Kona Mountain Bike Adventure Series Ride 8/9
Located south of the Millers River and Route 2, this vast state forest has long offered mountain biking opportunities to regional riders. Wendell State Forest covers over 7,500 acres of rolling forested hills, streams, ponds, gravel roads and trails. Purchased by the Commonwealth in the 1920s the area was heavily burned during the early 1900s. Some of the park development and most of the road systems, are attributed to Civilian Conservation Corps activities in the 1930s.
The forest's roads, trails and visitors would remain pretty much unchanged from that time until 2004 when a new initiative to rejuvenate this gem of the Pioneer Valley came about. With the active encouragement and mentoring of Park Ranger and Trails Supervisor Bryant Stewart, NEMBA and a sampling of local snowshoeing, cross country skiing and hiking enthusiasts have created some of the best multi-use single track anywhere in New England.
There are several distinct loops that local riders usually take, when embarking on a two hour excursion of Wendell State Forest. Today we'll take the moderate loop, which misses some of NEMBA's star trails, but is much friendlier to riders of all abilities. That isn't to say this is an easy loop or that very many riders will clean it without a dab or a do-over! We begin at Park Head Quarters and duck around the gate onto the Old XC Ski Trail. We follow this across the access to the Event Parking Area and rip over the bridge, through the mild rocky areas out to Carlton Rd. At Carlton Rd, we head into the park along the road for about ¼ mile until we bang a right onto the M&M Trail. We follow a short section of this 100 mile through trail until it meets the Carlton Dirth trail where the M&M crosses Montague Rd. Instead of crossing on the M&M, and riding the miles of cool stuff south of the road, we follow the Carlton Dirth Trail all the way to Dirth Rd.
We follow Dirth Rd. about ½ mile looking for a recovered hunters trail now known as Hammerhead's Hiatus. We take a left onto this smooth winding single track through the principally hardwood forest. Don't hammer this trail and enjoy the Hiatus, as you probably need to recover before the rocky adventure that waits at the next junction. As the Hiatus ends back on Carlton Rd, we cross onto the Western Wicket Pond Trail. This trail was built by the SCA Americorps volunteers about 10 years ago. We follow it until just before it drops down to the pond's edge and instead attack the rocky, techy climb up the Wicket Pond Escape and out to Brook Road.
We take a right onto Brook Rd. and cruise along the road down to Wicket Pond Rd. where we bear left and then a quick right onto the Maple Leaf Trail. We skirt the swamp and wind past the old cellar hole before dipping down the flowing and fun Nipmuck Trail. This masterpiece of Wendell drops down to the bottom of Baker Rd. winding through beech forests until it gets to the evergreen lowlands. Along the way enjoy the rock jumps, berms and flowing pitch changes. Mostly downhill, the trail builders still managed to keep your heart rates up by incorporating grade reversals and other surprises scattered throughout this 1 1/2 mile delight. For every moment of biking, there is a payback. In the case of the Nipmuck, the pain follows in the form of a mile-long fire road climb up Baker Rd.
From the top of Baker Rd, your 2 hour moderate ride will conclude with a left turn onto the Bob-is-Fat trail and with a right at the junction, a scamper through the rocky section of the Maple Leaf trail as it returns you to the intersection of Damon Camp Rd. and Wickett Pond Rd. Follow Wicket Pond Rd. to your right back to park headquarters.
If, however you want to test your biking metal, and are up for some examples of prime, rigorous New England singletrack, just before you reach the summit of Baker Rd, you will see a rocky single track heading off to your right. This 2 year old Mormon Hollow Return trail will take you on an adventure second to none. With your skills sharpened for this rocky, rooty, twisting excursion set yourself up for a couple miles of generally downhill torture. But wait, the fun is just beginning, at the bottom of the Mormon Hollow Return, we jump onto another of the stars of the Forest, Hannah Swarton's Remove. This trail, ridden in this direction, is guaranteed to remove any extra energy reserves you have. Heading back to the center of the park on this trail provides rocky climbs, a few grade reversing descents and nearly as much rocky fun as the Mormon Hollow. Winding for nearly 3 miles you eventually find yourself back at the top of Baker Rd. Had enough yet? If so follow the conclusion to the intermediate's ride above.
Want some more fun? Got another hour? Wait till you see this next piece, take a right for another 100 yards on Baker Rd. down to the junction of Damon Camp Rd. and ride to your right to the Moose Trax Trail which is on your left after about ¼ mile. Follow this down to the brook crossing and then up through a nice laurel stand to the junction of the Lookout trail. Take a right on the Lookout Trail (don't miss the lookout while you are here) and follow it to where it merges with the M&M. Take the M&M all the way to the bottom of Damon Camp Rd., enjoying the smooth descents and twisting surprises. Be aware though, the M&M may have more hikers and backpackers than most of the trails you have been on, especially along this section. Always yield the right of way to hikers. At the bottom of Damon Camp Rd., take a left onto Davis Rd.
Follow Davis Rd. until you see a freshly opened single track off to your right. Follow this unnamed trail up to another lookout and then along a long rock spine as it winds up and down through the Mt. Grace Conservation Land which abuts the State Forest and again meets up with another section of the M&M. A right turn back onto the M&M brings you up yet another rocky, sometimes steep, climb to the Ruggles Pond parking area where you will most likely be ready to call it a day.
Have fun and keep exploring the park - we didn't cross Montague Rd to the Robert Frost Trail and other stellar single and double track gems, or venture out to the Bear Mountain area where the fire roads are burly, and the emergence of new single track is imminent. There's plenty more out there for another day.
Less than 90 minutes from Hartford and Boston, Take Rte. 2 to Rte. 63 south to the center of Millers Falls. Go straight onto Wendell Rd. over the iron R.R. bridge and follow the signs up to park headquarters at the top of the hill, about 3 miles.
Before Memorial Day you can park right at the Park Headquarters on Montague (Wendell) rd., but during the summer, you'll have to enter and park at Ruggles Pond. (The state now sells a $35 season parking pass good at all State Parks and Forests or $5 day passes.)
Watch out for hunters during hunting season. (There's no hunting in Massachusetts on Sundays.) Expect to find lots of kids and dogs running around near Ruggles Pond on summer afternoons.
Watch out for hikers especially on the Trail to the Lookouts, the M&M and the Robert Frost.
Some of the rocky spines can be slippery when wet.
Carry plenty of water, be self sufficient with regards to repairs and bring a buddy. Rides can take you many miles into the forest which is not regularly patrolled.
Submitted by Liam O'Brien & Harold Green
and Updated from a SIngleTracks Magazine article. Read more about Wendell State Forest