Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest (September 2011)

If you're anything like me, you've been marvelously uninformed about Lowell.  Where I pictured an industrial wasteland lies one of Massachusetts' best mountain bike trail systems.  If you haven't made the trip, it may be time to check out Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest.

Lowell trails as I pictured them.
Lowell sits in an old-growth pine forest on the outskirts of the city.  Although it isn’t far from Route 3, I recommend taking an indirect route given the traffic that builds up at the Rourke Bridge off of the Drum Hill Road exit.  The lot at the unassuming main entrance is small and may be crowded on a nice day.  Not to worry, though, as most folks on foot don’t venture far from the parking area.  So although the lot may look crowded, the trails may still be desolate.

Actual Lowell trails.
Criss-crossed with fire roads, it is very easy to make a quick exit when you find yourself miles into your singletrack run and fast approaching your turnaround time.  The map providedby the Massachusetts DCR conveniently shows numbered intersections which should make it easy to find your way around.  Unfortunately, the posts at most of the intersections have long since lost their numbers.  Thus, Lowell has the dubious distinction of leading the state in useless metal posts per square mile. 

If you get a little lost, you probably won’t mind some extra time on the trails.  Similar to Rusell Mill Town Forest, the singletrack is excellent.  The variety of lines shows a lot of thought, planning and care.  There are multiple lines for the same section of trail allowing you to take the hero line or a more relaxed route.  Snaking around, over and through the various trees, boulders and roots, the trail has flow and challenge in abundance.

The southeast corner of the park is especially interesting.  Starting somewhere around D11 on the map there is some excellent singletrack.

In fact, the folks at Merrimack Valley NEMBA, who developed and maintain the trails at both Lowell and Russell Mill, deserve some sort of award.  If you’re getting ready to build mountain bike trails on your land you really need to check these guys out.  They’ve figured it out.

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