Bikes and Brews: Bear Brook and Concord Craft Brewing

Bear Brook State Park, located in south-central New Hampshire, is a mountain biker’s dream. With trails that offer options for every type of rider, Bear Brook is an easy trip for many in-state and Massachusetts-based mountain bikers, while its campground makes it perfect for those visiting from farther afield. Better yet: Combining a ride here with some post-ride refreshment from Concord Craft Brewing makes for a fantastic day out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Originating through the Recreational Designation Area Program—a New Deal project to build public parks near urban areas—Bear Brook is located about 30 minutes from both Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire. The park sports an extensive and diverse trail system, with roughly 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, and there’s no better way to explore it than on a mountain bike.

There are a handful of parking options, but the biker/hiker parking lot or Hayes Field on Podunk Road—both off of NH-28—both provide a central jumping-off point for exploration. Generally, parking in the hiker/biker lot means beginning your ride with a climb, while parking at Hayes Field means ending your ride with one.

There’s a $4 per person fee to enter the park, which you can pay in advance on their website or in person at the “toll booth” on Podunk Road or the ranger station at the entrance to the biker/hiker parking lot. Even if you prepay, it’s a good idea to stop and get a free map—the park is vast, the trail signage could be better, and navigating is tricky at times.

Evidence of a pre-park time is apparent throughout most rides, as the park’s large trail system passes stone walls, long-forgotten foundations, and old cemeteries.

Bear Brook’s trails offer something for everyone, with everything from fast and flowy trails to techy rock gardens to playful side hits. There is also climbing—lots and lots of climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Fast and Flowy: Ending almost in the hiker/biker lot, Big Bear is the crown jewel of Bear Brook’s trail system. It delivers huge smiles as you whip down the smooth trail and hurtle through banked turns—there are even a couple of optional jumps for those looking to clock some air time. Designed for descending, downhillers have the right of way on Big Bear. Across from the hiker/biker lot (after a short climb) is another great option for those with the need for speed: Hemlock offers a swift, bench-cut descent before giving way to fast, fun, rolling terrain.

Tech: One of the awesome things about riding at Bear Brook is that after the steep climbs and robust rock gardens, the best techy trails usually reward bikers with enjoyable, easier riding. Two great options are in close proximity to Hayes Field. Carr Ridge offers rock-strewn, punchy climbs and loose descents that give way to well-manicured and grin-inducing turns. Similarly, Bear Hill delivers climbing, intermittent rock gardens, a skinny elevated log ride (don’t worry, there’s a B-line), and a few fun things to pop off of, all mixed in with pleasurable, easy-rolling singletrack.

Climbing: When thinking about Bear Brook climbing, one trail immediately springs to mind: Alp d’Huez. Named after the iconic Tour de France climb, Alp d’Huez is less centrally located than other classics (it’s close to the toll booth), but offers a nice switchbacking ascent sure to have you breaking a sweat and trying to catch your breath. The Little Bear Trail—which starts near the hiker/biker lot and is the standard way to get to the top of the Big Bear Trail—provides a similar experience but is a little bit shorter and less steep.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

One of the best ways to end a great day of riding at Bear Brook is with a craft beer—and Concord Craft Brewing in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, is the perfect place to kick back with friends, whether on the patio or in their cozy taproom. Just be warned, the brewery only serves cold beer and munchies (think pretzels, peanuts, and chips). Luckily, there are also a bunch of great places to grab a bite within walking distance.

Double IPA: IPAs rule the day at Concord Craft Brewing, and although you may not have claimed a KOM or QOM on your ride, you can still sit down with the Gov’nah. An imperial/double IPA, at 8.6% ABV, the Gov’nah is Concord Craft Brewing’s strongest offering. Fair warning—the more miles you’ve logged, the more powerful this brew seemingly becomes.

