“This is a wonderful place to ride!” said my sweetheart Marilyn, who is getting pretty serious about learning to ride a mountain bike on woodland trails. The funny thing is, she said it twice on two consecutive days about two different New Hampshire state parks (www.nhparks.state.nh.us).
I guess she likes riding mountain bikes in state parks, That’s OK, so do I. I’ll bet you do, too, or would if you’ve tried it.
The first was Pisgah State Park down in the extreme southwestern corner of New Hampshire. Pisgah is the largest property in the New Hampshire state park system and one of the least developed. There aren’t any beaches or concession stands, and there’s no camping allowed (which is a tragedy—this would be a wonderful place for backpack camping).
Instead, you’ve got 13,300 acres (almost 21 square miles!) of forested hills and valleys, with seven ponds (fishing you can’t drive to!), s and many wetland. Oh yeah, they also have a wonderful network of trails, some open to mountain biking. Alas, some are also open to ATVs but these tend to be in the southern part of the park and though you may see some ATV traffic on weekends, you won’t on most weekdays
Pisgah’s a beautiful place to ride in the summer or fall (some of the trails apparently get pretty wet in the spring.) If it’s been raining a lot before you head there, call the NH Bureau of Trails at 603-271-3254 to check for closures.
It’s pretty hilly and the trails we rode were very challenging for Marilyn but probably rate “intermediate” for more experienced mountain bikers. Great place for her to learn and me to practice
Wildlife abounds there—in our visit we saw a moose, a fox, a variety of birds and, roughly, 90 billion mosquitoes. Bring bug repellent. They’ll settle down—at least during the day—by mid July. Because there’s no place to stay or camp in the park it’s particularly quiet on weekdays—we saw no one else. Pisgah is open to the public year-round at no charge.
The second park we explored on our fat-tire bikes was Bear Brook State Park in southeastern New Hampshire. Where Pisgah is undeveloped, free and located in a very quiet corner of New Hampshire, Bear Brook is close to Manchester and Concord and offers swimming, fishing, an archer range and a very extensive network of hiking and mountain biking trails through woodlands and around wetlands and ponds. Because there’s so much more developed at Bear Brook, they charge a $4 admission fee for adults, $2 for kids ages 6-11.
I’ve fished Archery Pond in Bear Brook State Park before and had been there to help search for a missing hunter, but I’d never biked there. We were drawn in by our friend David Shedd racing his singlespeed mountain bike in the Eastern Fat Tire Association’s (www.efta.com) “Bear Brook Blast Off.”
The area was alive with mountain bikes as a result of the race, Marilyn and I rode out and checked out the trails before the race got started, then rode out again with David’s sweetheart Susan to see some of the racers negotiate one of the more difficult sections of the course. Watching the race was fun, but riding was even more fun. They have a nice mix of easy doubletrack and technical single track. We’ll be headed back someday soon when the trails are less busy so Marilyn can practice. She’s right—this is a wonderful place to ride.
Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
Last week I wrote about “staycations,” fun getaways near home. As far as I’m concerned, state parks are “Staycation Central.” No matter where you are, there are good state parks worth visiting. Entry fees—if there are any—are nominal. These are great budget getways.
Connecticut has as near as I can count, about 80 State Parks and State Forests. There’s a complete listing at (www.ct.gov/dep/stateparks). A $50 season pass for residents ($75 for non-residents) gets a vehicle and occupants into most of them, which is an amazing deal. The website listed above doesn’t make it easy to find out which state park offers what recreation opportunities. You’ll just have to go exploring, I guess.
Massachusetts has an astounding number of state parks, state forests, reservations. If you explored a different one each week it would probably take a couple of years to see them all. Their website at www.mass.gov/dcr/forparks.htm is easily organized by activity and general region. Parking is $5 at most, and a Parks Pass ($35 residents, $45 non-residents) gets you in for a year.
Vermont has over 50 state parks and forests. For most, the day-use fee is $3 for adults, $2 for kids. A vehicle pass is $80 for the season, an individual pass is $25. Unfortunately, they don’t list mountain biking as a recreation activity in their park finder (www.vtstateparks.com), so if fat tires are your thing, you’ll have to go exploring
New Hampshire (www.nhparks.state.nh.us) has over 40 state parks and beaches, plus a number of campgrounds, wayside picnic areas and historical sites. Day use fees are generally $4 for adults/$2 for kids and a season pass is $60 for an individual/$120 for a family.
Maine has a very searchable website at www.maine.gov/doc/parks, and too many parks and reservations to count.. Day use fees for adults range from $2-$5, an individual season pass is $30, vehicle pass is $60.
FEE OR FREE?
California is thinking about shutting down all its state parks to help with its budget woes. Talk about drastic! There’s always been a strong argument that, since State Parks belong to the people, they ought to be free or nearly so—at least for state residents.
At least one New England state, New Hampshire, will never have to resort to such drastic measures. The Granite State’s State parks are essentially self-supporting. Fees from day users and overnight campers cover staffing and annual maintenance. Every park worker will probably tell you that they are understaffed and woefully under budgeted, and underpaid, but in these lean time New Hampshire residents and visitors don’t have to worry about the parks being closed . . .