Drummer Hill & Goose Pond, Keene
Welcome to Drummer Hill, Keene’s most extensive singletrack destination! You’ll find many hours of intermediate- through expert-level riding, consisting of mostly unsanitized, gnarly roots and rocks (and reggae!) in a base of sweet, tacky soil that knobbies will dig. On a fatbike in winter when the snow settles into a solid base, the singletrack becomes superfluous and you’ll discover the true meaning of “cross country” as the entire woods become a paved playground.
The published maps of Keene show a roughly 4 square mile area called “Goose Pond Forest” which includes Goose Pond and the slopes and ridge that rise above to the east, Minister’s Lot, Drummer Hill, and adjacent regions of mixed private and public lands. With more than 18 miles of singletrack and 13 miles of unimproved doubletrack trails, it’s a local wilderness seeker’s dream. The trails are used year-round for mountain biking, hiking, running, fatbiking, snowshoeing, and skiing, and some of the doubletrack is included the New England Interstate Snowmobile Corridor routes. The Drummer Hill area also connects to another, unmapped, singletrack system in the adjacent townships of Gilsum and Surry which can be accessed without riding on any paved roads. All told, perhaps as many as ten hours of saddle time could be enjoyed with relatively little backtracking.
There are four gated access parking areas to the trails: the corner of Drummer and Greenacres Roads, Timberlane Dr., Meetinghouse Road, and the Goose Pond parking area off of Rt. 12A (W. Surry Rd.)
Most of the trails are on southwest facing slopes and run downhill from approximately east to west. The Brattleboro/Keene Chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association is responsible for maintaining the trails and map. As of this writing the trails are not signed, but the entire system will be signed during the spring of 2015. From the map you’ll see that most of the trails are on public-access land with some going across unposted private land. The trails include drops of 1 – 20 feet, all with go-arounds---so look ahead, keep relaxed, and stay healthy!
From the parking area at Drummer & Greenacres Roads to the 1148 ft. summit of Bitten Trail (built circa 1988) is a climb of just over 600 vertical feet. Right away you’ll get a taste of typical Drummer singletrack with its often off-camber, technical twists and turns. Although there is no beginner-level singletrack in Drummer, three doubletrack dirt fire roads, Old Gilsum, Lower Drummer and Wild Things, provide entry-level riders with a good place to start and begin exploring the singletrack. Of course, riders of all abilities should use common sense and dismount and walk when in doubt.
Maps can be downloaded and printed from the top of this webpage, and viewed online at Trailforks (http://www.trailforks.com/region/drummer-hill-goose-pond/). With map in hand visitors can plan their adventure, a few of which are described below. Please ride with excellent trail and wilderness etiquette, and enjoy!
When reading about the “rides” that follow, please refer to the map. Most of the trails are “New England intermediate”, but include at least short sections that are advanced: keep your eyes ahead and be mindful of drops, narrow bridges, random branches, and newts.
The following ride narrative begins at the Drummer/Greenacres Road gate on Rope Tow Rd, but any of the trailheads can be optioned for both start and finish. Riding in a new area inevitably brings up conflicts at the interface of map/signage/rider, so keep a map handy, or expect to enjoy moments of being “lost”. Two prominent landmarks are the steel and wooden poled power lines which intersect each other, running northwest-southeast, and northeast-southwest, respectively. If you ever feel completely 'lost', just keep heading west to get back to Keene. All times are given as guesstimated ranges.
From the gate, ride Rope Tow Rd. for about 100 feet and turn right onto the beginning of Jump Trail. Cross the creek and turn left to continue climbing Jump (straight on is Dog Walk Tr.) Continue up Jump and turn left at the intersection to continue toward Lewis Pond and up Kamakazi Slalom Tr., continuing onto Crossover, Goat, and across Lower Drummer Rd. Continue up Goat, and after a total of 10-20 minutes of climbing since starting, turn left to continue north on Old Gilsum Rd. At some point during the Summer of 2015 it is expected that the excellent singletrack sections of Bitten and Threader Trails east of Old Gilsum Rd. will reopen, but they are currently closed for logging – when they do reopen, you could turn right and climb Bitten Trail. But for now, continue north on Old Gilsum Rd. for 5-10 minutes and turn right at the intersection with NH Snowmobile Corridor 6. Continue climbing under the steel powerlines and in 5-10 minutes, turn right onto Back Door Trail. As you come out of the heavily logged trees to the wooden powerline, turn right, and after about 100 feet, turn left to continue to the 1148’ summit of Bitten. This entire route takes 20-45 minutes from start. At this juncture there are 3 options: (1) down Clevis/Threader, one Drummer’s most rocky and technical lines; (2) down the less technical Bitten Trail; or (3) backtrack on Back Door, the least technical of these options. The first two options drop back to Old Gilsum Rd in about 5-15 minutes, and continue (see map options) down to Lower Drummer Rd., and from there, you’ll see a few mapped options down to the cul-de-sac road - for a total of 10-15 minutes of downhill thrills from the top of Bitten to the cul-de-sac.
If you choose the 3rd option, backtrack on Back Door and when you get back to the Snowmobile Corridor, continue straight across onto Exit 1 Trail. Turn right at Old Woods Rd, and in about 60 feet, turn left onto Exit 2 Trail. Exits 1 & 2 together take 15-25 minutes.
Exit 2 ends at Old Gilsum Rd, with several options. The “north end” trails, described below, all begin here and wind down toward the creek crossing on Far Side Trail. Turn left off Exit 2 onto Old Gilsum, and after 50 feet, turn right onto the most advanced of these trails, Drop and Chute. Or turn right, ride about 100 feet, and turn left onto 48T Trail - “48T” stands for 48, mostly tight and often off-camber, very sweet Turns. Or, instead of 48T, continue north on Old Gilsum about 400 feet and turn left onto the Far Side Spur. Or instead of the Spur, continue north on Old Gilsum Rd., maybe a half mile, to the upper Far Side Trailhead on the left. Each of these ‘north end’ trails takes anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes to get down to the Far Side Trail creek crossing. From the intersection of 48 T and Far Side, either of these trails can be ridden back up to Old Gilsum Rd., and another taken back down, repeatedly. The only one of these trails that is “one-way” is down Drop and Chute.
Onve down to the creek at the bottom of Far Side, continue across the creek (caution!), and up to the steel power lines. From here you can go up either Mike’s trail or the Red on White 4-track, the fastest way back to Old Gilsum Rd., or, continue west from the powerline for about 200 ft and turn left onto Labyrinth - a fast and wild 10-20 minute, mostly “descending with grin” trail that ends up at Goose Pond.
Once at Goose Pond you can go right (easiest) or left. On the map, you’ll see the Goose Pond parking area, and also how you can make your way to Wild Things, which leads back to the cul-de-sac road in 5–15 minutes. Turning right at the end of Wild Things is a good place to bail if you want an easy out back to Drummer Rd/Green Acres. Or instead, turn left on the cul-de-sac road, continue straight on. There are 3 climbing options here: turn right on Butter, or go a little further and turn right to climb lowest Goat, or continue past Goat onto lowest Bitten (aka, “Bridges”). All three of these latter options bring you back up to Lower Drummer Rd. Once you get a feel for how these “south end” trails are laid out, you can explore others, or head back down to start in about 5-10 minutes – the map shows several routes. Another option here, on Lower Drummer Rd., is to climb the next section of Bitten or Goat back to Old Gilsum Rd.
Other trails you’ll want to ride now or next time include: Jump, Double-Drop, and Threader – all of which include some extreme sections, but again, with go-arounds.
By Bob Shalit