New England IPA: If 8.6% ABV feels ambitious, you can seek a safe space—a Safe Space IPA, that is. A classic hazy New England-style IPA checking in at 6% ABV, Safe Space is the ideal treatment for those tired legs, but not so dangerous to affect your odds of riding again tomorrow.

Session IPA: If you’re planning to spend as much time on the patio as you did on the trails—or feel like you deserve a beer for each trip you took down Big Bear—consider a Finding NEIPA, a delicious low-alcohol (4.2%) brew that won’t leave you feeling like you went over the handlebars the next morning.

Sour Slushie: For non-beer lovers and those super-hot days, you can’t go wrong with a Sour Slushie. A delightful treat that will have you yearning for your youth, but happy to be over 21, Concord Craft mixes its Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour in a slushie machine for a truly unique treat.

If you’re staying at the campground or heading south to get home, there’s still a great way to sample some of the brewery’s choice beverages. Concord Craft beers abound at grocery and convenience stores near Bear Brook. Be an après-hero and grab a four-pack (or two) for your crew for some post-ride refreshment.

Have you visited Bear Brook or Concord Craft Brewing? If so, we want to hear about your favorite trails and what ales you in the comments below!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Video: How to Make a Sick Edit

“Give your rider an on-air high five and tell him ‘that was so sick bro.'”


Stop Doing These 10 Things While Mountain Biking

With everything from gyms to movie theatres closed in the wake of COVID-19, many people have turned to the outdoors for both fitness and entertainment. The renewed interest in the outdoors has led to a renaissance in numerous sports, one of which is mountain biking. Whether you’re new to the sport or just getting back into it after a long hiatus, make it look like you’ve been riding all along by avoiding these ten mountain biking mistakes.

1. Skipping Maintenance 

Neglecting your bike is no joke. Avoid going from shredder to schmuck by cleaning your bike when it’s dirty (here’s how), lubing your chain regularly, and checking the air pressure in your tires before every ride. If you’re riding tubeless tires, refresh the sealant every few months. For bikes with suspension, wipe down stanchions and check the pressure of the shocks frequently.

2. Not Knowing How to Make Easy Fixes 

Walking your bike out of the woods because you don’t know how (or weren’t prepared) to make an easy fix is no laughing matter. Know how to make simple repairs, such as fixing a flat, and carry the tools needed to make them: a multi-tool with a chain breaker, a master link, a few zip ties, a pump (or CO2 inflator and cartridges), and a spare tube (or tubeless repair kit). Another trick is to practice making repairs in a consequence-free environment so that you’ll know what to do if mishap strikes on the trail.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Not Wearing a Helmet

Always hit the trail wearing a helmet, as even the most experienced riders have unexpectedly crashed their bikes. Helmets protect your most valuable asset—your brain—and have gotten progressively more comfortable and lightweight over the years. Think they look dorky? Better to look like a numbskull than have a cracked skull.

4. Leaving Trash Behind

These days, it seems like every trail junction has a small collection of water bottle caps, energy gel tops, and bar wrappers—not to mention valve covers and cam nuts. Pick up your trash and take it with you. Better yet, clean up rogue litter and leave the trail in better condition than you found it.

5. Riding Muddy Trails 

Riding your favorite trail while it’s wet and muddy is one of the most foolish things you can do. It leaves ruts, creates erosion, and widens the trail. The damage you’re doing makes mountain bikers look bad to landowners and managers, and threatens the future access.

6. Strava-ing 

In the hands of the right person, Strava is a wonderful tool for tracking rides, logging miles, and gauging improvement. In the wrong hands, it turns even the best-intentioned bikers into monsters. KOMs and QOMs are nice achievements, and medaling on a segment boosts confidence, but if you really want to race…enter a real one.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Acting Like a Jerk

There’s nothing funny about a lack of trail etiquette. If you’re a slower rider, move over and let faster riders pass you. If you’re a faster rider, give slower riders a chance to let you pass and resist tailgating. If you need to make a repair, stay clear of the trail when doing it. In general, act friendly to other riders and trail users—ride in control, smile, and say hello.

