Last time I'd set foot in a Boy Scout camp, I was still one myself. (Five years and only a First Class badge to show for it, but what fun!) I'd come to Hidden Valley Boy Scout Reservation to investigate the rumor that non-Scouts could bike here, and I arrived just in time for Reveille. Seeing all those teenage boys gathered 'round the flagpole, saluting with three fingers instead of just one like they do in my neighborhood sure brought back the memories. Suddenly, I wanted to play Uno by the light of a Coleman lantern while sipping lumpy hot cocoa. I wanted to put a one-gallon milk jug on a stick and melt it over the campfire. I wanted to send some Tenderfoot off in search of a left-handed smoke shifter.
But I digress. Yes, the camp's program director assured me, mountain bikers are welcome here. The camp is full of Scouts throughout the summer and on most fall weekends, so a pedestrian-friendly riding style is called for. The ranger also asks that you check in at the administration building upon your arrival. Those caveats noted, grab your Trustworthy Loyal Helpful Friendly mountain bike and follow the trail to Round Pond.
General location: Gilmanton Iron Works (about 14 miles southeast of Laconia on NH 140)
Elevation change: You'll climb about 900 feet along the way.
Season: Late spring through fall
Services: Services can be found in Alton, 5 miles to the west, or Laconia.
Hazards: As noted above, watch for pedestrians, especially during the summer and on weekends.
Rescue index: The farther reaches of this ride take you a couple of miles from inhabited areas.
Land status: Privately owned by the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America
Maps: When you check in with the ranger at the administration building, ask for a copy of the reservation's trail map.
Finding the trail: The reservation is 4 miles north of Gilmanton Iron Works. Just west of town on NH 140, turn north onto Guinea Ridge Road and follow it past Crystal Lake. Turn right on Alton Mountain Road, then left onto the main camp road. Watch for the "Hidden Valley" signs at all intersections. The administration building is located by Lake Eileen.
Source of additional information: Hidden Valley Scout Reservation, RFD 1, P.O. Box 623, Gilmanton Iron Works, NH 03837, (603) 364-2900
Notes on the trail: From the administration building, take the access road around Lake Eileen. Several roads and trails branch off into the woods; the road to Round Pond, also known as the "red" trail, is marked with a New Hampshire Snowmobile Trail sign (or ask a nearby Scout).
After crossing the old stage road, the climb begins in earnest. At about 1.5 miles from headquarters, you'll be faced with a choice of two parallel routes: "via scenic vista and gorge" and "via truck road." If you take the scenic trail into the woods, prepare for a lot of walking and carrying, some spectacular views of the wooded valley, and, if the season is right (around mid-July), wild blueberries. The trail rejoins the road just before Round Pond; a marked side trail will take you to its shore. Once you're rested up, turn around and take the truck road back down the hill. Watch for waterbars, and keep your speed under control.
Some local riders continue past Round Pond and ride down the other side of the mountain to Gunstock . For details on taking an extended ride all the way over the mountain, inquire at Gunstock.
View: Trail Map
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication