I did this route with a friend and figured I would report back for those interested in logging some miles off pavement that aren't necessarily buff single track.
FOMBA Trail Map:
Tower Hill / FOMBA Trail Map:
Bear Brook Trail Map
NH Skimobile Trail Map (scroll to bottom for two links)
The New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation : Trail Conditions
The quick and dirty:
Take double track or single track to Tower Hill, Follow NH-15 Ski Mobile Trail from there. Ride a ton of Bear Brook. We did Ferret, Bear Hill, Upper Little Bear, Big Bear, Pitch Pine part 1, Hemlock, Lynx, Hall Mtn Marsh, and Ferret. Then ride back on NH-15. (I've heard there is an alternate route back but I don't have details)
All the trails except for a portion of Ferret Trail at FOMBA were dry and hardpack. We rode through a few puddles but nothing serious.
The Play by Play:
Follow along with my Strava report...
Bike Ride Profile | Epic Fomba to bear brook ride near Auburn | Times and Records | Strava
Mile 0 - Tick and Dead Man
Starting from the Depot road parking lot head over to the rail trail, cross the bridge, take a right, then another immediate right onto single track, followed by a quick left onto what I believe is the "Tick" trail. This eventually leads into "Dead Man's Trail" and eventually dumps out at Candia Rd. It is a good warm-up of FOMBA style single-track...and it's the last single track you will see for a while. You can skip it by taking Depot rd to double track on the other side of Clark Pond (see return route).
Mile 2.5 - Tower Hill Pond
Cross Candia Rd and go under 101 toward Tower Hill Pond. Take first left onto double track that will take you to base of the dam, then then climb the hill to the right to get to more double track. From this point until you reach Bear Brook follow signs for NH-15-North Ski Mobile trail. It is marked pretty well and when in doubt your best guess on which way to go is probably correct. It's all wide double track.
Mile 4.5 - NH-15
On the north side of Tower Hill Pond NH-15-North turns right and begins to climb. After a brief descent there is another right hand turn. Both of these intersections are well marked.
Mile 6 - Logging Area
15-North opens to a clear cut logging area. There was no equipment or activity that we saw. We followed the road downhill to a gate, hopped over it and discovered we were at Route 27. This portion could be muddy during the wet season but we haven't had rain in weeks so it was bone dry.
Mile 7 - Power Lines
As you come up to Route 27 there are some power lines. It isn't marked but if you take a right it will lead you to a bridge. After the bridge cross Route 27 to continue on 15-North. You can also ride 27 to get here (we opted to do this on the way back because the power line trail was washed out).
Mile 9.3 - Chester Turnpike
The trail comes to a dirt road which is not marked. This is old Chester turnpike. Turn left to continue North.
Mile 10 - NH-15
Turn right at the gate onto double track. This is 15-North but it isn't marked.
Mile 11.8 - Ferret Trail
You have reached the Bear Brook trail system. Refer to your favorite Bear Brook trail map to choose your own adventure, or continue below to hear about ours... What follows may or may not be the best planned route. I'm welcome to suggestions for "the best" route. Anyway, we turned Left onto Ferret trail and took the next Right to stay on Ferret.
Mile 13.5 - Bear Hill Trail
We passed by Hedgehog Ledge Trail to do Bear Hill Trail (single track) instead. It's a smooth but tough climb to the top. No view whatsoever, then a rocky descent. If you chose to do this trip on a CX bike, you probably want to avoid this trail. I was on a SC Tallboy LT so I let her rip.
Mile 14.75 - Little Bear and Big Bear
Turn left onto Podunk Rd then cut through the field to the start of Upper Little Bear (more single track yay!). Cross Farm road to continue on Little Bear then turn right at the T-intersection to rip down the new Big Bear to the Hiker Biker Parking Lot (another woohoo rip!). Not sure if this is suitable for CX bikes. It seems pretty buff on a MTB but someone else will have to provide feedback who has ridden it.
