. You really can’t go wrong with any of their crepes.
Foam Brewers: A newish brewery on the scene, Foam Brewers already has a cult following for their imaginative beers. They also serve small places of local cheeses and charcuterie. You can find Foam Brewers slightly off the bike path across from Waterfront Park.
VT Farmers & Foragers: This is a great little food truck located in the Burlington Harbor Marina near Waterfront Park. They serve seasonal dishes that rotate weekly and most of their ingredients are sourced locally and sustainably. They also offer delicious nautical-themed cocktails, making it a great place to eat when you roll back into Burlington!
Scout & Co: This little coffee shop not only serves amazing espresso, but they also dish up handcrafted small batch ice cream! To get to Scout & Co, exit the bike path onto Depot Street just past Waterfront Park. Turn left onto Haswell Street and take Lakeview Terrace to Scout & Co.
Have you ridden the Burlington Bike Path or Island Line Rail Trail? What were your favorite stops and sights along the way? Leave a comment below!