Bikes and Brews: Franklin Falls and Kettlehead Brewery

Discover two of New Hampshire’s hidden gems in one fun-filled day trip when you combine mountain biking at Franklin Falls with brews at Kettlehead Brewery. The riding is fantastic, the beer is stellar, and the food is mouthwatering. We wouldn’t steer you wrong!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Locally referred to as a “mini Kingdom Trails,” Franklin Falls is known for its rake-and-ride trails, quick-drying soil, and fast and flowy riding. Featuring diverse trails that offer something for everyone, Franklin Falls has enough interesting terrain to occupy seasoned riders while the absence of rocks makes it a popular spot for newer riders—allowing them to refine their skills on the bike without the added obstacle, and the threat of falling normally presented by New England’s notoriously boulder-strewn terrain.

The riding begins from a small parking lot near the Franklin Falls Dam administrative offices off of Highway 127 in Franklin. The trails are well signed and use a unique method of signage that makes it easy for new-to-the-area riders to navigate: White trail signs are employed on the trails closest to the parking lot, orange signs are used for trails moderately far from the parking lot, and red trail signs are used on the trails farthest from the parking lot. While this marking system makes navigating the trail system easier, visiting cyclists should still download a map or take a photo of the big map at the trailhead.

For first-time visitors, the Sniper Trail is a great introduction to the area, delivering a smooth ribbon of dirt, with minimal elevation gain, that winds through Franklin’s quiet pine forest. Consider combining it with the Pine Snake Trail for even more speedy, slithering singletrack. A short pedal away is Rusty Bucket, which is similar to the fast, flowy character of Sniper and Pine Snake but mostly downhill—enjoy the ride as gravity sucks you through the trail’s tight turns and pulls you over the occasional techy section.

Advanced riders should aim for Mighty Chicken, the best known of the area’s trails, featuring giant S-turns up and down the sides of a ravine—if that’s too tame, riders can challenge themselves on the optional jumps and kickers integrated into the trail. For those seeking a real challenge, don’t miss the double-black diamond Salmon Brook Trail, which delivers tight switchbacks, spicy bridges, and classic technical northeast rock gardens.

The only downside to riding at Franklin Falls is that there are only 10ish miles of trails; However, they ride equally well in both directions, which effectively doubles the mileage. Moreover, if you finish a little early that means there’s more time for beer. Who doesn’t love that?

Old-Bench
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

After your ride, Kettlehead Brewing in nearby Tilton, New Hampshire, is a must visit. Although plain looking on the outside, with drab concrete construction and a moderately sized parking lot, Kettlehead’s building hides the greatness that lies within.

Like Franklin Falls, Kettlehead offers something for everyone. Beers like their Agent, Quest DIPA, and aptly named Trailside cover IPA lovers, while dark beers such as their Java the Nut Porter satisfy drinkers looking for something a little more robust. You’ll even find summer sippers, like the You’re Hefen Crazy Hefeweizen, at Kettlehead. And, just as Franklin Falls will throw you a curveball with the super-techy Salmon Brook Trail, Kettlehead isn’t afraid to get you out of your comfort zone with offerings like their Margarita Gose Sour.

Much like the spotlight-stealing Mighty Chicken, the quality of Kettlehead’s brews belies just how good the brewery’s food is. Truly delivering a taste of the local flavor, Kettlehead works with local farms and distributors to ensure their food is cooked with fresh ingredients and New England-raised meats. You can never go wrong with a burger or pizza, but another favorite order is tacos made with BBQ braised beef and a Trailside IPA.

First-time visitors to Kettlehead will also find it welcoming to newbies to the brewery. The brewery serves flights that allow visitors to sample a wide variety of their beers in one visit and patrons can buy cans of beer to take home. (Too bad you can’t do the same with the Mighty Chicken!)

Once you’ve visited these two hidden gems, you’re sure to come back for more. Got another bike and brews destination that our readers should know about? If so, leave it in the comments with your favorite post-ride order!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck