Tucked between sprawling suburban Massachusetts neighborhoods, tidy office parks, two major highways, and well-kept town soccer fields, Chelmsford’s Russell Mill Pond and Town Forest—or Russell Mill—is the home of stellar, albeit unlikely, mountain biking. Located just a short drive from Eastern Mountain Sports’ newest store in Burlington, the easy access and great riding at Russell Mill makes it a favorite destination of local Middlesex County mountain bikers as well as riders from southern New Hampshire and central Massachusetts. When linked with the trails at the nearby Billerica and Warren H. Manning State Forests, riders can have a truly epic ride.

Credit: Tim Peck

Russell Mill

The trails at Russell Mill are best defined by their variety, offering everything from flow to tech and features like drops, rollers, and log rides. It’s common to encounter a little bit of everything on a single section of the trail—within a few hundred yards, you can go from a swoopy bermed corner into a rooty section of singletrack followed by a rock garden and finally down a super-steep slab.

Most of Russell Mill’s consequential features have a B line—meaning there’s an easy way around them—and the overwhelming majority of its challenging sections are walkable. This makes the trails well suited to groups of both similar and mixed abilities. Because you can tailor the difficulty of the trails, it’s possible that the trickiest part of a ride is finding a parking spot at the area’s multi-use parking lot (Murphy Field, 105 Mill Road in Chelmsford)—expect the lot to be especially busy on Saturdays and Sundays during soccer season.

Billerica State Forest

Although Russell Mill is a great destination on its own, it’s easy to extend the ride into Billerica State Forest using the aptly named connector trail, Gateway to Billerica. The trails in Billerica State Forest offer many of the same qualities as those found in Russell Mill—there is an astounding amount of variety and they’re meticulously maintained.

Another characteristic shared by the two trail systems is how much riding they pack into a relatively small space—the trails twist, turn, and intersect to create a much more robust riding experience than you would expect by simply looking at a map. For comparison, Russell Mill is just 130 acres and Billerica State Forest is 370 acres, other area mountain bike hot spots like Lynn Woods and Harold Parker come in at over 3,000 acres.

Billerica State Forest is home to slightly more vertical relief than Russell Mill and it’s noticeable when you’re riding. At Russell Mill, you seem to roll along while rides at Billerica State Forest feature a few extended climbs and descents. In fact, the Gilson Hill Loop in Billerica State Forest climbs to the top of Gilson Hill, the second-highest point in town.

Warren H. Manning State Forest

The trails at Warren H. Manning State Forest offer a straightforward way to add extra mileage to a Russell Mill/Billerica ride; the trails are located right across the street from Billerica State Forest and are a popular alternate parking option on busy weekends during soccer season. Warren H. Manning’s trails are of a similar character to what’s found in both Russell Mill and Billerica, albeit a little less technical and a little faster to pedal through. Don’t let your guard down too much, though—there are a few steep rollers and techy sections of trail that will keep you on your toes.

Credit: Tim Peck

Must-Ride Trails

There are so many great trails—and it’s so easy to connect them—between Russell Mill and Billerica State Forest it’s hard to choose standouts. That said, you won’t want to miss these trails when you visit:

  • Wild Turkey is one of the fastest and flowiest trails found at Russell Mill and is usually ridden downhill. The trail is a little under a half-mile long, is distinctively smooth compared to other Russell Mill/Billerica State Forest Trails, and is notable for its sweeping turns and well-manicured berms.
  • Gilson Hill Loop is an approximately 1.5-mile loop that takes riders up a semi-technical (and, depending on your level of fitness, lung-searing) 150+ foot climb to the top of its namesake, Gilson Hill. The effort is rewarded with one of the longest continuous downhills in either Russell Mill or Billerica State Forest.
  • Inner Loop is where stars are born. The roughly half-mile lollipop loop features some of the most technical sections of trail along with numerous steep—and potentially consequential—rollers, including a monster rock roll at either the beginning or end of the trail, depending on which direction you choose to ride.

Pump Track

If you haven’t had your fill of biking on all the great trails, there is an awesome pump track just a short pedal in from the main parking lot for Russell Mills. It’s a great place to warm up, cool down, and build some essential mountain bike skills. Even if you’re not hitting the trails, the pump track is fun all on its own, and it’s common for people to show up just to ride it. Adjacent to the pump track, there are also a few smaller wooden bridges and jumps which allow riders to beef up their technical skills in a relatively low-risk environment.

Have you ridden Russell Mill or Billerica State Forest? If so, let us know what your favorite trails are, or leave your favorite route in the comments below.