When I first discovered mountain biking, the bikes were rigid, they stopped via manual rim brakes, and wheels were still just 26 inches. Back then, the idea of vast trail networks like Kingdom Trails, the Carrabassett Valley, and my local system, Bear Brook, was the stuff of dreams.
My earliest memory of mountain biking is pushing my bike uphill along a well-worn path—at the time, the hill felt like it would never end, but today I would consider it an easy spin—only to bomb down the way I came. Eventually, a friend and I discovered a roughly mile-long loop of trails that someone had cut around the abandoned construction of a subdivision (thanks, 90s housing bust), where we rode seemingly endless laps and built small jumps from the detritus left behind by the builders.
As I grew older, bikes got better, new trail systems popped up, and accessing new places to ride became easier thanks to the acquisition of a drivers license and a car. (Although there were still some challenges; discovering new places to ride was far more difficult in the days before the internet than it is now.) Increased mobility and better equipment allowed for the exploration of larger local trail systems like Callahan State Park, Vietnam, and Upton State Forest. And, after visiting these places, my interest in riding someplace that offered “just a mile of trail” waned.
Today, trail systems are larger and better maintained than ever before, and new trail networks are popping up with incredible frequency around my home in New Hampshire. With so many new trails being built, there are many places that only have a few trails open—either a lone wolf or the beginnings of promising new systems still being built. And, in many cases these trails are incredible.
Unlike the trails that I grew up riding, which were repurposed forest paths or dirt bike trails, these new trails are being purpose-built for biking. Many are machine-built, feature berms and jumps, and play to the strengths of today’s lightweight, long-travel mountain bikes. In fact, these trails are so good, that I will happily travel for an hour or more to ride “just a mile of trail.” I even recently spent a day at Kingdom Trails exploring newer, out-of-the-way trails that I had previously avoided.
This year, I have found myself drawn to these one-hit wonders. Places like Page Hill, (in Hill, New Hampshire) and Little River State Park, (in Waterbury, Vermont) might not be home to the best trail systems in their region, but they are arguably home to some of the best trails—trails so good, who cares if there is only one.
Words and photo by Tim Peck