F. Gilbert Hills State Forest, Foxboro
The Foxboro section of the F. Gilbert Hills State Forest in Foxboro, Massachusetts offers one of the best riding experiences in eastern Massachusetts. The 810 acres of woodlands are densely forested with a variety of hardwood stands and contain a spaghetti-like maze of trails. The rocky gravelly earth, derived from a glacial till, is well drained, rarely muddy, and has little sand. Drumlins provide an interesting variety of abrupt elevation changes. There are no paved roads, campsites, or lakes. With the exception of a small picnic area, this forest is basically just trails.
A number of interesting stone structures are found in the forest. Scientists and historians disagree as to their origins.
Foxboro State Forest abuts Foxborough town conservation land. Some of the trails in the forest enter this area and bicycles are welcome there. This area has seen years of off-road motorcycle activity. The trails range from rough dirt roads and degraded jeep roads to miles upon miles of difficult singletrack. The trails take advantage of the best of the forest's elevation changes, scenery and natural terrain. They are a gas to ride. The dense woods provide a shady, usually dust free riding experience. There is little mud after April, and it's cool under the trees in all but the hottest part of the summer. Here you will find the challenges of the Blue Hills or the Middlesex Fells without the air pollution and the constant traffic noise.
Deadfalls can be a problem in the early spring and after a summer windstorm. Fortunately the forest's many trail users join together to speed their removal.
As a result of a GOALS planning process, an extensive network of marked trails exists in the forest. Designations include trails for hikers, horses, mountain bikes, and motorcycles. With the exception of small sections of the hiking trail we are welcome on all of the forest's marked trails as well as the other woods roads, singletracks etc...
The Foxboro State Forest mountain bike trail expands upon the existing motorcycle trail. It starts out easy and then gets progressively harder until just before the end when it terminates with a 3/4 mile dirt road ride. It's 9 miles long. There is also a shortcut. "The Family Loop", leads back to headquarters after 2.5 miles.
All of the above mentioned trails are marked and copies of the DCR's forest map are available at forest headquarters.
The F. Gilbert Hills State Forest is divided up into three sections, Foxboro, Wrentham and Franklin. Locals refer to each section by the name of the town that it's in, rather than its formal name. Of the three, I feel that Wrentham has the most technical challenge, Foxboro has the most people, and Franklin is the least utilized.
The DCR publishes a map of the Foxboro section of the park. Copies are available at the signboard at forest headquarters. A copy of the DCR map is also available online. The ride on the MTB loop may be extended by turning right on Messenger Rd. at point 11 on the map, taking a left onto the Warner Trail, proceeding North, then West, then South, and returning to the multi-use trail back at Messager Rd. just Southwest of point 11.
To get there, take exit 14 from Mass. Route 495.
Head north on Route 1 to your second intersection, Thurston Street.
From there follow the state forest signs to forest headquarters or park at either of the two metal state forest gates that will be on your left.
Fair warning... the parking lot at forest headquarters is usually filled on weekends. It's best to try and park somewhere else. Another good place to park, and the site of the future main parking lot for the forest, is about another 1/2 mile north of Thurston Street on Route 1. Just after Myrtle Street on your left look for a small paved road on your right. This is High Rock Road. The new parking area will be located right near Route 1. You can park there now or you can follow High Rock Road to the top of the hill where there is a large parking area near a communications tower. By parking here you will avoid the dirt road section that returns you to forest headquarters, and also most of the forest's other trail users. High Rock Road is also a much better place to park on weekends, mornings and evenings when the gate at forest headquarters will be locked.
You will be sharing the trails in this forest with many other trail users. Be sure to yied the right of way to hikers and especially equestrians.
Expect hunting in the late fall and early winter. Except on Sundays, there is no hunting in Massachusetts on Sunday.
F. Gilbert Hills has a Facebook Page that has a lot of current information.
By Bill Boles