8. Being Elitist 

27.5-inch or 29-inch tire? Aluminum or carbon? Fully rigid or full-suspension? Flat pedals or clipless? The fact is that the trails are filled with many different types of bikes and riders. So long as everyone is acting appropriately and having a good time, the sport is healthy. Thinking you’re better than everybody else on the trail ensures you’re the butt of the joke.

9. Making Excuses

It’s too hot. It’s too cold. The trail is too far away. Stop making excuses and start riding your bike! The trick to an awesome riding season is to get out in all conditions, on all types of trails, with lots of different riders, and to simply spend as much time on your bike as you can. Here are some great rides around Boston’s south shore and a favorite spot to stop for a ride and a pint (or two) in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region to get you going.

10. Thinking About Mountain Biking (Instead of Actually Riding)

The world is filled with distractions: Danny MacAskill videos on YouTube, your riding buddy’s latest GoPro shreddit, magazines like Bike and Freehub, glossy manufacturer catalogs, and Pinkbike to name a few. While those are all great for getting psyched, they also dupe you into wasting time that would be better spent actually riding your bike.

Do you have a tip for new riders or see something you’d love more experienced riders to stop doing? If so, we want to hear it! Leave it in the comments below.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

FAQ: How You Can Enjoy the Trails While Social Distancing

We get it. Shelter in place orders, quarantines, and social distancing are complicated. Different municipalities and states have slightly different rules, so it can be hard to know what you can and can’t do. And especially for those of us who like to get outdoors, the instinct to “get away” and head off the grid might be at odds with some of the directions we’re hearing these days. The simple answer—just stay home—frankly may be the best thing we can do to slow the spread of this virus, and the easiest way to ensure we’re not doing anything that could cause problems for ourselves and other people. But at the same time, we need fresh air to maintain our own health and sanity. So how do you balance those two competing needs?

Step one: Know the rules in your local area. Read and understand the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then study up on any regulations and guidelines that have been put in place by your state, county, or municipality, as well as any closures of local parks, trailheads, and facilities. Whether you’re under a full shelter in place order or not, it’s good practice for us all to be following the same general guidelines to help slow down this virus. These answers have been written to apply to the vast majority of people—most orders allow for some level of physical exercise—but be sure you understand what your local recommendations and requirements are.

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If I was told to shelter in place, can I still go for a hike/bike ride/climb?

Yes! Getting exercise is not only important for your sanity, but it’s also a vital part of keeping your immune system up and running. But while at this time of year we might normally be thinking about driving to the next state over to climb a 4000-footer or dusting off our climbing shoes, we need to scale back quite a bit during this crisis. For starters, staying close to home to avoid being a part of the virus’s spread, keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and any other people, and staying home entirely if you’re sick at all, are critical. And as you would anywhere else, practice good hygiene by washing your hands and using hand sanitizer, coughing into your elbow, and drinking enough fluids to keep your immune system healthy.

How far away from home can I go for a hike?

The simple answer is that this might be a great time to get reacquainted with your local neighborhood park and staying on the trails nearest to home. If you need to do much driving to get there, consider finding someplace closer. Stopping for gas (inevitable at some point, even if it’s not on this particular trip), or to get snacks, or use the bathroom increases your interaction with public spaces and the chance that you could pick up or spread the disease. While most parks and public lands are still open, check before you head out, just to be sure.

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Should someone from an at-risk group do things differently than someone who is less at-risk?

Let’s get one thing straight: Everyone is at risk. While younger, active people have definitely been impacted less by the virus, they have been shown to be the biggest transmitters of it. Without any symptoms, it’s easy to assume you’re safe and continue on your day-to-day, but if you are carrying the virus, you could be spreading it without even knowing.

