If you have been mountain biking for very long, then you have probably heard the term “New England Gnar.” New England is known for having some incredibly challenging mountain bike terrain and if you know where to look then you’ll be able to find all the trails you could ever want. New Hampshire features spectacular terrain, challenging features, beginner loops, big bike parks, and beautiful scenery. I think I’ll have to book a plane ticket soon.
1. Bear Brook Trail Network
The Bear Brook Trail Network is a must visit. This trail system has over 40 miles of trails, spanning over 10,000 acres and 3 different mountains. The vastness of this trail system allows for a great deal of variety in the terrain and encourages long interrupted loops.
Since the trails are so long and cover so much ground, it isn’t uncommon to ride at Bear Brook without running into another cyclist or hiker. For me, that is a huge draw. While I love seeing other people enjoying the outdoors, it can be difficult to get in a good workout or to enjoy a wild descent when you are consistently having to holler “on your left.”
This trail system ranges from beginner to advanced and features rocks, drops, flow, berms and more. With the ever-changing terrain it sounds like only one thing remains the same across all of the miles: the trails are very well maintained. Which, you know is a big deal if you have ever ridden on the East Coast. The hard winters often make trails bumpy and harsh. Bear Brook Trail Network is the recipient of a lot of love and hard work in order to keep the trails running smooth.
With so many trails to choose from, it’s hard to feature just a few. Keep in mind that these trails are just a snapshot of what they have to offer.
Hemlock Trail: Hemlock Trail can be accessed from the parking lot after just a short jaunt on Pitch Pine trail. It is a 2.5 mile trail with just over 400 feet of descending. It is known for being one of the most fun and flowy trails in the northeast. Even though the trails are narrow and fast, it is only classified as a blue trail and should be able to suit intermediate riders well.
Carr Ridge: Carr Ridge is a unique trail because it is extremely technical, however, it can be ridden both up and downhill. If you are riding downhill on Carr Ridge you will enjoy lots of banked turns and if you’re riding up you will enjoy some good fitness training as you elevate your heart rate.
Hedgehog Ledge: This is the best trail to challenge your technical skills on. It begins pretty mellow and an intermediate rider might feel comfortable at the start, however, about half-way down the descent the trail turns into a big rock garden. The biggest feature of the trail is a large rock staircase. There is a go around if you find yourself in over your head.
Where is Bear Brook Trail Network:
Bear Brook Trail Network is located at the Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire which is just 12 miles from Manchester. When travelling to the trails you will drive on Deerfield Road, turn onto Podunk Road and find the Bear Brook Parking Lot. The entry fee is $4 and you will find an outhouse and a map in the Parking Area. There aren’t many signs on the trails so you will want to look at the map or have the TrailForks App downloaded on your phone.
Bike Shops Supporting Bear Brook Trail Network:
When you head out to the Bear Brook Trail Network make sure that you bike is in good working condition because the closest bike shop is nearly a 30 minute drive away in Concord, New Hampshire. Should you have an emergency repair needed here are your best options:
Goodale’s Bike Shop Inc: Open Saturday 9 am-6 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 PM https://www.goodalesbikeshop.com/
S&W Sports: Open Saturday 9 am- 6PM and Sunday 12 PM- 5 PM http://www.swsports.net/
2. Highland Mountain Bike Park
The Highland Mountain Bike Park features both cross country trails and lift accessed downhill trails. It has something for everyone and appears to be a mountain biker’s dream. In fact, it is touted as the world’s only lift access mountain that is solely dedicated to cycling. It has 28 trails ranging from green to double black.
There are two distinct sections to the mountain bike park. There is the lift accessed downhill portion which is perfect for working on skills, gaining confidence, and testing limits. Even as a cross country rider, I spend a significant amount of time at bike parks honing my skills. When getting off of the lift at the top of the mountain, the hardest trails will be on your right and the easier trails will be toward your left. Be careful though, there are a couple of challenging sections thrown in in the middle. Remember to always look at the trail before just sending it.
The second portion of the Highland Mountain Bike Park are the cross country trails. These trails can be ridden both up and downhill, but are still only open when the mountain is open.
Freedom Trail: This is a green downhill trail that is good for everyone. It starts fast and flowy and will undulate both up and downhill. This is a great trail for the whole family to play on.
Fancy Feast: This trail is a step up in blue. It is designed to be ridden fast with large berms that allow you to really get the bike sideways. There are a few rock drop features, most of which you can go around.
Maiden Voyage: This is a black trail and should only be ridden by experts. It has drops and jumps that should get your heart pumping.
Where is Highland Mountain Bike Park:
The Highland Mountain Bike Park is in Northfield, New Hampshire which is only 90 minutes north of Boston. It is open from late April until mid-November. The hours vary greatly by season so you will want to visit the website before just showing up. A weekday pass is $48 and a weekend pass is $54. A season pass will run $449. For children under the age of 12, all of those prices can be cut in half.
