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  1. #1
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    Make me a ride recommendation...PLEASE!

    I will have a chance next week to include a ride during a business trip to NH. My opportunity is to stop in MA on the way up there. I will be coming out 84 to 90 to 495. So if you can recommend something fun for a few hours along that route. I'm OK going a little out of the way for something good. I'm a XC rider and I love single-track. I don't mind climbing. A place that is reasonably well marked and a map are a plus. I will be checking out NEMBA as a resource, but wanted some "user recommendations". Thanks in advance!

    PS I like to ride the rocks, too!
    Last edited by huffster; 08-08-2012 at 08:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    Harold Parker State Forest in Andover has miles of singletrack, a DCR map, gnarly rocky sections, not huge climbs but some hills too. And it's just off 495.

  3. #3
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    If you like rocks, Harold Parker is a great choice. If you like buff, fast and flowy, Willowdale in Ipswich is nice.

  4. #4
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    Thanks!

    Harold Parker is looking interesting. I checked them out on NEMBA site too and there is a link to "Wicked Ride of the East" route. http://www.bikerag.com/images/MAPS/M..._wicked_05.pdf

    Any idea if the orange markings remain posted for this 17 mile loop? If not, I think I could follow it with the map you guys linked above and this one at bikerag

  5. #5
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    danhasdrums - can't +rep you. Must be in my last 100. But, thanks!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffster View Post
    Thanks!

    Harold Parker is looking interesting. I checked them out on NEMBA site too and there is a link to "Wicked Ride of the East" route. http://www.bikerag.com/images/MAPS/M..._wicked_05.pdf

    Any idea if the orange markings remain posted for this 17 mile loop? If not, I think I could follow it with the map you guys linked above and this one at bikerag
    Without a GPS device to follow, you'd have to be a serious trail sensing ninja to do that loop without a guide. HP is epicly awesome. Some of the best hard XC trails in the Boston area. But it is really easy to get lost.

    How far / long do you want to ride?

    It should be noted that 17 miles of Harold Parker will beat you up like 30 miles anywhere else. It is all doable on an XC bike, but it is often relentlessly challenging.

  7. #7
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    Great Brook Farm and Russell Mill are not far off 495. Great Brook is very easy to get around with good markings and maps available.

    NEMBA: New England Mountain Bike Association - Places To Ride

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by simian23 View Post
    How far / long do you want to ride?
    Looking at 3 - 3.5 hours.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by skidad View Post
    Great Brook Farm and Russell Mill are not far off 495. Great Brook is very easy to get around with good markings and maps available.
    Both of these are on my "short list" from the NEMBA site.

    Russell Mill seems small, but well marked and mapped. Great Brook also has an excellent map and it looks like a lot of single-track. I just wasn't sure that either one of these could fill up 3 hours without repeating myself. There was a comment on NEMBA about connecting the 2 with a little 1 mile road ride.

    What's your opinion on whether Great Brook would fill an afternoon or the idea of joining the 2?

  10. #10
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    Vietnam also looks pretty intriguing and only about 10 miles off my route. I've found good map at BVNEMBA. Are trails marked at all?

  11. #11
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    Nam is literally right off 495 if you park behind the Wendy's. Lots of cool stuff in there for sure but I don't think well marked. I know I got totally lost in there with my son 1 day without any map or GPS stuff. I'm sure someone could help you in that regard who rides it allot more than I do.
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  12. #12
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    Vietnam can be quite difficult to navigate without a guide. The map is okay, but trail markers are very limited. If you are looking for a long XC ride, you are likely better off at some of the other trails already mentioned, but if you are interested in playing around on some very well made, seriously fun trail features, then Vietnam is a blast.

    If you're looking for a tour of Nam, depending on day and time, I might be able to show you around.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker662 View Post
    If you're looking for a tour of Nam, depending on day and time, I might be able to show you around.
    I appreciate the offer, but I'm not exactly sure when I'd get in the area due to customer meetings, etc. Some things are still up in the air.

    I'm also starting to lean toward Willowdale based on the quality of maps, the previous recommendations, the apparently well marked trails and even a route recommendation on NEMBA. I also see that if I have extra time on my hands after covering the Pine Swamp side, I can go check out the Hood Pond side.

    Dracut and Vietnam both sound like I would enjoy them, but I'm getting the sense I'd be better served their with a familiar tour guide which may not be in the cards due to the last minute nature of my schedule.

    I do have a strong sense of direction, but I'd rather be enjoying the ride, then worrying about being lost in unfamiliar territory.

  14. #14
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    I've done the Great Brook/Russell Mill combo as well as Willowdale. Both options will be tough for a 3-3.5 hour ride. Do you ride with GPS on? I could get you a GPS file of a really nice loop at Willowdale. There's a lot of double track through there that can get boring and there are magical ways to string the singletrack together for great flow... It's a fun place though, there really aren't many wrong turns. Some will just land you on a dead end. I could also get you a GPX file for stringing Russell Mill and Great Brook together, but it doesn't sound like you're leaning that way.
    I do think Russell Mill and Great Brook offer more technical riding and bumpier rock gardens and probably more actual miles of singletrack with the two parks added together.