Mile 16.5 - Pitch Pine Part 1
Pass through the parking lot, cross the road, and pick up Pitch Pine trail on the left. This starts out as double track but there is a quick left onto rooty single track. CX bikers could skip this and stay on the double track which will also pass by the next marker.
Mile 17 - Hemlock
When you see the sand pit, turn left and stay left to pick up Hemlock trail. Not sure about this trail for CX either. It may be OK, otherwise, stay on the doubletrack and it's a straight shot to Beaver pond campground.
Mile 19.25 - Whoops
We ran into some friends on the trail and stopped to chat. I got distracted and forgot where I was. There's a trail that leads to a cabin. We took it thinking it would bring us to the campground. It didn't. Won't be doing that again. Past the cabin is a double-track climb to South Rd and we failed to find another entrance to take us back into the park so we doubled back.
Mile 19.25 take two (aka Mile 21.25)
Follow the double track to the campground. There's a fun log roll on the way.
Mile 22.5 - Beaver Pond
At Beaver Pond campground you have two options, neither are great for a long ride. In fact, the next 3 miles are going to be painful any way you look at it.
We chose to to ride the north side of Beaver Pond. There is a nice bridge in disrepair with a good place to stop for a break. Then there's a completely deteriorated bridge that we got wet crossing. The South side is more rugged single track but you'll need that energy for the next part.
Mile 23.3 - Lynx Climb
Turn off the Beaver pond trail and onto the Lynx trail double track. This is a straight shot climb. Don't be fooled by the bend in the road, it keeps going. Don't be fooled by the second bend in the road, it keeps going. You're a long way from home...so conserving energy is key. You can come back some other time and grab the KOM.
Mile 24.7 - Hall Mountain Marsh
It's just a few hundred feet of single track on the other side of Podunk Rd to reach a great scenic overlook. Don't stop for a breather on the road, keep going until you reach the overlook. If you're going to take a break, that's the place.
When you're ready to go, the Marsh trail is refreshingly downward pitched but rocky and slow. This is another trail to skip on a CX bike I imagine.
Mile 27 - Bear Hill Rd to Ferret Trail
At the end of the Hall Mountain Marsh single track we turned left onto Bear Hill Rd in an effort to pick up the other side of Ferret trail. This was a mistake. It said no bikes and I would agree. Once we reached Ferret trail it was muddy, wet, and miserable. If I do this again I will ride up Podunk and take Ferret trail back the way I came.
Mile 29.75 - NH-15
After what seemed to be the longest portion of the ride we reached the intersection of NH-15-South. From here it is downhill back to FOMBA.
Mile 34 - Logging Area
Just kidding. When you reach the logging area you'll have to climb through sawdust and wood chips with no shelter from trees. Then it's all downhill.
Mile 35.6 - Tower Hill Pond
Go straight at the intersection of club trails to coast downhill along the other side of Tower Hill Pond. Stay left and you can cross along the top of the dam.
On the other side of the dam you can drop down and take the double track to Candia Rd or you can chicken out (like us) and just coast the dirt road back.
To the left as you cross Candia Rd is double track. If you've still got legs, there is another FOMBA single track on the left called "Ape" trail. There is a sign if you know what to look for. We skipped it. Stay left at the double track intersection and when you reach Depot Rd turn right to race back to the parking area. Still got legs? Add a few FOMBA trails to finish out your ride. We decided enough was enough.
This is my longest mountain bike ride ever so I really cannot compare it to anything else. It helps to know the different trail systems so you don't accidentally get lost. Tower hill is a nice scenic loop by itself. Aside from the logging area, NH-15 is pretty scenic and quiet too. Don't forget to glance off to the side occasionally and enjoy the surroundings. Our route around Bear Brook combined some of the best trails. We had a very long enjoyable downhill by combining Bear Hill, Little Bear, and Big Bear, then a pleasant cross country single track experience on Hemlock. The climb back up was grueling but you are rewarded with a nice view at the end. The ride back seems a bit daunting but you do get a nice cool down as you coast toward tower hill. I will definitely do this ride again, or some variant of it, before the summer is over.
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