That being said, older people and those with underlying health conditions should be extra precautious to avoid picking up the virus themselves, and should consider staying even closer to home.

What if I’m not going to a populated area, and just headed to a quiet little mountain town instead?

Bad idea. While heading up to isolated North Conway, Keene Valley, or Millinocket might seem like a good way to escape the virus, each visitor to those towns increases the risk that the virus will appear there. And more than most places, the virus is something that those towns simply can not handle, thanks to smaller hospitals, fewer medical professionals, and less equipment. Steer clear of these places to avoid putting the local residents at risk. Once again, it’s best to stick close to home.

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Can I go with friends or should I go solo? What about my dog?

Avoid large groups and keep a healthy distance from everyone—6 feet is recommended. If you want to get out with a buddy rather than going solo, that will always increase your safety on the trail, but consider doing some things a little differently. Maybe now isn’t the best time to be meeting new hiking buddies on Facebook or elsewhere. Stick to friends who you know and trust to vouch for their health and sanitation. Also consider driving separately to trailheads. It’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of separation with a buddy if you’re in the same car. Sharing a tent with a friend might also be out, for now.

Experts don’t believe your pup can get this particular strain of coronavirus, so get them some fresh air, too! Just be wary of strangers petting your dog and potentially transmitting the virus to its fur, before snuggling up with the pup at home at night.

Am I allowed to get sendy?

With emergency workers and medical professionals a little preoccupied by the virus, now might not be the best time to go particularly hard and put yourself at risk of injury. Dial it back, make conservative decisions, and stay safe to avoid needing to take a doctor away from someone who is really sick. Carry a first aid kit, stick to trails you know, and don’t do anything particularly risky or challenging, right now. On a similar note, while getting exercise can boots your immune system, overexercising and pushing yourself physically can take a toll.

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What if I see other people on the trail?

Again: 6 feet of distance. Say “hi” and be your friendly self, but give others as wide a berth as possible. If that not possible, either because of the trail or the number of people on it, consider choosing a different place to go that day. Think about your objective when you pull into the trailhead. If it’s too crowded, you could be putting yourself or the others on the trail at-risk.

Is it safe to go skiing even if all the resorts are shut down?

Earning your turns can be one of the best ways to milk every last day out of your ski season if the resorts are shut down, and skinning at the resort is one of the best ways to be introduced to ski touring generally. But keep in mind: Uphilling during the open season includes the promise of groomed trails, marked obstacles, ski patrol assistance, and avalanche mitigation. With the resorts closed, it might as well be a day in the backcountry. Be prepared for that. If you don’t have ski touring experience, consider going with a friend who does (staying 6 feet away from them, of course), carrying all the gear you would have for a day in the backcountry, and having avalanche safety knowledge. And again—Keep it mellow.

Have another questions? Leave it in the comments!


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

Video: Ride Through Mudpits, Not Around Them

It’s the sacred law of single track.


Kitted Out: Summer Mountain Biking

Whether you’re tackling uber-classic singletrack in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom or simply sneaking in one of these great early season rides, having the right gear can not only make mountain biking more enjoyable, it can also make it safer. From all-day epics to post-work training rides, this kit will get you on the trail, railing turns, and sending it through summer.

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Helmet: Bell 4Forty MIPS

Between rock gardens and roots, mountain biking in the Northeast is so perilous that even the best riders are bound to hit the dirt (not in a good way) every once and awhile. To protect one of your most vulnerable and valuable parts, wearing a helmet is a must. The Bell 4Forty MIPS features the added protection of MIPS technology, offers deep rear coverage for extra security, and has enough ventilation for humid summer rides.

Helmets with MIPS technology add an extra level of protection over traditional bike helmets, as MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) is designed to reduce rotational forces and lessen the transfer of that energy to the brain. In short, choose a helmet with MIPS.