Bike Shops Supporting The Highland Mountain Bike Park:
The best place to have your bike worked on is right there at Highland Mountain’s own bike shop. While most bike shops will take hours or days to get to your bike, this bike shop understands that you want to get back to the trails as quickly as possible. Their hours are very similar to that of the mountain so you shouldn’t have any issues that can’t be fixed while you are out riding.
3. Fox Park Trails
The Fox Park Trails are handmade trails all courtesy of the New England Mountain Bike Association. There are 20 different trails and most all of them are designed to be ridden in both directions.
These trails are primarily switchbacking with lots of different loop options featuring berms, tight corners, and some tricky technical sections. I really like trail systems like this because if you ride every trail both directions it is almost like you have double the terrain to practice on.
There is one small beginners’ loop that can be a good warm up, however, most beginners will be a bit overwhelmed with the other trails. Even though there are no scary features on this trail, the tricky sections might force a beginner to walk and become discouraged. Intermediate and advanced riders will have the most fun on these trails.
The Novice Loop and Stairway: These two trails are the only beginner or blue trails at Fox Park Trails. They are still singletrack trails but should be pretty smooth.
Lazy Boy: This is just one of the many black trails at Fox Park Trails. Lazy town, Sweaty Balls, and Cross Town makes a pretty great loop.
Where are the Fox Park Trails:
The Fox Park Trails are located in Plymouth, New Hampshire which is 12 miles North of New Hampton. The best parking will be off of Price Haven Road at the Fox Park and Gyroscope Trails Parking Lot. There is a park with a jungle gym for kids so it is likely that there are bathrooms or a drinking fountain at the location. There is no fee to use the trails. Be safe and have fun!
Bike Shops Supporting Fox Park Trails:
Rhino Bike Works: This bike shop is only 1.5 miles away so you could practically walk there if you had an issue on the trail. There are a couple of other options in the area, but none even come close to Rhino Bike Works so if you can I would definitely go here first. They are open 10 am – 5 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 4 PM on Sunday. https://rhinobikeworksnh.com/about-us/
4. Attitash Mountain Bike Resort
Attitash Mountain Bike Resort has over 20 miles of trails, with 35 lift accessed downhill trails and 8 cross country trails. The trails range in ability level and there is something for everyone. There are multiple machine built and handcut trails downhill trails that should test your skill and bravery.
If you would prefer to pedal your bike, there are also 12 miles of single and double track cross country trails that run along the river.
Make sure to check out the trail maps on their website or once you arrive. It seems like they have done a lot of work and Trailforks hasn’t been updated yet. You don’t want to miss out on all that is new and exciting.
All of the trails are labelled by difficulty level so when you head out on the trail you will know what you are in for. I definitely recommend scouting out all of the lines and features before just riding the trail without looking. I have found that a lot of crashes happen on the first lap because even if you have ridden the trail before, conditions are constantly changing.
Where is Attitash Mountain Bike Resort?
Attitash Mountain Bike Resort is located in Bartlett, New Hampshire which is about 15 miles North on Conway. It is open June 15th-October 14th from 10 am until 4 or 6 PM depending on the season. In the summer a lift pass is $35 and in the fall a lift pass is $30. If you don’t want to spend the money then the cross country trails are free and can be ridden by anyone. Plus, if you are interested in more than just riding on two wheels you can pay a little extra fee and participate in other attractions like zip tours and waterslides.
Bike Shops Supporting Attitash Mountain Bike Resort:
Attitash Mountain Bike Resort offers rentals of bikes and equipment (for an extra fee), but according to their website it doesn’t seem like they offer service repairs. That means you should make sure to arrive with a full functioning bike, extra tubes, and flat repair kits. Check out these bike shops nearby:
The Bike Shop: (~11 miles): Open 9 am – 6 PM Saturday and closed on Sunday. https://thebikeshopnh.com/
Red Jersey Cyclery: (~8 miles) Open Saturday 9 am-5:30 PM and Sunday 10 am- 5 PM Check out Red Jersey online HERE
5. The Boston Lot
The Boston Lot is described as Lebanon, New Hampshire’s “Crown Jewel.” This trail network features 42 trails and about 30 miles of green and blue trails. There are less than 800 feet of climbing and descending throughout most of these trails so they should be fairly good for a beginner rider.
There is parking off of Mascoma Street at the Nature Walk Trailhead, along State Route 10 at the Boston Lot Lake Trailhead, and along LaHaye Drive at DHMC Trailhead Parking Lot. Make sure to bring a map because once you arrive the trails are not marked so navigating without a map can be tricky.
6. Parker (PRKR) Mountain Bike Trails
The Park Mountain Bike Trail network is located in Littleton, New Hampshire and is about 40 minutes away from the infamous Kingdom trails which gives you a good idea of what the terrain and caliber is like.
