From the moment you had your first cycling lesson with an older sibling or a parent to the period when you learned new skills to impress friends, there’s always been this yearning for more, something extra, something more challenging.
Riding on mountain trails with your heart rate on a steady increase hits differently. It makes you feel like you have come alive. It makes you realize that this is something extra. The United States of America has some of the best mountain biking trails in the World, and a good number of them can be found in Connecticut.
Connecticut, a state in the New England area of the United States of America, is a member of the so-called tri-state area that includes New Jersey and New York. Together they form what is known as New York City. The Connecticut River, from where the state derives its name, flows right through the heart of the state, dividing it into two. The state is surrounded by long Island sound on the south, New York on the west, and Rhode Island on the east. Although it is one of the smallest states by landmass, it is densely populated since it is part of the ever-busy New York City area. Connecticut’s landscape is a study in variety, with rolling hills, beaches, and coastal regions dotting the state.
Dubbed the Nutmeg state, Connecticut has different parks and forests, which offer some excellent mountain biking trails. Here is a list of the best ten trails to visit if you are in the area.
1. Case Mountain
Located in Manchester, Connecticut, this location is home to lots of challenging and fun trails at the same time. With over 33 miles of solid singletrack trails, the park offers amazing scenery and a challenging ride. The most famous trail, the Shenipsit trail, which starts at the foot of the Birch Mountain, has a challenging one-mile ascent, which passes through the Blue Dot Trail. The trail has, for a reward, a panoramic view of the Connecticut River Valley and the Hartford Skyline, which is a sight to behold at sunset. The downhill is riddled with lots of obstacles and can prove exciting, as it keeps the senses alert. With mostly rocky terrain, the Shenipsit Trail, measuring around 40 miles, is highly frequented.
This park’s most eye-catching trait is its wooded trails—not something you ride on in every trail, but fun nevertheless. The paths are also much wider, with different bodies of water everywhere you go.
Case Mountain is easily the most beautiful site for mountain biking in the state—little wonder it holds the title of ‘Best Ride in Connecticut’ via a vote conducted by the Mountain Bike Magazine. This system of trails is mainly suited for intermediate riders. While it is not overly technical, its elevation of 100 feet and the combo of sharp turns and obstacles may be daunting for the beginner.
2. Air Line State Park Trail
The Air Line State Park Trail is a by-product of the novel trail line, previously envisioned from New York to Boston, but never really came into full existence due to several political and economic factors that only added to the already difficult terrain. The imaginary line, drawn in the “air” to show the shortest distance from Boston to New York, has come to be known as the Air Line State Park.
Air Line State Park would suit those looking for lengthy rides, and as it winds through several towns, you are sure to meet riders from all over here. The trails here are correctly groomed and will thrill those taking their first bike sessions.
The trail is split into two segments; the Southern section, a 25-mile route leading from East Hampton to Windham, and the Northern Section, a 21-mile long trail, which continues from Windham and ends at Putnam.
3. Penwood State Park
Nature lovers, hikers, runners, and of course, mountain bikers all troop into the Penwood State Park all year round to experience this hilltop location. Mountain bike freaks would particularly enjoy the wide range of trails available at this park.
Situated atop the Talcott Mountain in Bloomfield, the park has over 750 acres of land with a bird’s eye view of the Farmington River Valley. The Metacomet Trail is the main trail. It is an 8.5-mile loop, which runs the entire length of the park, passing through a dense forest and ideal for lovers of nature. The trail is midrange and explicitly built for mountain bikers, with a handful of strenuous uphills and obstacles scattered here and there. Intermediate and advanced mountain bikers would surely love it here.
Penwood ranks among the most technical trails in Connecticut, as there are numerous narrow tracks with abrupt corners. Don’t be fooled by its gentle elevation rise of just over 1000 feet; the downhill journey is where the battle begins. The trails are properly marked and maintained, but this park is undoubtedly not for beginners. Check next door.
4. Meshomasic State Forest
The Meshomasic State Forest is an incredible 9000 acres of woodland located in Connecticut. In fact, it was the first State Forest in Connecticut.
The Meshomasic State Forest is a hidden gem, as it passes through woods and does not have so many visitors all year round. It could prove to be quite a challenge, as one can easily get lost here. A good sense of your bearings will come in handy if you choose to explore this location.
Though it is entirely undeveloped and unmarked, this location has 30 miles of singletrack and double-track trails that will be of interest to the bikers who love to go solo. The forest has no amenities whatsoever, and it is advisable to carry a trail map along. So channel your inner Christopher Columbus and let the expedition begin.
5. Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve
Well known amongst hikers and climbers, Ragged Mountain Memorial is a nature-conservative area with a 560 feet elevation gain that gives you breathtaking views of central Connecticut.
Ragged Mountain’s main loop, which gives a nice view of the ponds by the cliff is about 6 miles long. The trail’s topography is mainly flat, with some loose rocks and obstacles scattered in every direction.
