Franklin Falls Dam
The Franklin Falls Dam federal flood control llands are located on both sides of the Pemigewasset River between Bristol and Franklin, NH. The property consists of more than 2,500 wooded acres and spans five towns. It is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The mountain bike trail system is centered near the Franklin Falls Dam administrative offices on highway 127, three miles south of I-93 off exit 22. The system currently consists of approximately 10 miles of multi-use trail, built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers.
Much of the terrain is very “un-New England like” with very few rocks. As a result Franklin Falls is known for its flowing, buff single track. It is great venue for group rides with mixed skill levels. Experts can enjoy high speed tree-slaloming, while novices can enjoy the trails at a more relaxed pace without getting in over their heads in difficulty level. Even your roadie friends can have fun here! Some of the fastest flow can be found on trails that include Moose Gully, Pine Snake, Bee, Lost Wall Rusty Bucket, and Stump. Trails on the slightly tighter side include Rogue, Caddywhompus, and Cellar Hole. The newest trail, Sniper is a nice combination of flow and undulating terrain. For advanced riders looking for a more technical challenge, Salmon Brook Trail offers steeper pitches, tight switchbacks, narrow benches, bridges, and rock gardens. It rides best when entering at its intersection with the Rusty Bucket Trail.
The signature trail at Franklin Falls is Mighty Chicken. It is sure to put a smile on your face. Mighty Chicken is a gravity trail, built in a natural half-pipe created by the walls of Chicken Ravine. The trail surfs up and down the ravine walls then finishes out over a series of drops and berms. It continues to be tuned to increase the yeehaw! index.
The trail system is open year round, and is a great choice for early spring riding when other trail systems are closed for mud season. Sandy sub-soil keeps the area extremely well drained so mud is virtually non-existent.
The story of the current Franklin Falls trail system dates to the fall of 2006. At that time the trail inventory was small and consisted of Piney Point, a short nature trail; the Heritage Trail, running north-south through the park; and few double-track connectors. Mountain bike use was minimal due to the limited mileage available. Mike Geldermann worked in the area and occasionally looped through the trails during lunch hour bike rides. Wanting a better lunch hour ride venue, Mike contacted the US Army Corps of Engineers office at the park, and discussed expanding the single-track trail system with Ranger Jennifer Rockett. The USACE rangers were very receptive to providing more opportunities for public recreation, and were willing to work with an organization to make it happen. At the time Mike and his lunch hour riding buddies, Scott Pelletier, and Mike Blouin, were basically just a few “schmoes with bikes”, not exactly the type of organization that the US Army Corps of Engineers was looking to partner with. They needed to become part of a credible organization. The solution was easy…..Join NEMBA! Suddenly the “schmoes with bikes” were instantly transformed into representatives of one of the largest trail advocacy groups in New England, backed by years of trail building experience. NEMBA already had partnerships with USACE, so much of the ground work was already laid. Mike knew WM NEMBA President Rob Adair through previous mountain biking adventures in the White Mountains. He contacted Rob for some advice and direction. Rob’s contribution was invaluable. He drafted a “Memo of Understanding” between NEMBA and USACE to partner on trail development at Franklin Falls, and enlisted the help of Philip Keyes to make it official. The USACE-NEMBA partnership was made official in January 2007 with the signing of the Memo.
Meanwhile, about the same time and on a parallel path, local riders Grant Drew and Barry Greenhalgh, were working to help resurrect the remnants of the Central NH NEMBA chapter. Grant had independently contacted Ranger Jennifer Rockett to inquire about trail development at Franklin Falls. Jen put Mike and Grant in touch. Shortly thereafter Matt Bowser and Kevin Orlowski joined the fray, and the nucleus to begin development of the Franklin Falls Trail system was formed. As a side note, when Grant was a child, many the town folk recognized that he was bound for greatness, but no one ever dreamed, except maybe his mom, that he might be president someday.
Armed with all the knowledge a shiny new copy of the IMBA trail building book could offer, they set about flagging future trails. The first new trail, Whaleback, was cut in early spring of ’07. Bee Trail soon followed. The first official Franklin Falls NEMBA trail day was held in June of 2007. Nearly 30 individuals, including members from the Central, Southern, and White Mountain Chapters, several local residents, and staff from the US Army Corps of Engineers joined forces to rake out and bench in some of the newly marked trails. Peter Desantis brought valuable trail building knowledge and the SNH NEMBA tool trailer. By days end four new trails had been added, and momentum for further development was established..
As of this writing the trail count has grown to 17. CNH NEMBA appreciates the ongoing support of Rangers Jen Rockett and Natalie McCormack, and continues to work with them to further enhance and sustain the trail system.
After a good ride, apres bike food and spirits can be found just 2 miles south of Franklin Falls in the city of Franklin at the intersection of Routes 127 and 3. Ciao Pasta is a big favorite, serving great Italian food in a relaxed atmosphere. Also near the same intersection, for faster food try Al’s Village Pizza, a restaurant and bar, serving subs and you guessed it…pizza. West across the Route 3 bridge and one mile north on Route 11 is another choice with traditional pub fare, the Wind Fire Tavern. All serve cold beverages suitable for rinsing the dirt out of your teeth.
Central NH NEMBA considers Franklin Falls its home base, but also maintains Ahern Park in Laconia, and led by Jesse McGowan is developing a new trail system, Page Hill, in the town of Hill, NH. The Page Hill trail system development is a partnership with Lakes Region Conservation Trust.