Friday, September 16, 2011

Ten Favorites: The Pantheon of New England Mountain Biking Trails

Old Webs: Just missed the list.
Everybody loves top ten lists.  There's nothing better to liven up a boring conversation or start a flamewar like a good old list of favorites.  So in that spirit, I've come up with my favorite mountain biking trails in the East.  Given that I've still got a good number of trails to check out, you can consider this my rough draft.

So without further ado, here are my ten favorites.

10. Webs, Kingdom Trails, VT

Not to be confused with Old Webs (pictured above), Webs is situated on the far side of Darling Hill.  While it isn't steep, it consistently winds and weaves it's way downward through a pine forest and ends with a long bridge section.

Here's a video with ample footage of Webs.

9. Moose Alley, Kingdom Trails, VT

Another Kingdom Trails selection, Moose Alley drops down from McGill Fields toward White School trail winding its way through a hardwood forest.   Recently re-reouted, it incorporates a couple big drops, big rock obstacles, dips and banked turns.  The addition of technical challenges raises it a step above Old Webs.

8. Ginn (Marker#71-#68), Bradbury Mountain Trails, ME

Ginn is a long trail with many different terrain features.  It winds through pine and hardwood forests and alternates between short climbs and descents.  One short but exhilarating section involves steep drops down exposed bedrock ending in a sharp turn... followed by a bridge.  Fun.

7. "Jedi", Perry Hill, VT

While "Jedi" is not the official name of this trail, the locals told me their name for it based on the fact that you feel like you're in the speeder scene from the Return of the Jedi.  To the climber's left of the main doubletrack, this trail winds downward from high on the hill.  The trail alternates between steep descents and flat winding trails, with little in between.  Although there are only a few technical challenges, they are exceptional puzzles that may take a few trips to figure out.  The water bars on the doubletrack provide for a spectacular finish.

Here's a video where most of the descent scenes featured are from Jedi.

6. Nipmuc Trail, Wendell State Forest, MA

A mile and half of pure playful pleasure, this trail is fast flowy singletrack with rock jumps and ramps mixed in.      And at the end there's a fire road to take you to the top for another run.

5. "Gnome Trail" (Marker#7-#8), Russell Mill, MA

Nearly perfectly planned and maintained, this trail has excellent flow while allowing for hero lines including steep bedrock descents, big drops, and log beams.  If only it was longer.

4. Herbs, Kingdom Trails, VT

A perfect end to the perfect day, Herbs is best ridden in the late afternoon when you're less likely to come across a party climbing up Darling Hill.  While some people prefer Kitchel with its banked turns, I prefer the natural flow and changing pace of a descent on Herbs.

Here's a video featuring  footage of a descent on Herbs.

3. Troll Stroll, Kingdom Trails, VT

A brand spanking new trail with excellent fast singletrack action.  Large bumps and turns keep you active as you sail through the woods on this one.  Troll Stroll is excellent in that it lets you gradually warm-up to the trail, throwing the hardest sections at you at the very end.

2. "Upper and Lower Hansel" (Fenton Road Area), Leominster State Forest, MA

The only trail to make the top four not located at Kingdom Trails, The Hansels drop down off of Fenton Road in one of the furthest corners of Leominster State Forest.  So named because the dark, brooding forest at the bottom looks like the kinda place you'd find a witch in a gingerbread house, the Hansels are separated by a short climb on doubletrack.  Upper Hansel is characterized by tight singletrack peppered with small rocks, big rocks, and more rocks.  It requires alot of concentration to find the right lines, as well as position your body to avoid flying over the handlebars.  Lower Hansel, on the other hand, is less "adrenaline" and more "flow".  It is fast, banked singletrack that is relatively flat and allows you to relax, zone out and feel the flow.

1. Tap and Die, Kingdom Trails, VT

There's a reason that half of this list is populated by Kingdom Trails: they're that good.  While there may be wide agreement that the Kingdom has the best trails in the Northeast, the best of those trails is as controversial as Obama's birth certificate.

I'm willing to bet that if you winced at my choice of Herbs over Kitchel, you've probably come out of your chair with my choice of Tap and Die over Sidewinder.  Both Kitchel and Sidewinder employ large berms for banked turns, encouraging you to grab large amounts of speed in the dips and use the centrifugal force generated to hug the hillside on your high-side turns.  There's no arguing that the feeling of being held against the hillside as you look down into your next descent is pretty awesome.  As fun as this is, I still prefer natural lines, unpredictable dips and drops and technical puzzles requiring you to pick the perfect line, find the right speed, and move your body around the bike to maintain balance.  None of the trails on this list make you do this as much as Tap and Die.  When you throw in the fact that Tap and Die forces you to do this at speed, it puts it a step above the others.

Admittedly there are huge gaps in my mountain biking resume including:
Ascutney Trails, VT; Highland Mountain Bike Park, NH; Pine Hill Park in Rutland, VT; Mad River Valley Trails, VT; Stowe Trails, VT; Mill Stone Hill in Barre, VT; Batchelor Street, MA; and Agawam, MA.

Maybe you've sampled some of the trails on my list and think they don't stack up.  Maybe you've been on some that should be in the Pantheon.  Either way, let me know what you think.  What are your favorites?  What trails do you think I've callously ignored?


  1. Where have you been...? The finest trails in southern NH are located in Greenfield, NH! When you have some time swing through and check them out. Another trail network worth mentioning is Drummer Hill in Keene, NH, great stuff there!
    Larry Webber
    Greenfield Trails Association, President

  2. You're probably really going to hate my post about how Maine has the best mountain biking destination east of the Connecticut River (Bradbury Mountain). :) Admittedly, I am ignorant when it comes to NH mountain biking. I've biked Exeter, FOMBA, Bear Brook, and the Nanah...Nannahaga... oh, you know the one along the Kancamagus... but that's about it. This is of course due to my VT upbringing. I'll be taking you up on that invite, and I appreciate the comment. I'm always looking for new places to explore and it seems the word isn't out yet to us Massholes about the Grenfield and Keene trails. It's clear that the Pantheon will be a work in progress for some time.

  3. Heres some of my favs
    Lynn woods
    Fort Rock
    Lowell Dracut Tyngsboro State park
    Bear Brook

  4. Copious amounts of discussion regarding this list to be found here:

    As well as here:

    And here:

  5. Kingdom Trails are far down the list of best riding in New England. Actually KT is far down the list in trails in VT. Definitely not as fun to ride as Millstone and Waterbury.

  6. I'll agree that the other trails in VT don't get enough attention considering how good that they are (Perry Hill and Millstone being two of my new favorites), but that's no reason to go spreading crazy and claim that KT trails are "far down the list" of trails in VT. C'mon!