  15. #15
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    I'm not sure where you're coming from, in terms of how well the trails are marked, but based on the places you've listed the best marked location is going to be Russell Mill. There is a big map out in front and the trails have the best markings out of any I've ridden around greater Boston. If you park at the Jenkins lot at HP you can follow the 'yellow trail' just off that dirt parking lot. It's fairly easy to find, I'd rank it almost as good as RM. Willowdale is pretty easy to get lost, I went the first time with a tour guide, got lost the 2nd time, and finally figured it my 3rd-4th trips there, although I still do get turned around from time to time.

    As far as technical riding goes Great Brook is very boring, imo. HP is rocky, but not super tech as compared to the north shore riding areas (Lynn, Gloucester, etc...) but again it depends on where you're coming from, most xc riders I know get all they want from HP. But if you're into big jumps, steep/long ups, rollers, etc... there isn't much in that regard at HP.

    Nam has one section (the part you'll see on the NEMBA site) that is well marked. This is what they call the BLM area, a lot of people go and just hit that section, but there is also miles and miles of singletrack around there, which is off the NEMBA property but completely linked in through many trails.

    Another place you might want to consider is Lowell Dracut (right off 495 as well). I've found that place provides a good mix of everything, if I'm looking to ride in the part of the state. It's big, but it was decently marked, even on my first two solo trips I never got extremely lost thanks to a pond, fire roads, and the fact that you can't go too far the wrong way without hitting a house.

    If you don't ride with a GPS at least take a phone with google maps, it's saved me a lot of boring fire road rides many times.

    If you get a time down in the next few days post it up, there are a lot of really cool riders here who will usually be happy to guide you around if the timing works.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffster View Post
    Looking at 3 - 3.5 hours.
    Russell Mills and Great Brook are out. Lowell Dracut is a good option, but if you've got that much time to ride, I agree with suggestions above - post up here and to the NEMBA MA forums (Massachusetts) and see if anyone will join you and guide you around Harold Parker or Willowdale.

    I'd pick Willowdale myself. Easier to navigate, though I think HP is more fun. Have a great time!

  17. #17
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    Lowell Dracut is super fun pretty easy to navigate with the map online. I highly recommend it. Harold Parker is very technical also fun, a bit confusing if you don't have a guide. Worth getting lost though.

  18. #18
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    I'll be happy to show you around Willowdale. I'm pretty available most of the time...
    Here's a review of Willowdale from my blog that includes the trails I like to ride. My loop is a little more robust than the one posted then, but it's pretty close.

    Mountain Mileage: Trail Review - Willowdale in Ipswich, MA

  19. #19
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    IMO Willowdale is the easiest to get around, if you follow the blue/green markers and try to stay on single track as often as possible you can figure out the main loop. Worst case you end up on doubletrack with horse crap, or in the middle of a golf course. Harold Parker is also fun, but it's best to explore it a few times, because you can end up linking together some great trails with some annoyingly boring ones.

    That said, you could also do Burlington landlocked as a warm up, then head to Russel Mill. They're both really enjoyable, well marked routes, but neither is really long enough to get in 3.5 hours on. They're relatively up the street from each other.

  20. #20
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    Wow! Stepped away for a couple days, and more great suggestions. Thank you all! I think its going to be Willowdale. OF course, now I just need my darn customer to make up their mind so I can figure out when!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffster View Post
    Wow! Stepped away for a couple days, and more great suggestions. Thank you all! I think its going to be Willowdale. OF course, now I just need my darn customer to make up their mind so I can figure out when!
    If you want someone to show you around, you can try me, and if I'm free I'll show the good singletrack. I'm usually pretty able to go for bike rides whenever, but that could change shortly...

  22. #22
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    Willowdale - 2 thumbs up!

    Well I just got in the car and started driving north and finally heard from my customer on the way up. My guess was good that we'd meet on Tuesday, so I was good for a ride this afternoon. Instead of posting pics and GPS here, I put them on my usual spot on Everytrail.com:

    Willowdale State Forest - Mountain biking trip | EveryTrail

    I really enjoyed it. I'm sure I didn't find all the good stuff, but I know I found some of it. I just kept riding around and turning on various single-tracks. Then sooner or later, I'd find a marker and get my bearings again. The single-track was very "flowy". Climbing was minimal. An occasional obstacle in the form of some rocks, logs, skinnies, jumps, rock walls, etc. But, mostly hard packed, rooty stuff. I spent my 3+ hours there and could easily have done more time.

    Thanks again for the recommendation!!!


  23. #23
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    Nice work, you did hit some good sections. I've yet to venture across the road into Bradley Palmer because I hear it's even more tame than the riding in Willowdale. Would you say that's true?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhasdrums View Post
    Nice work, you did hit some good sections. I've yet to venture across the road into Bradley Palmer because I hear it's even more tame than the riding in Willowdale. Would you say that's true?
    I didn't do too much over there, but it was definitely tame...maybe even lame

  25. #25
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    Yeah, the "lame" factor was what I was thinking about. Although, I think I may need to add it to get longer rides in there... Thanks for the report!

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