Vacation Ride Report: Fort Rock Trail System (Exeter NH)

29er Mountain Biking Ride Reports

A few weeks ago my family and I all jumped in our van and drove up to New England to visit family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Since I’d only gotten my Niner EMD9 a couple weeks previously, I had to take it along. I got to ride some of the trails I grew up riding in Massachusetts, then went up to New Hampshire (where my parents now live). Since I haven’t done much riding there, I hit up Google to see what was in the area, and discovered Fort Rock.

Yes, there is a trail here

Fort Rock is actually two different town forests in Exeter, NH connected by a trail tunnel under route 101 – Henderson-Swasey and Oaklands (check the link for some good maps). They’ve been given some good attention by the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA)– there are multiple areas with nicely-laid planks over swampy (and just plain pond-y) areas, which is great because otherwise the trails wouldn’t be rideable (or would just get torn up). There are also some less-noticed touches in certain areas to help with drainage and prevent erosion – but mostly the trails are left pretty natural – which is a very good thing!

Trail tunnel!

Overall the entire system is both a blast and a challenge – and like many New England trails rocks and roots are more common than, well… dirt. Some suspension is pretty much required here unless you’re just begging for a beating. These trails were a little rockier than most though… not many New England trails get a branch named “Kill-Zilla” (according to some forum research, it’s also known as the “Demoralizer”). The name is fitting… I’m sure with some practice I could clean it, but the two times I rode it (once from either direction, once on purpose and once by accident!) I definitely had several foot dabs and a couple walks up hills when I couldn’t get going again on the slope. The rocks aren’t just around the trail – in many places the best way to go is OVER a bunch of rocks (and I’m not talking small ones), and there are lots of ways to kill your momentum – especially going up the steep hills that make up pretty much the entire trail. I spent much more time in my granny gear than I think I ever have before (boy was I glad I wasn’t on my singlespeed!).

This is definitely singletrack!

My one gripe with the trail system is that I’d read it was signed, and that was true – but only barely. It has blazes – but one of the major trail sections runs in a circle, and actually branches a couple times – so even with the blazes it’s not always that easy to figure out where you are. I’m sure after a couple rides it becomes easier (I was starting to figure it out by the time I left), but for a first time rider bringing the maps along would be a good idea. I figured that out after my 1 1/2 hour ride turned into a 3 hour ride… I kept finding myself looping back around to where I didn’t want to be anymore! I was on my bike and having fun though, so it was all good (well, up until the point my water ran out!).

The trails loop through the powerlines several times… as I found out when I kept ending up there!

I didn’t get to ride anything like all the trails in this system despite the time I spent in it, so I’ll definitely be back there next time I’m in the area. I do want to thank the town of Exeter for letting mountain bikers use the trails in this way though – and NEMBA for helping make it into a more sustainable (and fun!) system. My introduction was exhausting and challenging, but incredibly satisfying.

The threat of falling in this water made me pay close attention to staying on the boards!
Matt D

For more about me, check out my introductory profile: https://www.mtnbikeriders.com/2012/03/08/please-welcome-matt-d-as-the-newest-staffer-for-mtnbikeriders-com , OR go to my personal site, http://www.daddyridesbikes.blogspot.com

https://www.mtnbikeriders.com

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