• Bob LoCicero

Guide to The Northeast Backcountry Discover Route Section 5 NEBDR

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

A scenic barn on section 5 of the NEBDR, Chelsea VT
A scenic barn on section 5 of the NEBDR, Chelsea VT

This is part-2 of Motorcycle-Vermont’s guide to the Northeast Backcountry Discovery Route - Vermont (NEBDR). This is a living document that will be updated regularly as we ride the trail, so continue to check for updates. It is also a good idea to read our guide to riding class-4 roads in Vermont for general information about class-4 roads.

Section NE5 Barnard to Woodsville, NH features single-lane dirt roads, gravel forest service roads, challenging class-4 off-road sections and some great pavement. You’ll pass the Robert Frost cabins, and ride the Middlebury, Lincoln and Roxbury gaps, and travel some remote roads.

The section begins at the Barnard General Store. The store has a great deli, delectable baked goods, and gas for your bike. Silver Lake State Park is across from the store. The park has camping at tent and lean-to sites and coin-operated showers. If you choose to stay there, you can swim in their beautiful lake.

Hunger Mountain Road

Hunger Mountain Road, Barnard, VT

Hunger Mountain Road runs from Barnard (southern end) to VT-107 in Stockbridge (Northern end).

When traveling from the Barnard General Store ride north on VT-12. Ride .4 miles and bear left onto West Rd (TH-5). Ride 1.1 miles to a 4-way intersection. Turn right onto Chateauguay Rd. Ride .4 mile and then bear left onto Mt Hunger Rd (a.k.a. (Old Hunger Mtn Rd).

You'll enter the woods just past the last house on a gravel road. There is a sign indicating that you're on a class-4 road and maintenance is no longer the town's responsibility.

When traveling north to south, navigation is a bit of a challenge. Finding the beginning of the class-4 section can be confusing. After leaving VT-107, head steeply up a short gravel section. The road turns sharply right and then heads up a steep hill. When you come to a 3-way fork (good looking road on the left, little-used road in the middle, and even less used road on the right) take the middle road.

Hunger Mountain Road, class 4 section north entrance
Hunger Mountain Road, class 4 section north entrance

The road is not overly technical, despite it's unimproved or primitive surface rating on town maps. For the most part, the road is two-track dirt, with a few ledge rolls. During wet seasons you may find mud holes, but for the most part, these should be short and shouldn't be much of a problem.

You'll find the road is somewhat easier to traverse from south to north, because you will be traveling predominately downhill.

Riding north to south is slightly more difficult because you are running uphill, but it is not overly technical. Wet weather would, of course, make things more challenging.

Hunger Mountain Road to Liberty Hill Rd

After Hunger Mountain Road, the NEBDR heads north on predominately gravel roads. You’ll have some spectacular views in the Stockbridge area as the route twists and turns specifically to get you great views.

Although the official NEBDR route doesn’t include Pittsfield, there is gas, food, and hardware available there, only a few miles south the route. You can also find several lodging options there.

Pittsfield was one of 13 towns isolated during Tropical Storm Irene. The town was cut off when VT-100 was ripped apart just north and just south of the town, making it impossible enter or leave via a car. I was trapped in the town during Irene and found it a pleasant place to be marooned for a couple of days. There is an Inn there that has nice accommodations.

After a few days, it became apparent that the VT-100 would not be open any time soon. Since I was prepared with my backpacking gear, I drove to the end of Michigan Road and hiked north to meet my wife on VT-73, leaving my trusty Corrolla behind. It was just over a month before I could return and retrieve my car.

Liberty Hill Road

Liberty Hill Road in Pittsfield is a short class 4 at 1.24 miles long and is favorite on my mid-state dual-sport loop.

Riding from the south, you’ll leave the pavement of VT-100 and turn onto a nice gravel road. As you head uphill, the surface stays gravel well past the intersection with Forsha Rd.

As you pass the last house, the road turns to dirt and has some rutted sections. After about 3/4 of a mile, the road heads downhill and becomes rocky. If you pick your line carefully, you’ll have no problem navigating this section.

When traveling south, you’ll leave the tarmac of VT-100 and travel up a gravel road. The class-4 section begins by climbing the rocky section, making it somewhat more difficult traveling from north to south.

My preference is to ride the road from south to north, as it is somewhat easier to ride and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view to the southeast when you emerge from the woods.

Liberty Hill Road to Green Road

This section includes the longest stretch of pavement in the NE5 section. Don’t worry, there is still plenty of challenge left before you reach Woodsville at the NH border!

