See Eye To Eye With The Forest On The VéloVolant

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One of only four canopy bicycles in North America is just over the U.S.-Canada Border

Pedal through the treetops on the VéloVolant (Photos by Kimberly Dijkstra)

On a recent trip to the province of Quebec, I had the exciting opportunity to ride the VéloVolant, a unique activity that roughly translates to “flying bicycle.” Sounds fun? It is! Seated securely on the VéloVolant, you cycle through the canopy of the forest of Au Diable Vert, a mountain resort in the town of Sutton, QC.

Sutton is conveniently located about 10 minutes north of Vermont—about a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Long Island. Au Diable Vert is about a ten minute drive from Quebec 139 (Rue Principale, aka Main Street) up the aptly named Chemin Scenic Road.

Maybe orange dandelions are common in areas of the U.S, but I’ve never seen them before. The fields of orange dandelions and other wildflowers flowing over rolling hills makes this part of Quebec feel magical. 

When you arrive at the resort, the kind folks in reception will point you on your way to the rustic gravel path that winds through the forest and leads to the VéloVolant starting point.

An attendant helped me into the canopy bike—a suspended recumbent bicycle if you want to be technical—and adjusted the pedals for my height. It is comfortable to sit in, like a canvas beach chair. There is a pouch on the back to store your belongings. 

Children as young as 12 can participate as long as they are at least 55 inches tall and able to pedal for 45 minutes. The same goes for adults. It’s a great family activity, and surely different from any other.

Completing the full course takes 45 minutes at a leisurely pace or can take as little as 20-25 if you pedal very fast. I wanted to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere so opted for a slow pace. 

The pedaling is not completely passive as you might expect. There is some resistance and your legs are what propel you forward. Occasionally, the cable tilts upward slightly, requiring a little bit more strength to gain momentum. Other times, the cable slants down and you’ll need to use your legs as the brakes to control the descent.

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It is a breathtaking experience that turns the forest on its head. Instead of looking up at trees that disappear into sky, you look down at them until the branches blend into ground. At some points you can’t even see the forest floor through all of the foliage. At other times you can—and it is a long way away. At the highest point, you’ll be 30 meters (about 100 feet) up in the air—not above the forest, but within in it and able to appreciate it at eye level. 

Be prepared to be one with nature on this journey. Not only mentally, but in a literal sense. The bike goes directly through branches and leaves occasionally. In June, when I visited, caterpillars were abundant. If that is the case during your visit, give them a friendly hello and be on your way!

Other wildlife abounds and if you’re lucky you’ll get a glimpse. 

The real treat however is the view. After pedaling for a while through dense forest, there is a clearing with a picturesque view of Vermont’s White Mountains framed gorgeously by the tallest trees of Au Diable Vert. The White Mountains are very much green this time of year, as is everything else.

Get a new perspective on the forest from the best seat in the house on the VéloVolant.

Later, as you start to close the 1-kilometer (about 5/8 of a mile) loop, you’ll pedal above a stream, complete with the tranquil sound of babbling waters.

Riding the VéloVolant is both a relaxing and thrilling experience. When else can you glide around among the treetops? Perhaps while zip-lining, but the treetops go by a lot faster on a zip line.

The VéloVolant is what drew me to Sutton. I saw photos of it online and knew I had to try it. However, Au Diable Vert has many more activities to offer. Kayaking, other water sports, hiking trails, cabins and campgrounds, not to mention skiing and snow sports during the winter months, make the mountain the site of many adventuresome family vacations. 

New this year is ObservEtoiles, the world’s first open-air augmented reality planetarium. Situated on an alpine pasture between Mont Sutton, Jay Peak and Owl’s Head, far from the light pollution of cities, visitors to the mountainside amphitheatre have an unimpeded view of the southern sky. Stargazing, the oldest pastime in the world, becomes something new with modern technology involved. I am so intrigued by the concept, I may have to make a return visit.

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Sutton itself also has a lot going for it—restaurants, breweries, boutiques, antiques, a chocolaterie, a museum, B&Bs, mountain lodges—not to mention gorgeous scenery that is doubly beautiful in the fall, or so I’ve gathered from photos.

At only ten minutes over the Vermont border, you could easily pop by for an afternoon out of Montpelier or Burlington. Or on a trip to Quebec City or Montreal, Sutton could be an overnight stop on the way there or back.

Or better yet—make Sutton your destination! The idyllic village is central to all kinds of recreation, during every season. Learn more at suttontourism.ca

Meander your way through the canopy. (Photo source: Au Diable Vert)

The VéloVolant is one of only four like it in North America, and possibly the world as far as my research indicates. Cancun, Mexico, has the Aero Cycle; Orlando, Florida, has the Cypress Canopy Cycle; and Costa Rica has the Canopy Bike. I’m sure every one of these is a blast, but only in Quebec are you surrounded by towering maples and pines.

A ride on the VéloVolant costs CAD$50 for an adult and CAD$35 for a child. At the time of this posting, that is about USD$37.50 for adults and $26.30 for a child. Click here for up-to-date currency exchange rates.

Planning to stay at Au Diable Vert? Check out this interactive map of cabins on the property, including legitimate treehouses, connected by hiking trails of various skill levels. Take note: with lodging at Au Diable Vert, there is a 20 percent discount on the VéloVolant!

Have I convinced you to go to Sutton and try the VéloVolant? Let me know in the comments below!

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