Sunglasses: Julbo Shield

The growing popularity of fatter tires and the ability to run them at lower air pressures (thanks to tubeless tire setups) has led to more debris being kicked up than ever before. Protect your eyes from tire-flung debris as well as branches and bugs with a good pair of sunglasses. You can’t go wrong with shades from Julbo—their aptly named Shield sunglasses provide the ideal blend of protection, breathability, and good looks.

Hydration Pack: Camelbak M.U.L.E./L.U.X.E.

Despite increased competition from waist packs and the people preaching “no pack,” hydration bags remain a staple for most mountain bikers. There is simply no better way to carry all the gear needed for a day on the trail than a bag—just ask backpackers, hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers. Released in 1996, the Camelbak M.U.L.E. (men’s) and the L.U.X.E. (women’s) have been reliable performers for over 20 years.

Pro tip: Buy the hydration pack with the largest possible bladder; A large bladder works equally well for short trips (simply don’t fill it all the way) and long trips (by filling it to capacity).

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Jersey: Louis Garneau H2O Jersey

Save the tight-fitting spandex jerseys for road rides. The Louis Garneau H2O Jersey (men’s/women’s) features a relaxed yet performance-oriented fit, is lightweight and wicking for the hottest summer days, features highly breathable fabric where a rider’s hydration pack sits, and has a single zippered back pocket for stashing your keys or phone. Try one out the next time you ride at Maine’s Carrabassett Valley.

Shorts: Louis Garneau Leeway/Latitude Shorts

Leave your spandex shorts at home, too. The Louis Garneau Leeway Shorts (men’s) and Latitude Shorts (women’s) come with comfortable padded liners, feature stretchy-but-tough baggy outers, and have zippered pockets for securely stashing small essentials. Best of all, they allow riders to hang out and have a post-ride beer without making everyone around them uncomfortable.

Gloves: Giro Rivet II/Riv’ette

Full-finger gloves increase grip, add comfort, and provide some insulation on crisp morning and evenings. Additionally, gloves provide protection from thorns, thickets, and in the event of a crash. The Giro Rivet II (men’s) and Riv’ette (women’s) provide the protection mountain bikers crave while delivering a barely there feel.

Shoes: Giro Privateer/Manta

There’s a lot of debate over the best type of pedal for mountain biking—flat or clipless. The primary benefit of flat pedals is that they offer a rider more confidence and less fear when tackling tough terrain. The notable advantage of clipless pedals is that they allow a rider to both pull and push the pedal, providing a more efficient and powerful stroke. No matter what type of pedal you use, invest in a good, comfortable pair of bike shoes. For those riding in Greater Boston and beyond, a clipless shoe like the Giro Privateer (men’s) and Manta (women’s) is a solid choice.

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Socks: Smartwool PhD Cycle Ultra Light Crew 

Nothing says newbie more than a rider on the latest bike and kitted out in the nicest new gear sporting white cotton socks. Socks like the Smartwool PhD Cycle Ultra Light Crew Socks (men’s/women’s) will not only complement your kit but also add a bit of comfort to all your rides.

Pro Tip: High socks in lighter colors make it easier to spot ticks after a ride!

Lightweight Jacket: Louis Garneau Modesto 3

Weather in the Northeast is variable to put it kindly. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to tuck a lightweight jacket into your pack. A jacket like the Louis Garneau Modesto 3 (men’s/women’s) weighs next to nothing and adds valuable weather protection and warmth when needed.

Floor Pump: Blackburn Chamber HV

As mentioned earlier, mountain bike tires are getting larger by the day. Because trying to fill fat tires with a mini pump will exhaust you before even getting on the bike, we suggest owning a floor pump. The Blackburn Chamber HV is built specifically for mountain bikers with rugged construction and an easy-to-read dial for setting tires at the perfect pressure.

CO2 Inflator: Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Inflator

While adding air to your tires at the trailhead is hard enough with a mini pump, it’s even worse when you pop a tube on the trail and need to pump up a new tube. Here’s a solution—stash a CO2 inflator and a CO2 cartridge or two in your hydration pack in case of a flat. The Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Inflator is a nice choice and comes with two cartridges.

