|Source:||Submitted by Guest|
|Hours:||Bike trip is accessible anytime by parking in the hiker/biker parking lot.|
|Fee:||Adults $4, Children $2 Park admission charged weekends only starting in May, full time in June. M-F 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6pm.|
|Bathrooms:||Park is staffed weekends in May, and daily starting in June--September. Before normal park operating season bathrooms are not available.|
|Water/Snacks:||At campground store during normal park operating season.|
Bear Brook State Park, New Hampshire's largest park at 10,000+ acres, has miles of biking on paved and gravel roads. Perfect for Spring and Fall bike excursions with even the youngest bikers.
Photo by: Sarah Hipple
Spring can be a tough time for getting outdoors in northern New England. Trails can be muddy, with ice and snow at some of the higher elevations, and paddling in cold waters can be treacherous. The sun is shining and temperatures are warming up, but muddy conditions can make getting outside challenging this time of year.
One of our favorite things to do in the spring is to go on family bike rides, and one of the best places to do this is along the quiet and relatively flat roads of Bear Brook State Park, near Concord, NH. When my children Tasha and Jackson were 3 and 5, I was directing the NH Conservation Corps which is a land stewardship program run through NH State Parks, The Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps. The program happened to be located in the heart of Bear Brook State Park, and for four delightful years my family and I lived in the Civilian Conservation Corps-built Park Manager house near the entrance of the park. While we were there, we taught our kids to ride bikes--and discovered that this park is a biking oasis ripe for exploration by young families. Today, it remains one of our favorite places to ride bikes--and the 10,000 acre park has a wide variety of biking options from the smooth paved campground road, to fun downhills on the gravel Podunk Road, to some of New England’s best single track.
This bike loop on park roads is attractive for many reasons at this time of year. It is 100% on quiet park roads with no challenging trail riding--making it a great loop for even the youngest bikers looking for their first trip “beyond the driveway.” The park roads are not busy until July when the summer campers arrive, making it relatively quiet and safe--a great introduction to road biking with young children. The route is mostly flat, with small rolling hills to make it interesting. The road winds through the dense pine forests of Bear Brook State Park, passing many interesting attractions along the way: fly fishing ponds, an archery range, a clean sandy beach at Beaver Pond, and even a newly installed playground at the campground. The campground store is not open until late May, so bring your own food and water.
From Deerfield Rd, enter the Podunk Rd entrance and park in the Hiker/Biker parking lot on the right. Once on your bikes, proceed out of the parking lot and turn right onto Podunk Rd. Within a hundred feet, you will come to a small cabin on your left and a fork in the road just beyond that. Continue on the left hand paved road towards the Campground. After a short and gradual uphill section, you will wind in and out of some large pine groves, coming to the Fly Fishing ponds on either side of the road. Both of these small ponds are stocked with trout and offer a great place to learn to fly fish. Anyone over 16 will need a fishing license.
Continue on the road towards the campground and you will cross Bear Brook, after which the park is named. Stop here to watch the gurgling brook with it’s waters dyed tea brown by natural tannins in the local plants. After a few more gradual ups and downs, you will come to the campground at 2.85 miles. Bring a picnic and find a secluded spot in the campground or by the shores of Beaver Pond. There is a great new playground (on your left as you enter the campground) that will delight young kids, and if the weather is warm enough, take a dip from the nice sunny beach along the shores of Beaver Pond (veer left at the campground office). If you want to do the slight shorter but flatter 5.7 mile “out and back”, this will be your turnaround spot--just head back the way you came.
For a nice 6.5 mile loop that continues on gravel roads with a few bigger hills, continue on past the campground store, bearing to the right. You will continue through the campground and pass through a gate. Within a quarter mile you will pass by some cabins on right and left which house members of the SCA NH Conservation Corps, a modern day incarnation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Continue through this old camp with a lodge on the right and a small athletic field on the left, and soon you will come to a short causeway that heads across a marshy section of Bear Brook. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy the view and try to spot some wildlife. These marshes are prime wildlife and bird habitat, and sometimes just being still for a few minutes will afford you a glance of a great blue heron, a deer, a moose or even a mink. Look for some awesome beaver lodges as well.
Continue along the gravel road as it climbs to one of the higher points in the rolling park. Even though the roads are quiet at this time of year, stay to the right on the steep sections where park vehicles may have a harder time seeing you. After a nice climb, you will come to a T intersection with Podunk Rd. Turn right here and it is mostly downhill on the gravel road back to the car. You will wind through pine forest and a couple open fields and marshes, and the wind will whip through your hair as you descend back to your starting point.
Even though the road is quiet with relatively little traffic this time of year, this is a good training ground to learn the rules of the road for bikers:
Always have your kids stay to the right and ride single file. We always have the person in back (called “sweep”) call out if there is a car coming. That way, folks in front can move over and be as far to the right as possible.
Beware of blind turns and hills--car drivers won’t have good sight lines in these areas and you may surprise them.
When we are riding on busier roads, we always ride in small groups of 2-3 riders. The reason for this is that when cars do have to pass you from behind, you want to make it as easy as possible. For a car driver, trying to pass a group of 5 bikers on the right with oncoming traffic coming the other direction is very difficult and they may be forced back into the lane the bikers are in by oncoming traffic, thereby forcing bikers off the road. If you ride in small groups, cars can pass you easier, making the experience safer for everyone.
Helmets! Don’t leave home without them
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum located in the historic camp that housed hundreds of workers who constructed the park, roads and trails during the New Deal is very interesting, along with the nearby NH Snowmobile Museum. On a warm day, stop for a swim at the refreshing Catamount Pond on Deerfield Rd near the park entrance booth. The beautiful CCC-era pavillion is worth a visit in itself, the clean sand beach is alluring, and the brook-fed pond is refreshing and cool.Where to Eat Nearby:
For an early morning bagel and coffee, we recommend The Works Bakery Cafe www.worksbakerycafe.com, with homemade bagels, strong coffee and some great sandwiches to go. For an after bike ride lunch or dinner, our favorite place in Concord is Moritomo Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi www.moritomonh.com. This independent little restaurant has been wowing customers for years with their great food and the experience of a chef cooking stir-fries right at your table.
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