So this is the shoulder season. The leaves are gone. It’s chilly outside, wet and gray. You don’t feel like hiking. You’re looking forward to skiing, but you don’t want to sit inside until the snow comes.
It’s a great time for mountain biking. You don’t need views, fall colors, or sunshine to enjoy riding on a well-designed trail through the woods. As for that chill in the air, you’ll warm up soon enough.
That was my thinking when I drove to Wilmington last weekend to check out some new trails off Hardy Road.
The nonprofit Barkeater Trails Alliance maintains a network of mountain-bike trails on both sides of Hardy Road, some easy, some not so. I have ridden there more than once. After Keith McKeever, a BETA volunteer, told me the group recently created two new trails, both for beginners, I drove over as soon as I had a free day.
The first new trail I rode is on the east side of the road. It’s accessed from the All-In Trail, an uphill route designed for experts. However, you don’t have to ride on expert terrain to get to the new trail.
All-In begins on the north side of the parking lot. If you ride down All-In a quarter-mile or so, you’ll see the new trail on the right, just before a crossing over Beaver Brook. That’s the fastest way to get there, but not the best.
Before reaching the new trail, you’ll pass another easy trail, Coniferous, on the left. Turn onto Coniferous. It’s a sweet little trail that winds through the woods over gentle terrain and rejoins All-In directly across from the new trail. Now just cross All-In to get on the new route, which doesn’t have a name yet.
The new trail parallels pretty Beaver Brook a short distance before reaching the abutments of a vanished bridge. McKeever said the town and the state plan to construct a bridge over the brook next spring. In the meantime, bikers can cross the brook via Hardy Road.
On the other side of the brook, the trail meanders gently uphill. BETA demonstrated its trail-building skills with a few perfectly banked turns. When the trail reaches All-In, turn left to ride downhill back to the parking lot. (If you turn right, you’ll soon reach difficult terrain.)
Including Coniferous, the loop can be done in under a half-hour, leaving plenty of time to explore the trails on the west side of Hardy Road. Beginners will want to try Double Time, which starts just across from the parking area and heads west over level terrain. Eventually, it turns into a harder trail called Good Luck. If you’re not ready for Good Luck, turn around here.
I was riding back on Double Time when I noticed the other new trail on the right, shortly before Hardy Road. I turned here and followed it through piney woods to a giant boulder. I stopped here and walked to the edge of a meadow bisected by Beaver Brook. After enjoying views of nearby peaks, I hopped back on the bike and looped back to Double Time.
Altogether, I spent about an hour exploring the trails at Hardy Road. You could easily spend a few hours there. And if you want more, you can ride the nearby Flume Trails, also maintained by BETA. The group also maintains mountain-bike trails in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
As if that’s not enough, BETA also maintains backcountry-ski trails in the area, including the celebrated Jackrabbit Trail, which runs from Saranac Lake to Keene. A story in the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer says BETA recently cleared trails at the former Scott’s Cobble ski area outside Lake Placid. These should be ready for skiers this winter. And more biking trails are in the works.
Photos by Phil Brown: the new trails on the west and east side (respectively) of Hardy Road.