New England's Rustic Terrain Offers Challenging Trails

<strong>Drop-offs are a common occurence at Massachusetts' Lynn Woods trail.</strong><br>Photo: Rage Mountain Bike Club

Roots, rocks, boulders and drop-offs are only a few of the challenges that a New England mountain biker faces on a regular basis.

Marin has wide-open vistas, the Rockies have punishing climbs followed by yahoo downhills. New England has pain and delight. You can split open your shin and then enjoy the view from the summit.

And if you can't make it this summer, you haven't missed out. The fall's cool temperatures and spectacular foliage will only enhance the ride.

Here's a look at five of the more popular trails in the Northeast.

Randolph, Vermont

While many riders in the area have known about the vast network of trails in this northern section of Vermont for years, Randolph is starting to attract mountain bikers from all over the country.

Located about three hours north of Boston, Randolph is a sleepy town in the heart of the Green Mountains. The Circus Trail holds more than 50 miles of fire roads and double-track for riders who are willing to sacrifice challenge for great views. But the main focus on this area is the unnamed network of trails that begins just behind the Three Stallion Inn outside the center of town.

Loaded with tight, rolling singletrack, stream crossings, high berms, steeps and the occasional jeep trail, these paths wind through the woods and offer great views of the mountains. More experienced riders have been known to complete the certain loops in under 30 minutes. It's not too technical, either, which allows for some bombing on the faster sections without the repercussions of slamming into a hidden tree.

Killington, Vermont

Yes, Killington is a ski area. Yes, this is lift-accessed riding. But in the interest of a good ride, it's hard to beat "The Beast of the East."

Located just over three hours north of Boston and packed with enough downhill to wear through a set of brake pads in a day, this terrain is what mountain bikes were made for (especially the plush, long-travel machines seen coasting down city streets these days).

Diehards may choose to ride to the summit by way of good, old-fashioned sweat and toil, but if you're a weekend warrior who wants wild thrills (and who lacks World Cup pedaling power), the K1 Gondola will whisk you to the 4,241-foot summit in minutes ($30 for a full day pass).

With more than 30 miles of high-speed fire roads, white-knuckle descents, innumerable stream crossings, thigh-burning climbs and secluded singletrack, Killington's huge network of trails is the perfect place for anyone looking for a rush.

If it's too much to handle alone, guided tours take the burden of getting lost in the Vermont woods off your shoulders.

Bear Brook State Park, Allentown, New Hampshire 

Situated in the middle of more than 9,000 acres of land, Bear Brook is one of the largest, most extensive network of trails in New England.

While the entire park is not available exclusively for mountain bikers, most of it is accessible and exciting. Loaded with fast, rolling ascents and descents, long downhills and technical singletrack, Bear Brook is a mountain biking playground that offers extended rides of 20 to 30 miles.

One of the tougher climbs in the park is Hall Mountain but if you'd rather crouch low in the saddle and let your front fork do its job, let loose on the speedy downhill of Carr Ridge.

Lynn Woods, Massachusetts

To know Lynn is to love Lynn. This northern suburb of Boston has been living with the dubious slogan, "Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin" for years. Despite the somewhat run-down industrial visage of the town itself, this is where most urban mountain bikers come to play. In fact, the only thing sinful about Lynn is the wild singletrack that leads high above the town.

Lynn has its share of meandering, wooded double-track and flat twisting singletrack, but what really draws the gearheads is the more than 2,000 acres of hard riding. Around every corner are steep, technical climbs and descents riddled with huge drop-offs, rock gardens and deep marshes. Challenging terrain to say the least, but also very easy to get lost in.

Fortunately the park has a few distinguishing characteristics, including Walden Pond (not the home of Thoreau's escapades), a cave named Dungeon Rock and a five-story-high stone tower that offers views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Boston skyline.

For a truly technical climb, there's always Bow Ridge, but parts of this boulder-strewn trail have recently been closed to the public.

Wampatuck State Park, Hingham, Massachusetts

Originally designed as a World War II munitions depot, Wampatuck State Park is now one of the best places south of Boston to ride a mountain bike—assuming, of course, you don't hit any land mines.

Certain trails in this park's extensive layout of paved roads and winding singletrack have been permanently closed due to the discovery of land mines left over from years past. Fortunately, mountain bikers these days have to be more concerned about the roots, rocks and sudden climbs than random explosions.

Not more than a 30-minute drive south of Boston, Wampatuck has enough terrain to ride for hours without crossing the same trail twice. Marked throughout the park with bright orange streamers, the ride is fast and furious with low-lying trees, random drops, banked turns and short but steep climbs.

Halfway through the ride, a long granny gear slog up a rocky and rooted hillside rewards you with a fast, technical downhill that threatens to toss you from the saddle at every turn.

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