Freetown - Fall River State Forest
This article was written over 15 years ago. Little has changed since then save that an insect infestation has decimated the hardwood tree population. You'll see MANY dead trees in the forest and there are frequent deadfalls on the trails. You can help by carrying a small folding saw with you when you ride or by reporting large deadfalls to the Forest's staff. I am always impressed when riding here at how diffrent the riding is. There are very few smooth buffed trails to ride on. Instead you are continually challenged by an almost unending series of roots and small stones. Don't get me wrong, the trails are fun, but they are challenging and you can't relax. Parts of the motorcycle trail, as mentioned below, have long sections where you'll have to walk. If you spend a few days exploring the Freetown Fall River State Forest you'll put together your own "best routes to ride". And you'll have a great time doing it.
Freetown/Fall River State Forest is located mostly in the town of Freetown Massachusetts. The 6550 acre forest has been a Mecca for area mountain bikers since the sport began.
The stoney gravelly soil drains quickly and does not promote the formation of bogs or mudholes. After a rainstorm there is a lot of water in the forest but in most cases you can drive right through it on a firm bottom.
An extensive network of somewhat degraded dirt roads sees a lot of use from motorized vehicles, very little from horses and seasonal use by snowmobilers and nordic skiers. This is one of the few places in Southeastern Massachusetts where you'll find dogsleds. In all but the warmest weather the dogs will be barking around the forest as they train for the winter dogsled season. You may also come across hunting dog trials. If you do, you'll see small groups of dogs running through the forest with numbers painted on their sides and wireless transmitters on their collars.
What brings all these people to F/FR? It's the trails. They're wonderful. They go everywhere. You can get big time lost. You can be out in the woods all by yourself. You can explore to your heart's content. Even hammerheads are happy here. Wow!
As always, trail courtesy demands that we stop for oncoming horses. When overtaking horses we make verbal contact first, and only pass at the equestrians direction. We never overtake walkers without giving them advanced verbal notice and even then we pass going only slightly faster than they are. The crowded nature of the F/FR trails demands our best behavior.
This is a very remote area. You will need to pick up a map and some directions at the ranger station. Non trail activity in the forest consists of a small picnic area at forest headquarters that has an in-season spalsh deck, and hunting season.
GOALS (Guidelines For Operation And Land Stewardship) planning, expanded the the existing trail system. The 22 mile motorcycle trail, which was about 50% on dirt roads, was moved off graded surfaces almost entirely. There is an expanded hiking trail network, a dogsled trail, a horse trail and a snowmobile trail. This was also one of the first DEM areas to have an official mountain bike trail. The trail, which is 11 miles long is aimed at the beginner/novice rider. It starts at forest headquarters and loops around on some old dirt roads and doubletracks. It's a very pleasant, though non-challenging ride that expands slightly upon the dogsled trail. More experienced riders are encouraged to venture into the remoter areas of the forest. They will, for instance, be able to ride upon the almost endless singletracks that make up the new motorcycle trail. (A 22 mile long singletrack? Come on? You gotta be kidding!)
And speaking of the singletracks, many are VERY difficult to ride. One that I'm thinking of as I write this consists of a mile plus long section of exposed stones with very little dirt between them. The motorcycle trail in particular has many miles of difficult trails. But, while there a lot of difficllt trails in the Freetown/ Fall River State Forest. Ther are quite a few very mellow singletracks too. You'll just have to explore to find them.
One negative of this area is mosquitos. On evening rides during the bug season you'll have extra encouragement to keep moving. (Mosquitos rarely bite moving bicyclists.) A good mosquito repellant, or one of those electronic bug-aways helps a lot.
To get there leave route 24 at exit 10 in Assonet. Head towards Freetown, and follow the state forest signs into the forest.
By Bill Boles