For views and charm, The Wildflower Inn is the place to be. Perched on tree-lined Darling Hill Road in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom with expansive views wherever you look, it couldn’t be in a better spot. The Wildflower, run by Jim and Mary O’Reilly for the past 30 years, holds onto the magic and sense of history and tradition that has attracted so many to the glorious state of Vermont. It made for a perfect home base as my husband Highroad Cam and I explored the wonderful town of Burke and its surrounding area.
Here are 10 great things to do in the area known as Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom:
1. Stay, eat or just relax with hot cocoa by the wood stove or outdoor fire at the Wildflower Inn
At the inn’s restaurant, Juniper’s, we gazed at the mountain ranges and the expansive valley as we enjoyed their paleo breakfast—sautéed vegetables topped with local bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce with guacamole, blueberry pancakes, Belgian waffles with fruit, and of course, Vermont maple syrup.
Dinner at Juniper’s was just as good, with organic local chicken over roasted vegetables and Brussels sprout salad with cranberries with nearby Jasper Hill Farm‘s famous blue cheese.
2. Go Fat Biking or cross-country skiing
Another bonus of The Wildflower Inn is its access to the Kingdom Trails, which wind around and through the property. One of our favorite things to do in the Northeast Kingdom is cross-country ski with our dog Baci on the trails, which traverse over 500 acres of private property. In the summer, the Kingdom Trails are a mountain biker’s dream. Fat biking has also become the rage. Cam took a demo on a fat bike from Village Sports (they rent mountain bikes, too) and rode the trails. He said the bike was “awesome” and that the massive and gnarly tires “gripped the packed snow beautifully!”
3. Go ice climbing at Lake Willoughby
The steep sides of the area’s glacier-cut mountains make for thrilling ice climbing in the frozen winter. We met with John Kascienza of Kingdom Adventures Mountain Guides and got an overview of the sport with him. John teaches wilderness medicine—or how to handle (and prevent) a crisis in the woods. John can “show you the ropes” if you need a guide at this mecca for ice climbing on the west wall of Mt. Pisgah overlooking Lake Willoughby. Of course if conditions aren’t perfect, he won’t go, and so far, his record is excellent.
4. Ski or snowboard at Q Burke Ski Resort
Burke has the famously laid-back Burke Ski Resort, now called Q Burke Mountain Resort and Burke Ski Academy, known for training gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, among others. At the heart is a good size mountain (elevation: 3267 feet) with nicely cut trails that offer magical views of the Willoughby Gap and, from Burke’s East Bowl, New Hampshire’s towering Mount Washington. The mountain also has two fun hangouts for food and drink: the Tamarack Pub and Grill and the Bear Den Lounge. Being there for the Pond Skim contest in April is great fun. Last year, the theme was “Pirates,” and we were happy to see as many female scoundrels as male vying for the coveted season pass award.
The WilloBurke Inn
Another place to stay is The WilloBurke Inn , conveniently located in East Burke Village close to Q Burke Mountain Resort. It is lovingly attended and decorated in a modern farmhouse style with flat screen tv’s. The newest inn in East Burke is a cozy nine-room bed and breakfast located on Route 114 in a renovated farmhouse. Cam and I have stayed in the inn and the apartment, both pet-friendly and love it.
5. Just take a drive and soak in the amazing scenery!
Darling Hill Road, Mountain Road, Kirby Road—you can’t go wrong. This part of Vermont is so gorgeous that it prompted a Vermont senator, back in 1947, to dub it the “Kingdom of Vermont.” Rolling hills, impressive granite mountains and unlimited pastures make up this incredibly scenic landscape, where it’s easy to imagine being King or Queen in your very own rural kingdom. (That’s why its called the Northeast Kingdom!)
6. Have an incredible massage…
…and stay for the sauna at Stepping Stones Spa on Darling Hill Road. Massage specialist David does Swedish massage and his partner Dominica’s specialty is myofascial release. Downtown in East Burke is Nancy Feltus (802-467-3562), who has massaged the US Nordic Ski Team and is pet-friendly. She allows dogs in her studio and can show you how to help your hound with massage.
7. Drive north on Route 5A and go snowshoeing
Go snowshoeing on a trail near Lake Willoughby and see the spectacular glacier-cut lake, which reminds me of a fjord, and bring your dog!
Pet-friendly tip: If you can’t do a dog-friendly activity, take your dog to Jeff Scarpino who owns and operates Off the Beaten Trail doggie day care, where your pup will have the most personal service, like: individual new and sparkling clean fenced kennels with luxury deep beds and romping time under the pine trees with other dogs in the supervised yard. (He lives there so he’s always at home at night!)
8. Have dinner and a local craft beer at the Burke Publick House
The Burke Publick House in East Burke (formerly the Pub Outback) is a happening place with good hearty food and famous Vermont craft beers- perfect after a day out on the mountain.
9. Experience St. Johnsbury
Whether it’s First Night with its great variety of talented entertainers, the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, Kingdom Taproom, Kham’s Thai Cuisine, or shopping, this town can keep you busy. St. J is only 20 minutes from Burke and well worth the visit.
10. Pay your respects at the Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain
Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury is one of a kind. You can also shop and hike with your dog at this special site, which was once the home of the late and great artist Stephen Huneck. Visit the gallery and the chapel and you’ll definitely meet fellow animal-lovers and their pets. Stephen Huneck’s love of dogs and his artistic woodcuts were actually an inspiration to me as I developed into a painter of animals.
Tune in this summer
“Come back in the summer and look for our upcoming post on summer in the Northeast Kingdom!”
-GeorgieJet, Highroad Cam and Baci