The LAFS East Mountain Radar Rd. Overnight trip:
For VTBADV this is a completely unique trip full of special permissions and gracious locals. Please respect the people who live and work both near the Kingdom Trails as well as those who live, work, and own the land where the Radar Base is located. Please do not attempt this trip without any permission or without an experts working knowledge of wilderness camping. There are several spots in this post where we might sound a little preachy, we only mean to preserve and encourage respect to the area and the people involved.
Depart: We gathered Saturday, October 28 in the morning in Barre to consolidate down to two cars. We left around 7:30 am to drive to Lyndonville where we were able to park overnight right on the Kingdom Trails thanks to a very special and unique arrangement with the owner of The Stepping Stones Inn and Serenity Spa.
DO NOT PARK OVERNIGHT HERE or anywhere without permission unless there is signage to specifically designate overnight parking.
If you park here for any kind of riding at KT consider leaving them a tip as well as purchasing your day passes here is a great idea! I’m leaving the info here as it’s a great place to start from if you are planning a single day ride.
From the Serenity Spa to the top of Radar Rd./East Mountain is a total of 19 miles and 3300 feet of climbing. It’s a mix of mountain bike trails, gravel roads, abandoned pavement, and minimal paved roads. Most of the climbing happens in the last 4 miles. It’s steep.
Camping: This is a completely unsupported ride. Everything must be carried by riders. In fact, don’t drink the water that comes from the top of the mountain. It is considerably contaminated by years of waste from the military base. There is currently a project underway to clean up the pollution from the base. A water purifier is not enough.
Bring enough with you to be completely self supported and minimal. For instance, do not make a fire, use a camping stove. Do not go near the buildings, look and don’t touch. When you camp make sure that no one can tell you were there. Go beyond leaving no trace. There may be people at the top. Some people may be going in and out of buildings or taking things or vandalizing. Be friendly and don’t be like them.
Be sure to also have incidentals regarding first aid and bike aid including at least two spare tubes, a spare derailleur hanger, extra chain links and more. A full list is below.
It will be cold at the top. We saw temperatures in the low 30’s, pack warm sleep gear and clothing accordingly.
Return: The return is a significant amount of downhill. The first part is exceptionally challenging and technical. There are steep straight sections that end in tight turns. There are many surprise bumps that you won’t notice as you climb that can be intense as you descend. Descend with caution.
Route(s): The route options are below.
The first is via roads, even though KT may not close when it is raining, it is wholly irresponsible to the land to ride wet trails. It creates damaging erosion that can have serious consequences on vernal pools in the vicinity. Not to mention it creates a massive amount of additional work for trail crews. Use this route in the instance that it is raining.
The second route mixes some easy single track mountain bike trails with minimal pavement and lots of gravel road riding. This might actually be the route that involves less effort as most of the trails stay near the river and therefor are somewhat flat. It is certainly the funnest route. These are mountain bike trails. If you have little experience mountain biking with a loaded bike take the first option. This route runs through green trails, however, green trails become something much more challenging with an extra 40 pounds.
The third option is to drive most of the way to the top. Parking is sketchy as the area sees a lot of amateur explorer traffic which is evident by the graffiti and broken glass and vandalism at the Bunk House section. Luckily the rest of the climb is really only accessible by foot or with a significant off road vehicle. On my first trip up I saw no signs of vehicle traffic. On the overnight trip we saw a significant amount of vehicles. It was extremely disappointing to see so many people who chose to ignore the No Unauthorized Motorized Traffic signs. The current landowners allow for recreation, I wonder for how long though.
You can ride from the East Haven Gate to the top of East Mt. The gate is closed but not locked, it is easy to bypass. On the return ride we saw a couple of cars that had clearly gone through the gate. It is clear the gate exists to keep anyone except locals from driving up as there are many camp pull offs and a few cabins along the lower part of Mountain Rd/Radar Rd. before getting to Radar Rd. proper.