There are 30 miles of trail and they are generally known for being better for more advanced riders. In general, the further you ride from town, the more difficult the trails become. There are logging trails to ride up and downhill trails with berms, bridges, and drops to test your skills on the way down. I really like trail layouts like that because I can work hard and get in specific intervals or workouts on the way up, while still finishing the ride with lots of fun.
The best parking is available at Remich Park Parking area.
7. Echo Lake Trails
The trail has a little bit of everything. It has fast flat loops that can easily be used for beginner riders, but it also has bigger loops that crest up and over beautiful rock ridgelines. The ridgelines alone look like it is worth making the ride. When I go to a new area I love to check out trails that are not only fun riding, but also have beautiful scenery to show me what the location has to offer.
This trail system has 20 miles of riding with 2000 feet of climbing and descending to conquer.
Mountain Bike Park SPOT LIGHT – HIGHLAND MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK
Highland Mountain Bike Park is dedicated to providing every MTBer skill level an exceptional experience on two wheels. A beautiful mountain with impeccably maintained trails will make your ride feel as smooth as a road ride. The whole family can enjoy an outdoor vacation with service, and safety.
8. Hampstead Conservation Area
The Hampstead Conservation Area is located in the Southeast corner of New Hampshire. Unlike many trails in New Hampshire, Trailforks has lots of information available about these trails. While many people feel that the trails are never ending and allow for a ‘lost’ type of feeling, if you are confident following your phone then you should have uninterrupted fun trails.
The Cemetery Loop is known as one of the best sections of the trail. It is fast and flowy with loamy corners and some technical sections that can test your skills. A few rock gardens might require a beginner to hesitate, but most of these trails are only as challenging as you make them based on speed and effort.
There is parking for about 8 cars just passed where Boulder Cove Road and West Road Connect or you can find parking on Stage Road. The trails go across a few roads so make sure to yield at intersections and watch for vehicles.
9. Coo’s Trails
Coo’s Trails are located in Gorham, New Hampshire and go throughout Moose Brook State Park and beyond. There are over 20 miles of purpose-build mountain trails that feature bridges and berms.
You can ride smaller loops like the swoopy Pumphouse Loop Trails which is just under a mile long or you can start on Gorham Hill Road and ride the Presidential Recreational Rail Trail which is 15 miles in one direction and can be ridden as an out and back.
If you are willing to ride on just a couple miles of road you can connect multiple trail systems and have more riding than you would ever want to do in one day. There are multiple parking areas available depending on which trails you want to start at.
10. Page Hill Trails
The Page Hill Trails are located in Hill, New Hampshire. There are 12 trails that connect in a way that form a bunch of small loops. If you are feeling adventurous you can ride a large loop on all of the hardest trails by riding the entire perimeter of the area, or you can cut your ride short by riding a trail directly across the loop.
Dude’s Abides trail is known for being really gnarly with lots of rocks and roots. It is lethal when it is wet. Other trails have big jumps and drops. If you wish to avoid these sections there are a few fireroads that offer relief from the gnarly sections when you’ve had enough and just want to cool down. The best parking area is located off of Murray Hill Road.
11. Grater Woods/Pond Parish
These trails are located in Merrimack which is 4 miles from Amherst, New Hampshire. There are over 20 miles of trails that range of ATV doubletrack trails to the classic New England twisty, turny singletrack terrain.
The most technical trails will be extending down into Pond Parish with easier trails near the Grater Woods. Much of the area is marshy and will be muddy in the spring and even year round in some cases. Make sure that you don’t cause big ruts that are difficult to repair, but if riding in mild mud is allowed then don’t forget to bring a fender! I like to put one on the front of my mountain bike in order to avoid getting sprayed in the face.
Clubs and Groups Supporting Mountain Biking in New Hampshire:
New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA): NEMBA has over 27 chapters located all throughout New England with over 7,000 members. They volunteer, advocate for cycling, educate, put on skills clinic, and lead over 1000 rides per year.
Coo’s Cycling Club: Coo’s Cycling Club helps build and maintain trails in the Gorham area. They also put on group rides, including family friendly rides, and help to spread the love of all types of cycling.
Bike Parks in New Hampshire:
Highland Bike Park: In addition to having lift accessed downhill trails and cross country terrain, they also have a skills park. They have 2 dirt jump parks, 2 skills parks, a Slopestyle course, and an ‘Ayr Bag.’ It is $20 to have access to all of the skill parks. There are very few other skills parks in New Hampshire, so it is a good thing that this is probably the best skills park I have ever seen.
New Hampshire Gems: New Hampshire has a lot of hidden trails that really take some digging to find, but when you do, you will be pleasantly surprised. These trails feature classic New England gnar and will test even the best riders in our country.