All hail The Charlemont Trail System!
It's funny, but you'd think there would be more of a buzz about The newest and most expansive, destination-worthy, trail project in all of New England. Well, I'm here to kick the bee hive.
In the space of a little less than two years, with the dedicated work of several different trail building smiths and their respective crews (Harold Green and crew, Jon Schaefer and his Berkshire East crew, and Bruce Lessels and his dedicated Zoar Outdoor crew), close to 30 miles of exciting, fun and at times quite challenging bike-specific single track has erupted across the long, steep hillsides of the upper deerfield river valley/ mohawk valley.
I have had the opportunity to get in three very long rides recently on these new trails with their primary architect Harold Green. Honestly, these have become some of my favorite trails anywhere. First of all, they are carved into the hills and valleys of one of the most beautiful areas in Southern New England. There are great views and landscapes to take in at almost every turn. These trails would be a pleasure to ride anywhere, but getting to ride them in this impressively lovely location is a real bonus.
Secondly, these trails serve up the longest sustained single track climbs, and the longest sustained single track descents in MA. The run up to the top of Berkshire east is an epic ride in an of itself (no lie, for those of you looking to build up to crushing the climbs at epic races like the VT 50 or the Wilderness 101, the climb to the top of Berkshire East and up Zoar and the Warfield House will give you the mettle to excel!
The long, dedicated DH descent from the Top of the B'East is a turny, techy, long thrill ride that makes the solid climb up very worth it!
The Trails on the Warfield House and Zoar Outdoor side, boast similar, challenging, impressive sustained climbs, as well as thrilling prolonged descents...plus a ton of just great crisscrossing, unique and fun singletrack to link the whole thing together.
Truthfully, These trails all started out pretty rough and raw and took some real hard work (and hard riding) to work them in (which is just the reality of working with the terrain up this way!). But now, the trails...all 30 miles of them, are riding wonderfully.
I believe Harold is organizing a monster all day Epic ride of these trails (and Hawley!) for Oct 20th or so. Navigating around this system isn't too hard, and there are online maps, and new signage going up all the time. But the best way is getting a local tour on one of Harold's thursday night rides or just getting a hold of a local.
Oh, and if you do come up, be sure to buy a beer and some good food in the Warfield House Restaurant after your ride!
Don't let the Fall end without checking out these trails.
Last edited by SuperbMan; 09-04-2012 at 07:06 AM.
Sounds like a good time. I appreciate your description of the ride and would be up for checking it out. I think word of mouth takes a little bit of time to spread throughout the biking community. There's also a lot of competition this time of year given that if you live in Boston these trails are almost 3 hours away, which is not much different than places like Kingdom Trails. With that said I'd personally love to check it out, is there maps available? Where do we park and how do you find the trail head?
2 hours flat from 128 and 2 outside of rush hours.
Originally Posted by gnar602
Parking at Berkshire East or Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort - if you want to start with a long climb, at the Warfield House to start your ride mid-mountain.
Sounds good, if the weather holds maybe I'll head out Sunday. I don't mind a nice climb. Thanks for the info, looking forward to checking it out!
Originally Posted by hado_pv
Then I'll kick the beehive right back - you're the first person besides Harold from whom I've heard something positive. My personal experience disagrees strongly with yours - those trails suck. That's the reason there's no buzz.
Originally Posted by SuperbMan
Gobs and gobs of potential if any skilled trailbuilder wanted to get out there.
C'mon, man-let's keep thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks to off-line face to face confrontations.
Smelly, you know I know good trails from bad, and allowing some margin for personal preferences, I'm saying the trail system has evolved into an excellent destination to ride.
I think the earliest iterations of these trails were raw and unfinished and perhaps launched on a the public a bit too soon (and in truth, I held off from riding them because of that longer than I might have-in fact, I down right avoided them until late this spring)-but now, as of Sept 5, 2012 the trails, as a whole, are excellent---and still evolving and improving.
And there are plenty of others who think so (not to clog this thread with too many local references but...ask the Top riders at the Werks and the Guy who Built Earl's trails what he thinks of the Charlemont trails-as he's up there nearly every weekend riding you might have to come to Berkshire East to get his opinion). Ask the veteran Hill Town riders of Ashfield, hawley and Worthington lore.
Or just ask me...they are great trails, pretty epic in length, scale and effort. And I had nothing, zero, zip to do with building these trails (actually, that is untruue, I did a trail work day at Zoar on a Trail that I have still never ridden).
Caveat: They are a lot more fun with gears...even for topflight SS riders like yourself. Yes doable with one gear (better be an easy one, though), but actually enjoyable with 9 or more.