Here is a link to that ride:
This last map presents a much more accurate picture of the elevation profile of the ride. In the original maps above we saw no deviation at all in the percentage grade of the hill. Here we see that is quite varied. There are spikes of as much as 18% and they are real 🙂 Even though there are some steep sections it was quite manageable as the path that was the old road is actually pretty clean and smooth. Someone has taken very good care of the road.
Here are photos from the shorter ride, photos and videos from the overnight are further down:
Here is a video of someone driving to the very top of Radar Rd. in 2014. There is a section that is permanently blocked off that no longer allows for driving all the way to the top. The road is block off near the Admin Area (around the 8 minute mark in the video) . It’s a great preview of the roads. There is a volunteer group that does clean the area and help keep it safe for recreation. Do not contact them or anyone regarding the area unless you want to join them in clean up efforts.
In all we had seven riders on our trip. It was a fantastic group of people of all ability levels. It really helped round out an amazing adventure. I hope we have this kind of group every time we go out.
Pristine fall weather made the Saturday ride pleasant even though the weight of our gear made for an amazing amount of work getting through the trails and up the hills. The views along the way, the friends that joined us and the epic adventure of getting to the top made every drop of sweat worth it. We enjoyed bright sunshine the entire first day. All the way up the 3,000 plus feet of climbing.
At night wind howled, though it wasn’t disruptive. It sounded more like the gentle crashing of ocean waves lapping the shore. There was an occasional gust that would gently rock my hammock, it only made falling asleep easier.
It will always be wildly windy up top of East Mountain. It is the tallest peak by far for many miles, the top has many trees showing the signs of years of constant wind.
I imagine there are some hot days up top. I’m told that the temperature often drops 20-30 degrees overnight on the mountain. I don’t know if that is true during Summer. During our trip that Saturday stayed warmish at around the low to mid 60’s it dropped down to the mid 30’s overnight. I think even in the summer I would pack some kind of cold weather camping gear. In a hammock a sleeping bag is nice enough, but without some kind of exterior protection like a hammock under-quilt to help protect you from the wind. There are tons of creative ways to set up hammocks and tarps for cold weather camping. Check out some of our setups on the Setups page.
Here is a link to our Day 1 Ride:
Here is the link to our Day 2 Ride, we had to stick to the roads as it was raining and we didn’t want to ride the MTB trails:
Below are some pictures and video of the ride up and back down.
- Helmet, you won’t be allowed on the ride without it!
- Headlight (for the campsite, we won’t be riding at night unless it is an emergency)
- Taillight (with blinking option)
- Water bottles or some sort of hydration pack. There is no water supply at or anywhere near the top. We will need to haul in water.
- 2 extra tubes
- Tire levers
- Patch Kit
- Tire boots or a small roll of duct tape as seen here. I make my own little roll from a larger roll of gorilla tape. It works really well.
- Some way to carry a little bit of trash. We plan to carry out just a little more than we carry in, even if we each grab one small piece of trash we’re leaving it better than we found it.
- Food. Bring your own food and snacks.
- Medical info/emergency contact card
- OF NOTE: If your bicycle does not use quick release levers you will also need the appropriate tools to remove the wheels from your bicycle.
- Frame Pump or CO2 Pump and extra cartridges
- Cycling multi-tool or small, light weight tools to help fix your bike.
- Leather man type multi tool
- First-aid items
- Extra Derailleur Hanger
- Chain quick link
- Some kind of visibility aid or vest. It’s hunting season.
- Insect Repellent. We encountered a good deal of bugs on our way up.
- Camping Shelter. There are buildings at the top that we could potentially set up inside of. It’s best to be prepared as if we are camping in the middle of the woods at a remote site with no amenities.
- Composting/camp safe toilet paper
- Bring some cold weather riding gear/wind break gear. Even though it was in the 70’s when we rode up, it was much colder at the top and it was a cold first half of the descent for sure.