Great Brook Farm State Park
Great Brook State Park may be the best family mountain biking area in Massachusetts. The park has a variety of facilities for numerous actitivies. The park includes ample parking, a working dairy farm (and home-made ice cream stand), a duck pond and even a sort-of kiddie-zoo with a few barnyard animals. There's a variety of trails through meadows, around pastures and through woods for hiking, biking, XC-skiing and equestrian activities.
Great Brook is a great place to go for any outing with a group of poeple, some of which do, and some of which do not mountain bike. There are numerous nice spots for setting a blanket and picnicking. Riders can go off and cycle short loops of a couple miles. While hikers can go off and hike. There's some ponds where children may enjoy fishing. Many of the trails at Great Brook are wide, level, double-track which are ideally suited to family rides. These double-tracks are also quite attractive since they are very natural in texture and are not rutted like jeep roads.
In addition to the double-tracks are a variety of very easy single-tracks. Many of these are paths are routed around the perimeters of meadows and pastures. Please stay on the paths and avoid cutting across open spaces.
Some of the more out-of-the-way trails offer more challenge. The Wood chuck trail is a nice loop with a couple larger hills. It isn't far off the beaten track so you do want to keep a look out for hikers, horses and other bikers. One of my favorite rides at Great Brook is the Heart Break Ridge. This trail goes out for a couple of miles and then loops back on newly built singletrack. That turns what once was an out and back into a fun loop. This trail starts with a short steep climb on a newly built siwtcback. It's tough to clean the last fifteen feet or so because of some nasty roots. The trail continues with some moderately technical but not nasty single-track along the top of a ridge. The trail then becomes narrow but smooth and fast 3rd-ring single track. Possibly the most difficult trail in the park is Stone Row, located in the northern quadrant of the park.
Great Brook is very popular since it is such a great family and beginner area. Because it is such a popular family area, it's not a great idea for advanced riders to come to Great Brook to do their serious weekend pounding. It's wise for fast riders to avoid this park on nice summer weekends. It certainly is a good idea to avoid riding hard on the main trails. The main trails are frequented by family groups of four of five people, both hikers and bikers, including young kids, often on little bikes. And you'll encounter lots of horses. I'd suggest cooling it when around riding near non bikers. The more out-of-the-way s ingle-tracks offer more challenge and rarely have anyone else on them. In recent years NEMBA has been building new singletracks and constructing bridges. Most of these are on the newest map which is usually available as a handout in the main parking area.
Great Brook Farm State Park is a wonderful destination for a moderate mountain bike ride through rolling secondary woodlands, old farm carriage roads and rocky eskers. It is a working farm and features a popular ice cream stand for an après-ride treat. Parking is $2. NEMBA has volunteered and stewarded Great Brook since 1995, and built some of the most popular trails enjoyed by mountain bikers: Stone Row, Keyes Loop, Fern Loop, Deer Run and sections of the Acorn Trail, Toffett Loop and Indian Hill. NEMBA installed all of the water crossing boardwalks, and made a $3000 donation for the purchase of adjacent property to expand the park.
Great Brook Farm is shared-use park in the best sense of the word. In addition to mountain biking, horseback riding is very popular, as is trail running, walking, and dog walking. Many people come to Great Brook to picnic around the pond, view the farm animals and take a tour of the farmyard with a DCR interpreter. All the different park users are friendly and respectful towards one another, and user conflict is minimal – a testament to the even-handed style of the land manager. During the winter, the park is concessioned as a dedicated Great Brook Ski Touring Center and only cross-country skiing is allowed on the majority of the trails (only the trails west of Lowell Street are open to non-skiers). Until 2007, the Greater Boston chapter of NEMBA kept Great Brook under its stewardship wing; however, since Great Brook and the nearby Lowell-Dracut State Forest are managed by the same DCR land manager, the Merrimack Valley NEMBA chapter is now the main steward, with support and volunteer help from Greater Boston NEMBA.