I love B-street, it's a unique vision now spanning two generations of inspired, hard working trail builders. I love Robinson, it's one unique individual's carefully crafted turny paradise, I love the DAR, it's the Rocky XC vision of two elder MTBing statesmen around here. You damn well know I love Wendell because it's the best ()---I know what the cream of the crop is, I love them all because they reflect the specific taste of each one's respective creator wedding his vision to a particular landscape.
The Charlemont Trails belong on this list as three different creative groups have forged a great riding area among three differing but conjoined Mountains.
You know I'd be personally happy to guide you (well, ride behind you and try to steer you in the right direction anyway) to these trails in order to get you to give them a second chance.
Or, come out at the end of October and join the Hilltown Hard Cores on their long Epic riding all of these trails and Hawley Combined (I don't think, even with two months training I could pull that off, but I know you could, and, I think if you put personal issues with one trail builder aside, you'd really enjoy that ride).
One for all, all for ZERO
It was only a small matter of time before negativity would flow from this forum -- par for the course.
Originally Posted by smelly
Trails never suck, people do.
These trails are awesome -- especially that Moose trail to Billy's Way -- no matter how you get there.
And -- btw -- these trails kick ass on a SS.
A1- I make plenty of positive posts - in this case, I disagree with what Liam said and I'm saying so.
Lots of trails suck. There are gobs of places I don't ride my mountain bike because the trails suck. And if you know a thing or two about what constitutes a well-built trail, you know even more trails that suck. I think these trails ride like garbage, and from a textbook definition of how to build trails, they're poorly built. Corners too tight and poorly placed, poor benching technique, poor use of terrain, poor placement...hell, if anyone wants a tour of how to NOT build trail, Charlemont is the place. Based on my personal experience, I strongly discourage anyone from making the drive out there. Your experience may vary.
By the way, there's lots of positive stuff about this project - the idea of it and the generous landowners and individuals who really want to make this happen. The execution hasn't been very good. That's all.
I've got to respond to this attack from Smelly.
His opinion had some valid points when he formed it, on a single visit during the holiday season last winter. He and a few of his friends were given a tour of some of the Charlemont Trails on a mild day when the frost was coming out of the ground. Conditions that day were at best slimy.
At that time, though a few trail segments were well established and complete, many of the trails they rode were barely rough raked lines through the woods, others had spots where the off camber areas were marked for further benching, there were even quite a few thigh high sapling stumps waiting the visit of the Pulaski crew; clearly a work in progress. We opened them to expert riders, even led the "Whole Enchilada Ride" a few weekends earlier, in the hopes of eliciting comments and feedback. Many of the riders we gave these tours to provided that feedback - positive and negative - at that time and especially at early work sessions this past spring and summer. ALL of that feedback was considered and most of the recommendations implemented, often during the spring I'd be riding to a spot that needed work and find that the trail gremlins had already done what needed. Together we opened up many corners, re-routed a few steeps, smoothed hundreds of dips and bermed a few turns that were positioned by compromise between geography and fun. Some of that work still remains to be done, but week by week we're continuing to address troublesome spots.
But, that isn't all. During his tour, they didn't cross the valley to the Berkshire East side so they missed the trails A1 recommended. He's similarly unaware of, or ignoring, the thousands of hours donated to this project, building new trail segments and making the improvements I mentioned above, between the time of his visit and the current vibe Liam expressed in his OP
I urge you not to let one man's personal attacks keep you from one of the best riding areas around. No longer do you need to travel to VT for long hills and technical skills work. It's here, as Liam said, ask many of the local riders for a tour.
On the off chance anyone wants to, today Bruce and I are riding from Zoar at 2:00, come see first hand what's here.
Last edited by hado_pv; 09-06-2012 at 06:06 AM.
One for all, all for ZERO
Oh man -- I stand by the trails and the efforts and people that make them. His posts make me want to ride there MORE!
Originally Posted by hado_pv
Thanks for posting - I'm gonna make the trip out there. Any recommended loops?
Berkshires resident here planning a weekend trip to pass judgement on the new trail system. I'm curious about the climbing... should I find some gears or deal with the usual ss sufferfest?
(I currently get by on most everything with a 32x20x29 sled.)
Climbs are long, some of the climbing turns are pretty steep. You'll be happiest as close to 1-1 as you can get. If your gearing works for climbing Pittsfield's Turner/HawnWee etc. you'll be ok. Beat, but OK.