There are other shorter and less challenging trails here too. Ensure to go with a map since most of the direction marks and posts have worn off with age. Different unplanned trails have also sprung up due to the heavy traffic that this location receives.
Riding here, you would have to be on the constant lookout for other outdoor enthusiasts. The sheer number of hikers and mountain climbers that flock into Ragged Mountain is enough to keep you alert.
Nature lovers will appreciate the trails as most of the areas surrounding Ragged Mountain have been earmarked as conservatives.
6. West Rock Ridge Park
The West Rock Ridge Park, located west of New Haven, is a 700 feet high ridge filled with tons of scenery. The park has five beautiful trails, totaling around eight miles of downhill and significant climbs. The Red trail is suitable for newbies who are just starting. Made up of 2 miles of gentle terrain with a few rocky sections, it catches up with the White Trail, and together, they form a loop surrounding the lake.
Baldwin Road, which is at the top of the ridge, has some of the best views and trails, especially on the western part of the lake. From the top of Baldwin, there are a handful of downhills, as you would expect, and they are all marked in different colors.
The Yellow Trail, famed to be the best trail here, is a short, smooth trail, measuring just half a mile in length. The White Trail, on the other hand, is a difficult short trail. Only one mile long, the Red Trails is essentially a dirt road, which goes down to the foot of the ride and then goes on to loop around it.
7. Pequonnock River Trail
Are you a strong intermediate rider looking to hone your riding skills? Then this park is just perfect for you. This 16-mile trail accommodates bikers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts and is commonly referred to as “Trumbull.” Difficult terrains, tight trails, and a couple of steep descents all make this place unique.
Sadly, this is no place for a total beginner, as the terrain is daunting enough to throw you off course. Bike handling skills need to be above average before you visit Trumbull.
The trail runs side by side with the Pequonnock River and goes all the way into the forests. Roots, rocks, and drops litter every segment of this amazing trail. The trail passes through three towns: Trumbull, Bridgeport, and Monroe. A day at the Pequonnock River trail is sure to leave you aching for more.
8. Cowles Park
The Cowles Park, just a few minutes’ drive away from Hartford, is a great excuse to leave the hustle and bustle of the capital. Suitable for riding in summer and winter, Cowles Park is designated an intermediate mountain bike location.
The first thing you will notice here is that anybody can ride the not too difficult terrain. The trails range from single-track to and backtrack, and with an elevation of about 200 feet, it is not as tasking as several other trails that made this list. Eight miles of varying trails await anyone who’s available for a good old ride.
9. Rockland Preserve
Located in Madison, Connecticut, Rockland Preserve is a 650-acre expanse of land that features a diverse range of mountain biking trails intentionally built for that purpose. The trails were built by volunteers in 2012 and are among the most meticulously managed trails in the state. Technical spots are commonplace here. Words do not do justice to the log rides here, as they are artfully crafted, and you would best experience them on a bike.
Every type of rider would find trails that match their skill levels here, with the 20 trails found here all well-groomed. There are seven miles of trails marked in blue to enable beginners to find their way through the paths without much fuss. Freestylers love this location as it has a skills area where they can showcase their skills or even perfect new ones.
The best part is that the Rockland Preserve is still a work in progress, as local volunteers continue to seek ways to improve the already excellent standards.
10. Miller’s Pond
Situated in Durham, Connecticut, this trail, along with some of the most technical mountain biking trails in the state, can be found at Miller’s Pond. The challenging uphill climbs and obstacles that bikers encounter here make this one of the most popular locations for riders looking to showboat.
The Red Trail, divided into two sections; the northern trail section and the southern trail section, is especially popular among bikers. The north section is a cross-country-themed trail, with long climbs and flowing rides in all directions. Even though it is a cross-country ride, opportunities amass to jump, drop and hone skills on this trail. This section takes an average of an hour to complete.
In contrast, the southern portion is a rocky and curvy ride that gives you no room to catch your breath. With an average of 90 minutes completion time, there are drops, log rides, in quick bouts. This section is quite challenging; hence, you shouldn’t ride on this trail alone. Unexpected curves, drop jumps, and some of the tightest trails are things you should expect to encounter in Miller’s Pond.
Miller Pond is among the most difficult rides in Connecticut due to the heavy presence of rock gardens and technical spots. Five draining miles of mountain biking await you here. It is a perfect spot for pro riders looking for unique workout sessions.
Only the sturdiest biking gear would be suitable for this terrain as it is unforgiving and springs up surprises at every twist and turn.
Whatever your reasons are for visiting Connecticut, you indeed have no excuse not to get on at least one of these trails. Apart from escaping the constant humdrum that is New York City, you get to enjoy a workout like no other here.
Good mountain bike trails can be found all over the nutmeg state. Most of these trails are also well-groomed. Family or solo, pro or beginner, downhill trails or short climbs, whatever your preferences are, there are trails here for you. All you need to do is pick your spot, gear up and pedal away. Even if you don’t feel like riding, a walk in any of these parks or trails and the captivating sight of mountain bikers doing their thing will spur you on.