It was a hot, muggy, buggy afternoon as I rode the gated portion of Belknap Mountain Road, following an old snowmobile map in search of some good mountain biking. What I'd ridden so far wasn't terribly exciting, and I was on the verge of calling it quits, when I happened upon a couple of mountain bikers on a water break. One of them was a local guy, Brian Heath, who spends much of his free time cranking through the Lakes Region.
He and a friend from Florida were taking a grand tour of the Belknaps and invited me to join them. Brian looked like a hard-core rider, and he was riding a fully suspended rig; there was no way I could keep up. Instead, we rode this short loop together, and then they continued on their way. This is a pretty demanding ride, but it's short enough that moderately skilled riders can hang in thereespecially during wild blueberry season.
General location: 3 miles south of Gilford
Elevation change: From pavement to meadow is a 400-foot climb.
Season: Late spring through fall
Services: All services can be found in Laconia.
Hazards: Rough trail surface through most of the ride, and a steep, twisting, single-track descent
Rescue index: Inhabited areas are 2 to 3 miles away.
Land status: Class VI road and trails
Maps: Page 36 of DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer
Finding the trail: From Gilford, follow Belknap Mountain Road south to the end. Park on the shoulder near the gate.
Source of additional information: The aforementioned "grand tour" can be found in Eric Stinson's Mountain Biking and Hiking the Belknap Range of Lake Winnipesaukee. The grand tour of the Belknap Range is an all-day ride encompassing more than 20 miles and several mountain peaks.
Notes on the trail: Take the unpaved road past the gate and into the woods. The uphill portion is rocky and very eroded; as it levels off, you'll reach a four-way junction of trails. Up to now, this ride has coincided with a portion of the Liberty Hill ride, to continue on Belknap Saddle, you turn left here. The trail is blazed for snowmobiles; after about 0.4 mile of climbing, it forks. Bear left (the right fork continues to the top of Whiteface Mountain) and make your way up a steep but short run to the saddle. The clearing here has wild blueberries (if you missed berry season, there are large rocks to relax on). Rest up, then head for the northwest edge of the clearing to find the trail for the descent. The ride down is narrow, twisting, rough, and never boring. At the bottom, turn right. The gate is just a few hundred feet ahead.
View: Trail Map
© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication