Ah, fall. There’s a slight chill in the air, you grab a flannel as you head out to enjoy one of the best seasons as the leaves change, the days grow shorter and the smell of hot apple cider reminds you that winter is just around the corner.
But before we get too eager about the pending first snowfall of the season, we get to experience what is arguably the best time for mountain biking. You’ve been working all spring and summer for this time. You’ve battled the heat, the bugs and the pain as you break your body into shape for long days in the saddle. Fall is the season that you’ve been waiting for, its glory moment.
It’s time to sneak away from work for one more extended weekend of riding with your family or mountain bike buddies. Whatever your desired experience is — camping at the trailhead of some flowy singletrack; booking a hotel in town where you can enjoy both the riding and the downtown scene; or skipping from one location to the next over the course of a four-day weekend, there is an endless list of great places to go and trails to ride.
To help you plan your getaway, here are five top fall mountain bike destinations ripe with great riding and plenty of other activities to keep you and your adventure companions happy.
Located in the heart of the Green Mountains, Waterbury is situated between some major mountain biking trail networks across amazing mountains. Starting with WATA’s (Waterbury Area Trails Alliance) Perry Hill Trails, which start out right behind the ice rink in town, you’ll find a perfect introduction to mountain biking in Vermont. The trail system features a long double track climb, which could be considered a grind by many, but the payoff is a network of trails rich with rock, flow and plenty of down to make the climb all worth it. WATA also oversees the Little River State Park, which hosts an amazing flow trail with berms, doubles, rollers and gaps. Bring your skills with you on this ride.
While the riding within Waterbury proper is great and worth your time for a day of pedaling bliss, it’s also within short driving distance to some notable trail systems that should not be missed during a Vermont fall vacation. In less than a 30-minute drive, you can be on several different trail systems, including the Cady Hill trails in Stowe, the Hinesburg Town Forest trails, Millstone Trails in Barre and the Camel’s Hump State Forest trails.
There are plenty of lodging options in Waterbury catered to several different preferences — camping, inns and hotels. The campground at Little River State Park keeps you in the mix with the trail system there and boasts a reservoir for swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking once you’re off the trail.
The food scene is on point as well. Check out Prohibition Pig, a gastro pub featuring a ton of locally crafted beers, great cocktails and Southern-style BBQ.
Of course, no trip to Waterbury is complete without a stop into the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Do the tour … free samples!
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Home to the ‘Loaf,’ this one is a slightly longer trip than any other on this list. At almost four hours from Boston, a trip to Carrabassett Valley truly is an adventure as you head farther and farther from the populous areas of the Northeast and into the Bigelow Mountain Range of Maine. The trails here are the next big deal in Maine. The Carrabassett Region NEMBA chapter has been working since 2010 to build an extensive network of trails in partnership with Maine Huts and Trails. This work included a threeyear plan to build new trails tailored for mountain biking. By 2014, they had established 77 miles of trail, including 22.3 miles of brand-new trails. These trails all are located in and around the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.
The trail network has something for everyone, including families and diehard endurance riders, from rocky technical riding to smooth open double track trails. Plus, the NEMBA chapter there puts on plenty of festivals and rides to show off its handy work and promote this area of New England. One of the coolest parts of the whole network is that you can truly get away from it all. Due to the partnership with Maine Huts and Trails, riders can load up their mountain bikes with gear, and, utilizing the hut system, carve out an extended, multiday ride sleeping on the established tent platforms found right along the trail, or in one of the Maine huts. Make sure to visit www.mainehuts.org for details on the hut system.
Carrabassett Valley also is home to some amazing hiking and swimming. Take your time while there to explore the mountain and catch views of the beautiful fall colors from the summit of Sugarloaf or enjoy one of the many activities at Sugarloaf Mountain. From golfing to the adventure center, there is plenty of off-trail fun to be had. Lodging options include the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, or one of the campgrounds off of Route 27 in Kingsfield.
Berkshire East, Charlemont, Mass.
Nestled into the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts sits Berkshire East, which many of you probably know from skiing and riding. However, over the past few years, Berkshire East has developed into quite an off season getaway location for New Englanders who don’t want to travel all the way up into Vermont or New Hampshire. An easy drive from Interstate 91 makes this spot the go-to for folks in the Hartford area, but don’t dismiss it if you live farther north. It’s worth the trip not only for the great mountain biking but for everything else this place has to offer.
Let’s discuss the riding first. East Berkshire is home to the Thunder Mountain Bike Park, a gravity-fed mountain biking playground. Working with premiere trail-building specialists Gravity Logic (the same folks who helped build up Killington’s new bike park), the trails have been designed with flow, progression and fun from summit to base. If you’ve never tried downhill mountain biking, no worries — the operators take all their cues from the ski side of the business and offer plenty of beginner friendly lessons, rentals and packages to get you and the whole family started. Plus, with their 201 level classes, you can progress your skills and build confidence with expert riders teaching you along the way. But it’s not just about the beginner, as there are plenty of expert level trails to choose from, with big drops, jump lines and big berms to rip.
Save some time for whitewater rafting on the Deerfield River, the best way to freshen up after hitting the bike park. Plus, with the Mountain Coaster and Zip Line, there is plenty of other thrills available for you to get out and enjoy both the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains and the fall foliage. Lodging is available right at the mountain, so it’s a perfect one-stop getaway.
Less than one hour from Boston is the capital of New Hampshire, which makes for an excellent base of operations for an extended weekend to a whole week’s worth of fall activities. With a multitude of great mountain bike trails nearby, Concord provides a perfect place to set up operations for a fall mountain bike adventure and provides some nightlife activity, terrific eateries, a fun downtown experience and lodging for any budget.
As for the riding, there is singletrack for every skill level within minutes of downtown. Starting right in town, the Hospital Trails are laced with ribbons of granite ledge and rock gardens galore. These trails provide a testing ground for seasoned riders and those looking to jump start their technical riding skills. Extend the ride by crossing over Little Pond Road into what locals refer to as the Quarry Trails, providing equal challenge with great views of the surrounding area.
Need something a bit easier? Head down the road to Hopkinton and ride the Elm Brook Trails. A newer network of NEMBA trails, this growing network has roughly 8 miles of beginner-friendly trails, with double track connecting most of it. If you want an epic day, head east to Bear Brook State Park, where more than 60 miles of trail await, complete with tech, flow and miles of adventure. If you need to feed the speed meter, you can head north of Concord to Highland Mountain Bike Park, the only dedicated lift-access mountain bike park in the country. The trails there are what other mountain bike parks measure themselves off of.
Finish your trip to Concord with a trip to Vibes Gourmet Burgers right downtown. Try one of the amazing burgers and grab a plate of poutine to refuel for the next day’s adventure. And if you like New England-style double IPAs, try Concord Craft’s Safe Space, a hazy trip that will have you looking for a safe space if you imbibe too much.
East Burke, Vt.
Last, but certainly far from least, is the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont’s East Burke, home to the famous Kingdom Trails. What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this top-notch trail network? From the expertly built and maintained singletrack, to the dirt roads and double track surrounding town, there is a ton of riding to be had. And the riding is varied, from beginnerfriendly flow trails, to technical bridge work and downhill trails.
The trail names themselves have become almost iconic, similar to our favorite ski trails. From the triple T’s of Troll Stroll, Tap N’ Die and Tody’s Tour, to the famous Sidewinder, there are purposefully built downhill flow trails. Looking for the tech? Try Jaw, Burnham Down and Moose Alley. The fun factor comes in how many ways you can link various loops together to sample a variety of trails, all of which surely will put a big smile on your mug and confirm everything that your riding buddies back home have been telling you. This place is special.
But what helps separate Kingdom Trails from the rest of the pack? Why is it worth the drive, the hype, the constant attention from mountain bike media? In my opinion, it’s the combination of good trails, good trail steward and a town that fully supports the community of riders who descend upon East Burke in flocks each and every weekend May through October.
It is a mountain biker’s paradise. Everything in town and the surrounding areas is built intentionally to serve mountain bikers. From the lodging options that all have bike washes, onsite storage and tools, to the dining options in town that prefer you to be smelly and covered in dirt, everyone has embraced the riding culture. If you’ve never been, this fall is your time.
Pack the car, tell your boss sorry. You’re headed to New England’s mountain bike mecca. Enjoy!