You don't need a lift ticket to enjoy an outdoor adventure in Stowe. The Stowe Recreation Path, with its smooth surface and well-marked road crossings, is a wonderful environment for budding cyclists, parents pushing strollers and kids who use wheelchairs.
If you only know winter Stowe, riding along the bike path will give you a new perspective on the resort community. The 5.3-mile route follows the West Branch of the Little River and is bookended by two of Stowe's best-known landmarks: the Topnotch Resort and Spa property at the northern end and the iconic white steeple of the Stowe Community Church at the southern end. Most of the path is 8 feet wide, with some portions as wide as 10 feet. The southern portion sees more traffic, while the northern is a better bet for a quiet ride.
I met my 8-year-old nephew Noah and Aunt Megan, both of Worcester, at the southern start of the path on a sunny day in May. Noah had a great time pedaling over the bridges and talking with a young girl who was out biking.
The path traverses farmland, forests and fields, as well as the Vermont Route 108 corridor, home to shops and restaurants. While you can get your nature fix, you're never too far from services in case the kids get hungry or need to use the bathroom.
Plenty of flat, smooth stretches help build confidence in young bicyclists. There are occasional portions with a gentle slope — near the bridges, for example — where your child may want to get off his or her bike and walk for a few feet. No part of the path is so steep that it will induce tears or be discouraging. Just be sure to watch how far you've gone, and plan on covering a distance your kids can handle.
For a full, fun summer day, pack bathing suits, towels and a lunch and have a picnic and swim along the shores of the West Branch. Thompson Park (also known as Tobe Reed Park), has parking, picnic tables, bathrooms (portable toilets) and swimming access. It's located off Route 108, across from Landmark Meadow and just south of Houston Farm Road — about the halfway point of the path. The cool water is a nice refresher and helps break up the ride.