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Tubes

It’s been our experience that the worst things happen when you’re as far as possible from the car. Packing a spare tube in your hydration pack, even if you’re running a tubeless setup, is a good way to avoid doing the long walk of shame out of your favorite trail system.

Tire Levers: Muddy Fox Tire Levers

Sometimes you get lucky and mountain bike tires just pop off when changing a tire: other times, it’s a struggle. Muddy Fox tire levers weigh practically nothing and you’ll be glad you snuck them into your hydration bag if you need them.

Multi-Tool: Blackburn Bike Tradesman

Any number of things can go wrong on a mountain bike and it’s best to plan for the eventuality of a mechanical failure. The Blackburn Bike Tradesman is equipped with all of the hex and torque keys you’ll need to make on-trail adjustments. We love that it includes a quick-link tool and are extremely appreciative of the integrated quick-link storage (make sure to use it and always carry a backup quick-link).

Après: Yeti Rambler Colster

Just because ski season is over doesn’t mean après beverages have to end. The Yeti Rambler Colster is perfect for keeping your beverage cold and covert when you’re winding down post-ride.

 

Lastly, before hitting the trail, give your mountain bike a good once over as detailed in our article Tuned Up: Your Spring Mountain Bike Walk-around—issues are much easier to resolve at home than on the trail.

Did we forget an essential piece of your kit or miss a critical item you never leave home without? If so, we want to hear about it! Leave your must-have item in the comments below.

 


Video: Why Mountain Biking At Night Is Better

“Mountain biking at night is downright magical.”


A Bostonian's Guide to Fall Foliage

For Bostonians, there’s no need to travel far this fall to find the foliage. In fact, whether you’re looking to hike, climb, mountain bike, or paddle, the Greater Boston area has something to satisfy everybody’s cravings for yellows, oranges, and reds. To begin, start with these five great activities, all within an hour of the city, for a quintessentially fall experience.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Boulder at Hammond Pond

It’s strange to find great bouldering, much less an idyllic fall getaway, behind a mall. But, somehow, Hammond Pond pulls it off. Tucked behind The Shops at Chestnut Hill, just minutes outside of Boston, the puddingstone walls, the pond’s gentle waves, and the rustling of hardwood leaves as they fall to the ground—and the occasional grunt of a boulderer working a problem—combine to make you forget just how close you actually are to civilization.

In addition to the wonderful setting, the season’s cool temperatures are perfect for climbing classic Hammond Pond boulder problems, such as Hammond Eggs (V1), Breakfast of Champions (V3), and Hermit Cave (V4). You’ll find the highest consistency and most classic problems in an area called the Alcove, a steep semi-circle of Roxbury Puddingstone. This type of conglomerate rock resembles pebbles thrown into a still-wet concrete wall and is only found in the Greater Boston area. The Alcove’s orientation protects climbers from cool autumn winds, while the rock receives a lot of sun, keeping it pleasant even on the crispest fall days.

Linking a combination of cobbles and cracks, the Alcove’s most difficult problems are found in the middle of the wall, where the angle is the steepest. The easier problems, meanwhile, are located along the outsides, which are angled more vertically. Because of the Alcove’s short height and limited amount of rock, however, make sure to check out traverses that increase the challenge and volume of climbing. Boulderers beware: Many of the problems here were established decades ago. Thus, given the close proximity to Boston, they possess an ego-deflating blend of old-school grading and slick holds.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Climb Rattlesnake Rocks

Tucked just down the road from Quincy Quarries’ graffitied walls, Rattlesnake Rocks is a classic destination for fall foliage. Rather than the Quarries’ vibrantly colored walls, however, the forest surrounding Rattlesnake Rocks delivers a canopy of gold, auburn, and crimson, while cool autumn temperatures ensure the area’s short, coarse granite walls are at their best.

