Cycling Burke Mountain is an extremely challenging bike climb in Vermont.
Ride only 3.3 miles but gain 2,096’ to elevation 3,214 at 12.2% average grade.
WOW! Rarely do we see elevation grids (above) of this continuous color (violet and purple denote 10-18% grades). There are 7 Top 100 U.S. Climbs that average 10%+ (and Burke Mt. at 12.7% outdistances its nearest competitor (#3 Mt. Washington) by .8%. In other words, this is The Steepest Top 100 U.S. Climb!
The garmin don’t lie!
Here is an "as always" exceptional summary of the climb from the preeminent climb source for the northeast, Doug Jansen Northeastcycling.com:
Burke Mountain is one of the premier climbs in northern Vermont. This climb is tough, I suspect many find it more difficult than Mt Ascutney. The average grade is about the same, but there are sustained sections that are much steeper than any comparable sustained section on Mt Ascutney. For this reason, it is hard to find a rhythm on this climb. Around the 1.7 mile mark, there is a section that approaches 20% grade for at least a few tenths of a mile. I find it difficult to keep front wheel on the ground. This grade is comparable only to the east side of Lincoln Gap in the Green Mountains. The race starts on Mountain Road at the ski area entrance. The grade is gentle here, and you'll think you're racing in a road race pack. Once the fork to the Toll Road is taken, the grade immediately kicks up to 14% and stays there until the 20% grade section. The rest of the climb hovers in the 12-15% range. Ski runs are crossed several times on the way up, offering fantastic views and giving you a psychological boost in showing how dramatically you have gained vertical despite crawling at just a few miles per hour. At the summit, a two minute hike from parking area, there is a fire tower that can be climbed for a 360 degree panoramic view. On a clear day, you can see mountains in several states. One of the best things about this climb is the road condition. It has been recently repaved, so the surface is buttery smooth. However, great care must be taken on the descent. Due to extreme steepness and frequent sharp switchbacks, heavy continuous braking is required. Even my MTB disk brakes faded on me one time coming down. This has never happened before riding off-road. Most riders would do well to reduce tire pressure about 10-15% before beginning the descent and stop half way down to let rims cool. Northeastcycling's Burke Mountain Page
Summary from our August 2015 northeastern climb trip - Mt. Burke:
- The first mile is shallow at 12% while the last 2.3 miles (beginning at the toll gate) chomp their teeth into and shake you the entire remainder of the climb at a lung popping, quad burning 14%!
- We enter Burke Mountain Ski area at mile 2 and pass over ski runs several times to the top and under ski lifts a couple times. Appropriately, the climb ends at the top of the ski mountain at a lift known as Fox’s Folly and a run named “The Shoot” – in ski lingo, that means steep and deep!
Mid Burke Express lift - Willoughby Gap in background
- This is a bit of a “remote” Top 100, but well worth the effort if you are in or near the area (it is only about an hour and a half from Mt Washington and is a good “warm up” for the Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb race.
- Most of the climb is in Vermont Darling State Park. The Toll road begins at the 1 miles point (2.3 miles after the gate to the top) and as of August, 2015, there was no charge for cyclists and they are free to use the road during the same hours as automobiles..
- There are exceptional views of Willoughby Gap, 11 miles on a string to the northwest from Miles 2-3.
Willoughby Gap to the north as seen from Burke Mountain.
The gap continues into Lake Willoughby which is 320’ deep and is surrounded
on one side by Mt. Hor and Mt. Pisgah on the other.
- The Miss Lyndonville Diner, 686 Broad St, Lyndonville, VT is highly recommended for breakfast and ambiance. If you are from out of area (as we were) and are interested in unfiltered Vermont culture, get a seat in the front at 6 a.m. and stay for an hour or two – the locals sit in the front and chat about local events, their lives and family – it is a great experience (similar to Crescent City, CA where we hail from – if you want to learn about the place, get to the diner early and spend time respectfully listening to the old-timers and fishermen recount their days, tales and lives).
Other Top 100 climbs within a 100 mile radius in the northeastern part of the United States (#3 Mt Washington, NH, #21 Mt. Equinox, VT., #43 Whiteface Mt, NY, and #57 Mt Auscutney, VT).