While you might not come to Boston for mountain biking, it can be a good way to explore. Let’s say you’ve got a weekend, and you’re coming to Boston. Of course, very few people might come here only to ride, but for the sake of this itinerary, let’s set aside the fact that you might be visiting friends, or family, and the time it will take you to travel to and from New England. If you only had a Saturday and Sunday to get the fullest experience of what Boston has to offer to a mountain biker, this is what I’d urge you to do. Now, take into account that this will apply to casual to intermediate level mountain bikers.
First, a short orientation to help you get your bearings. For our purposes, Boston consists of the North Shore, Western Suburbs, and “downtown.” There is also good riding south of Boston (Wompatuck State Park) as well as on Cape Cod. For now, though, we’ll concentrate on these three areas.
I suggest you find lodgings somewhere near the crossing of Routes 93 & 95/128. This is not only central to the riding spots I’ll mention, it also makes transportation simple, and that’s important when you only have a weekend.
There’s some great riding nearby. The longest bike path in the area leaves from Belmont and continues to Arlington and Somerville. Good for family time.
But for some fine mountain biking, visit the confined but creatively designed and well-maintained trails of the Burlington Landlocked Forest. Because space is limited, you really can cover the whole park in an afternoon. Just north of here, off Route 3, you’ll also find a similar area called Russell Mill Town Forest.
Nearby, in Concord, there’s the less-technical but undoubtedly unique Battle Road Trails that are a cross between dirt roads and wide trails, connecting historical spots from the Revolutionary War. There’s even an impressive free show at the visitor’s center, explaining the history. Like a museum you can ride a bike through! And down the road in Belmont, you’ll find one of the best bike shops in Boston.
You can’t say you’ve mountain biked here without a visit to Middlesex Fells. As the closest riding destination to downtown Boston, it is both the most popular and the most contentious park for mountain bikes. For my part, I’ve always found it friendly and welcoming. Be sure to make the climb to Wright’s Tower for its beautiful view.
A quick trip up 128 will get you great trails that sprawl a little more than Landlocked Forest. For those who like things a bit more gnarly and technical, Harold Parker State Forest is a local favorite. (It also features an excellent campground which is quite inexpensive and couldn’t be any closer to the trails.) And Lynn Woods is justifiably celebrated for its technical nature, but also features very well marked trails, and plenty of wide dirt roads that families or less aggressive riders will love.
For smoother, faster trails, head to Linebrook Road, a perfect, central parking area from which you can visit 5 local riding areas or state parks covering the towns of Ipswich, Rowley, Georgetown, Hamilton, and Topsfield, including Willowdale State Forest, a popular riding spot and annual race venue beside the parking area, the slightly tamer trails and family-friendly atmosphere of Bradley Palmer State Park, and Georgetown Rowley State Forest across Route 1. Or cross Linebrook, keeping the farm and small pond to your right, and head north toward Ipswich’s Dow Brook Reservoir (the entrance to these wonderful but less-used trails can be tricky. Head uphill to the line of trees, then follow left along the edge of the woods & field until you see the signs and trailhead).
Roger Babson was an author, businessman, and founder of Babson College. During the Great Depression, he hired unemployed stone masons to carve motivational sayings on boulders in some property he owned: Dogtown Common.
These trails are undoubtedly rougher and rockier than some others you’ll visit this weekend, but the boulders alone are worth the trip, and the riding has a unique flowing character (mixed with some rock crawling) that you can’t find other places.
A sort of Northern counterpart of Landlocked Forest, Gordon College & Chebacco Woods also hugs the highway. It’s harder to imagine a more convenient riding area than this. Less than half a mile from the exit ramp to the trails. Think loops around lakes, and you’ve got the idea. As an evening cruise or a good place to ride with the family, it can’t be beat.
And with that, your weekend in Boston must draw to a close. As you can probably tell, 48 hours isn’t nearly enough to experience all the trails this area is blessed with. Come again!