Consisting of smaller crags spread out over a cliffline, Rattlesnake is much quieter than its multi-use neighbor, giving you some freedom to make the most of your “Rocktober.” And, while moving from crag to crag may be an inconvenience, the autumn-hued forest is made for ambling amongst Rattlesnake Rocks’ various walls and routes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mountain Bike Around Vietnam

No, not that Vietnam.

For Boston-area mountain bikers who prefer to race through colorful fall forests rather than idly admire them, Vietnam—located in Milford, roughly an hour outside the city—is an ideal outing. Infamous in the mountain biking community, Vietnam holds the distinction of being the first land purchased by a bike association. The New England Mountain Bike Association, or NEMBA, bought a 47-acre parcel to protect it in 2003, and today, it contains notorious singletrack, drops, and jumps. Even better, NEMBA’s parcel connects with other conservation land in Milford, Hopkinton, and Holliston to create an approximately 800-acre area. Legendary for its technical riding, Vietnam’s trails are best known for their rock gardens and steep rollers, as well as their natural and manmade drops and jumps.

Fall is the perfect time for a trip to Vietnam. Its often-soggy, low-lying areas are finally dry, and brisk temperatures enhance traction on the area’s steepest lines. While the forest’s changing colors and the rustling of leaves under tires can produce a meditative calm, don’t let your guard down too much. Fallen leaves add another challenge to Vietnam’s already-taxing trails, as they may hide in-trail obstacles.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Hike the Blue Hills

Hikers in Greater Boston anxious to explore brilliantly tinted fall forests need look no further than the Blue Hills Reservation. Just a short drive from the city, the Blue Hills deliver the perfect place for hiking, as the area’s rocky and once-lush prominences transform from dense grays and greens into a cornucopia of yellow, orange, and red shades.

Although the Blue Hills might not have the elevation found among its northern neighbors—the highest point, Great Blue Hill, stands at just 635 feet tall—the area boasts an impressive 125 miles of hiking trails and 22 named hills. All and all, it’s more than enough to keep even the most enthusiastic fall hikers busy. Proving you needn’t drive north, the various high points offer incredible views of everything from Boston’s skyline to the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, New England’s iconic fall foliage makes these views even more spectacular.

Hikers looking to get a quick foliage fix should head for the summit of Great Blue Hill, a roughly mile-long round-trip hike. On the summit, climb the Eliot Tower for an unrivaled view of the city’s skyline and Boston Harbor. On a clear day, hikers can see as far as New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. So, take a minute to reflect on the leaf-peeping madness (and heavy traffic) you’re missing out on by staying close to home. Or, have a picnic on the open summit, or continue touring the park’s expansive network of trails.

Courtesy: LEONARDO DASILVA
Courtesy: LEONARDO DASILVA

Paddle the Charles

For taking in the foliage around Boston, don’t restrict yourself to land. Another option, the Charles River delivers a different perspective for viewing the season’s leafy spectacle. Whether from the comfort of a kayak or balanced on top of an SUP, you’ll find the river’s calm waters offer a multitude of trip options for leaf-peeping. Along with the awe-inspiring autumn colors, expect to encounter everything from old forests to city skylines, as the Charles snakes from Hopkinton to the Atlantic Ocean.

With ample put-ins and numerous places to stop for a picnic or to merely enjoy the scenery, the Charles River has an adventure for every level. And, while an out-and-back trip requires the least amount of logistics, it’s easy to stage a shuttle for a one-way trip with a little planning.

What’s even better than lazily floating on the calm waters to soak up New England’s stunning fall sights? Through the russet-colored forest, the occasional rumble of the highway lets you know others are fighting their way out of, or back into, the city to look for something you’ve already found.

 

Do you have a favorite fall trip around Boston? If so, we want to hear about it! Leave your favorite Boston-area fall trips in the comments.