Needham Town Forest
The Needham Town Forest, sometimes known as the High Rock Town Forest, is a relatively small but trail dense area. It consists of more than 200 acres of mature woods with a few small ponds. There is one scenic overlook at the top of High Rock in the easternmost section of the forest. One degrading woods road runs through most of the forest and all of the singletracks lead off of it. The singletracks are fun. Not so technical that you'll have to get off your bike very often, but busy enough that you'll never be in danger of falling asleep as you ride. They wind all around the forest and interconnect in a random manner. This makes it impossible to ride all of the forest's trails without doing at least a few trail repeats. In all there are about 9 miles of good singletrack trails in the forest. The old road that I mentioned is about a mile long. On the southern end of the forest you’ll find Camp Nehoiden a large area that has its own trails. There's also a connecting trail to Needham's Farley Pond conservation area.
Years ago the town of Needham asked NEMBA to lay out some trails on this parcel. NEMBA did and the trails are still there. Though, over the years, they have since been joined by many new additions. The Needham Town Forest was the site of two old Boston Cup mountain bike races. Today the trails are maintained by the town and a host of volunteers.
Some very technical and fun singletracks have sprouted up in recent years, making good use of rock faces and other technical challenges. It's now possible to do an extended ride solely on tight, twisty, challenging singletracks. However, definitely look before you ride some of these features, as some are extremely challenging. These trails are currently unblazed.
Some of the forest's trails are marked with tiny birdhouses the roofs of which are colored green, red, yellow, blue or white to indicate which trail you're on. There are also colored blazes on many trees that supplement the birdhouses. A map of the forest is located on the signboard at the parking area and copies are available at the Needham Town Hall.
One trail takes you by a wooden train trestle – Not yet on the Scenic Register of Historic Sites, still, it’s probably the most unusual and tallest one that you'll see in Massachusetts.All levels of riders can ride most of the park's trails. Though a few will require some advanced singletrack skills. Riding in the Needham Town Forest is a blast. You can link together the forest's trails to make an almost unending variety of rides. And given the lack of long hills, this is one of those areas where you can ride the trails in both directions and enjoy yourself just as much.
On my last visit I challenged myself by turning left on the first trail (red markings) leading off the dirt road at the parking lot. I continued taking left turns, riding out to neighborhead trailheads in many cases, until I found myself once again on the red trail back at the same place. This perimeter loop was 4.5 miles long. But there were many, many trails that I didn’t explore. Diving back into the forest I rode for the rest of the afternoon, occasionally finding myself on familiar trails, but not able to ride them all.
Stick to the singletracks and you’ll have a good, though mostly moderate, technical ride. Stick to the fireroads and you’ll have found the perfect place to introduce a new rider or youngster to mountain biking.
My guess is that if you ride here once, that you'll be back.
From the north or south on Rte. 128 / 95: Take exit 17 and follow route 135 through Needham Center. Immediately after the center turn left on Marked Tree Road and follow it through a few intersections until you come to a "T" intersection on Central Avenue. Turn left, go 100 yards and turn left into the Needham Town Forest parking area. (A dirt road.)
Many of the forest's trails lead into people's back yards. Respect property rights by not trespassing. Stay off the trails when they're muddy.
By Bill Boles