Originally Posted by TroutBum
Mountain Bike Ride Profile | 10miles near Charlemont | Times and Records | Strava this was today's ride on the Berkshire East Side, pretty representative of the elevation profiles you'll see on any of the 3 peaks. Don't try to follow this ride exactly, we included a trail section that was just rough raked this morning up to the New Snowmaking Pond - bench crews will be out in the next few week to make it "rideable"
What are you looking for? How long and hard? There are a couple of stand-bys we hit pretty frequently. One is looping all the Berkshire East stuff - climbing Bozrah to Wilderness to Hawks mid-way up then crossing to Silver Doe. From the top, cross E Stranged Moose and descend Billy's Way. Somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 for that.
Originally Posted by AuntieAPE
Another loop that has less sustained climbing, but more rocky technical is to do All the Warfield Summit stuff. Park at Warfield House, hit the Connector, TV Tower, Get Smart, Lost and Happy Days - probably 1:15 to 1:30. To lengthen that, loop back onto the Connector and take it all the way to Zoar's West Side enjoy that long tight downhill, then climb back up to Warfield by King Phillips or head over to the Riddell Ridge trails for 2 hours more riding.
If its raining, add at least 20 minutes to these times - the roots and rocks get slick making the climbing a LOT slower.
As much as I hate to add flames to the fire here I have to agree with smelly, but only to a point. Now let me explain.
A buddy and I trekked out their from Boston earlier this summer [mid July to be exact]. We rode both the North and South sides. Launched from the Warfield House Inn on the North side and from the Berkshire East Base Lodge on the South side.
On the North side we really, really enjoyed Red Zone, Sweet 16, and Upper West Side. Unfortunately, that was about it. A ton of the other trails just lacked flow, took bizarre routes and really just weren't fun to ride. Add in the ridiculous amounts of off-camber climbs / descents and poor signage and we were done with the North side. All told, we did 9.0 miles and 2770ft of climbing.
The South side offered a ton of promise solely due to Billy's World. The bad part was getting to Billy's World. The climb to the top of the mountain was flat out bad. The trails meandered, were unfinished in places, ended abruptly in other places, had zero flow and zero signage. If you like to hike-a-bike, hit this side. Billy's World, however, was awesome. Not worth the climb up, shuttle yourselves up in cars if you can, but fun as hell. If more trails existed on the mountain side like Billy's World, it would be a great destination. Unfortunately, in July, these didn't exist. All told on the South side was 6.5 miles and 2229ft of climbing.
Now I get what smelly is getting at. He makes some valid points. I, however, wouldn't call the trails shitty. I would say they are in their infancy. Look, the trails are new. They aren't going to be like Kingdom, Highland, Waterbury, VT, or other well established trail systems. They are going to be loose, have some flow problems and just be bad until riders ride them and figure it out. I say get out their and check them out. You might really dig them. I for one applaud the effort people are putting in out their. It is nice to see such a trail system in MA come together. Hopefully, one day, it WILL be a destination spot.
Sinister, some of your points are valid, just as some of Smelly's were valid in January - most of what he rode were the trails you described as your favorites - West Side, Red Zone...
We've been working hard on the B East side climbs since we first raked them out in June and July. There are still some rough spots, pending re-routes etc, but there's been a ton of work done in the 6-8 weeks since your visit.
Yup. That's pretty much sums up my experiences in Charlemont.
Originally Posted by sinister
As a result of all this hullabaloo, a couple of us went up there to check out these trails again. A few band-aids have been put on the bullet wounds, but I maintain my claim.
32-21 gave me no problems anywhere.
Originally Posted by TroutBum
We had 21 riders of very diverse ability for the 2nd Thursday Beer, Burger and Bikes Ride at Charlemont last night.
We actually got a chance to Shuttle to the Top of B'East (thanks Bruce Lessels and Harold!) and Start the ride on E. Strange Moose (excellent, excellent trail). and then rip down Billy's World...we all had our lights on by the time we got to Billy's, that's a very different trail in the Dark.
The Stronger Group climbed up the Druid Ridge area and then finished the ride on Sweet 16 (amazing, interesting trail), to Red Zone (a long, narrow, switch back descent) and then to the Brook Trail...now I rode the brook trail back in April, and I thought it was a 'questionable trail' back then, but a lot of man hours have gone into that trail and have really got it going in the right direction...very fun to ride, still needs a few more improvements, but the lumber has been purchased and is on the trail waiting to be built (thanks to the Federal Trail Grants!).
All in all, this is a great place to ride: We sampled two of the longest single track descents in MA (Billy's World, and the Three Trail descent from the top of sweet 16 on the Warfield House side) and Slogged it up one pretty stiff (but soul-cleansing) climb with people who's skills ranged from expert to 'hard working' beginner. Beers and Burgers at the very welcoming Warfield House capped off a great night ride.