The town of Rochester is another good stop for fuel and food. There is a well stocked hardware store, a small grocery store, and a beautiful town green with park benches and picnic tables, right on Route 100. The Rochester Cafe and Country Store has Vermont memorabilia, real milkshakes and classic sandwiches. Sandy’s Books and Bakery is a “hippie” bakery and bookstore where you can fill your belly with great food and your mind with big ideas (just make sure you have room in your saddlebags for an actual book).

North of Rochester you hit Hancock, where you’ll find fuel at the intersection of VT-100 and VT-125.

VT-125 is a great piece of pavement, with a smooth surface, twists, and views. You’ll pass by the Robert Frost interpretive trail, just before coming to forest road 59, Steam Mill Rd.

The Natural Turnpike

Natural Turnpike, Forest Service Road 54
Natural Turnpike, Forest Service Road 54

The Natural Turnpike (forest road 54) is, without doubt, the coolest name ever for a dirt road through the woods. The road was a stagecoach route in the early 1900s connecting Lincoln with Ripton.

The Natural Turnpike is, like most forest service roads in Vermont, in excellent condition. It is more like a class-3 gravel road in terms of surface. The road does have two-way vehicle traffic and is used regularly by hikers to reach trailheads, so ride right and expect cars in the middle of the road.

The road is open seasonally, which means it’s usually closed until early to mid-May each year. You can check this Forest Service page for the status of the road.

If you look carefully, you can find free dispersed camping alongside the road.

After completing the Natural Turnpike, follow the track through Lincoln and enjoy the scenic views. You’ll see the backside of the Sugarbush ski area and have beautiful views throughout Lincoln.

Green Road

The entrance to the class-4 section on Green Rd, Lincoln VT

Green road is a mile long class-4 section with a moderate amount of challenge when climbing from south to north, you’ll gain 284 feet in about a mile. When dry, your biggest challenge will be picking a good line.

When wet, Green Rd can become a slippery, mud fest as you near the top of the climb. I’ve seen carnage on this road on a wet, early spring dual-sport ride, which made the climb muddy, slippery and rutted. In most years, though, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Ruts on Green Rd during a drought
Ruts on Green Rd during a drought

The south entrance doesn’t always have a road sign. Look for the large orange triangle sign announcing that the road is a class-4 road, on your left, shortly after turning onto Ripton Rd. The road is a gravel two-track and looks like a driveway.

If you miss the turn for Green Rd and continue straight, you’ll be on the NE5 ALT - Easier Green Road track. Continue straight to Browns Road, where you’ll take a right to continue on the main BDR track.

The north entrance is off of the mild, gravel, class-3 Green Rd. When traveling south, the entrance to the class-4 section is straight ahead and easy to find. You’ll be traveling downhill on the most difficult section.

After Green Rd, the NEBDR snakes around Lincoln and then descends to Lincoln center, where you’ll find the Lincoln General store (food, deli, no gas).

The route continues with the Lincoln Gap road.

The Lincoln Gap Road

Lincoln Gap Rd, Lincoln VT
Lincoln Gap Rd, Lincoln VT

The road climbs steadily as you approach the gap and turns to dirt. Shortly after turning to dirt, you’ll pass a Forest Service Road on your right. The forest service road doesn’t connect anything, but it can make for an uncrowded side trip. The road is of good quality and is similar to a class 3 dirt road.

After the dirt section, the road returns to pavement and climbs very steeply, with grades as steep as 24% at points.

The gap itself does not offer a view, but you can get a western view if you're willing to take a short walk. The Lincoln Gap West Vista trail is just west of the peak. When traveling east, look for a pull-off on your left. The trail is a short hike to the vista.

At the peak of the gap there is a large parking lot. Here the Long Trail crosses and it is usually busy with hikers and cars.

The ride down to Warren is narrow and twisty. The road is shaded by trees

Sign on Lincoln Gap Road, Warren VT
Sign on Lincoln Gap Road, Warren VT

and the surface can stay wet long after rain. The pavement can get moss-covered making it extra slippery.

Lincoln Gap road ends on VT-100 in Warren. The Warren Store is across VT-100 and through a covered bridge. The store is a good spot for lunch with baked goods and deli sandwiches, and they have a beautiful deck overlooking the Mad River, making it a great rest stop.

Roxbury Gap

The BDR heads east out of Warren on paved roads. You'll have views of the Sugarbush ski area to your left as your turn onto Roxbury Gap road.

Roxbury Gap climbs approximately 1,000 feet in about 2 miles. There are 25 mph hairpins and steep climbs on a paved surface.

At the top of the gap the road turns to gravel and descends the Roxbury side with easterly views.

Roxbury Gap to VT-110

After Roxbury Gap, the NEBDR snakes its way through Ro