My thoughts after last night's social ride on the Charlemont Trail System:
1. The notion that this area is still evolving and needs polish as well as expansion is mostly fair, but there are a lot of great, polished trails already there--and the work is being done on other trails. It is really already a great place to ride. And it will get better (more signage on its way!).
2. It'll never, ever be an 'easy' place to ride and even with several years of more hard work, it will always appeal more to experts and fit intermediate riders. That is just the nature of the terrain/ hills in that area. Which is fine by me....It's why I like skiing Mad River Glen, because it just is what it is.
3. As I said earlier, this is a beautiful area to ride (or walk)--every time we hit an open field or a mountain top, you are greeted with some of the best views in Southern New England, last night the sky was absolutely bursting with stars (and the weather has been great)...Beautiful areas are always a plus on a bike ride.
I'm still pretty high on this area. I guess I get that it isn't for everybody, but it is for a lot of people. Come check it out.
Reading over everyones comments in this thread, it sounds like these trails are quite labor intensive to ride which would explain the mixed reviews. Sounds like they'd really appeal to a certain type of rider looking for a butt whooping. Nearly 3k feet of climbing over 9 miles is no joke and very rare in this area...add in the fact that they're new, un-ridden in trails and you've got yourself a suffer fest! That said, it sounds like an awesome place to train and I can't wait to check out the new trail system!!
Fairly good observations, JSumner13.
Though, there isn't 3000ft of climbing over 9 miles, nor is their 2200ft of climbing on the berkshire East side (unless you climbed it twice!). Riding both sides, I've done 16 miles with about 3000ft-3500ft of climbing. It's still no joke, and depending on the route the climbing is strenuous, but all doable without 'hike a bike.'
Sinister's altimeter was off that day (berkshire East only has 1000ft vertical, the climb meanders but it is mostly up, and the trail on top has no sustained climbs). Starting at the war field house side is not as high as the top of berkshire east and you start up 500 feet if you park at the warfield house.
But, yeah, sustained, sometimes challenging climbs are part of the Charlemont experience...and so are sustained descents. An yes, it is a very good place to train (I'd say, if this was your main training area, you'd be a pretty bad ass climber on a mountain bike).
I'm pretty familiar with western ma, where exactly is charlemont? Inlaws in longmedow and brother -in -law in sunderland.
LOngmeadow is far, Sunderland is about 30 minutes. Head North on I 91 from Sunderland, take exit 26 (Greenfield) for RTe 2 west. Drive 15 minutes to Charlemont ...trails on the left and right.
Roughly, it is the northwestern part of the Pioneer Valley.
WELL. I have been waiting for the right time to chime in on this one and the time is now. I too rode these trails in January and was shocked at how bad they were. I was waiting to get out there and give them another shot and today I got the chance to do just that. Five of us rode CTS today and after 26 miles here is what I have to say:
WOW. These trails are pretty bad! Too many BAD corners to count. All of which suck the speed flow and fun right out of the trail. A lot of wet areas that should have been avoided and a ton of off camber, below tree, sillyness. Trails that are still relatively new are already 5ft below where they were built. Don't get me wrong, we all had a good time today, but it was because we were riding our bikes with good people on a perfect day, not because the trails were good. Yeah this place has the climbing, the views and tons of potential. But as for now, that is it. The way in which the trails were built seems as if it was rushed. What should have been built was 10-12 miles of good trails on great terrain bust instead sloppy trails were cut and left unfinished, only to move on to the next poorly built trail.
Bottom line this place needs a lot of work. Time to stop building new stuff and start fixing what you have. A buzz might begin, if the trails were a little more fun to ride. As for now, I think most who ride wont leave wanting to come back. On that note, we rode from 9-3 and saw not a single person... not on the trails, not at Berkshire East, Warfield House or at Zoar. Just sayin'... on a day like today where are the people?! Not riding CTS...
Last edited by WHITEFOOT; 09-23-2012 at 06:16 PM.
I didn't see anyone at wendell today, either and in truth, I see fewer and fewer people on the trails (except those I am riding with) than I used to.
I think that there are so many riding spots now in the region that folks don't travel much to ride ( I ride 90% of the time within 2 miles of my front door these days, and that didn't used to be the case). Which, I guess, is great, but I miss running into people from time to time.
As for the CTS, I like them, tight corners and all. But I get that others might not. Oh, well. Dan, Was the Warfield house open?
Last edited by SuperbMan; 09-23-2012 at 07:40 PM.