The Presidential Range it ain't, but the Belknap Range is a pretty cool place to ride. Tucked in among the 2,000-foot peaks are a variety of trails, mostly intended for winter use, but suitable for biking, too. Hang out at one of Laconia's bike shops or a snowmobile dealership, and you'll get tips on some worthwhile trails to explore. If you're in a hurry to start riding, though, this is the ride to do first.
Laconia's hard-core mountain bikers call this loop through the Belknaps a "training" ride (in other words, it doesn't slow them down much). It mostly follows double-track trails that see frequent use by snowmobilers in wintertime and winds through dense forest. An excellent view of the lake and the Belknap Range hits you early in the ride. The trailhead is convenient to Laconia, too.
General location: 3 miles east of Laconia
Elevation change: A lot of ups and downs throughout the ride, adding up to less than 600 feet of gain
Season: Late spring through fall
Services: All services can be found in Laconia.
Hazards: One heavily eroded climb; mudholes and windfall in places
Rescue index: You're within 2 miles of inhabited areas at all times.
Land status: Class VI roads and snowmobile trails
Maps: Page 36 of DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer. Also see Laconia quadrangle, USGS 7.5 minute series.
Finding the trail: From NH 11A east, take the first right turn after the US 3 underpass, then a left turn onto Liberty Hill Road. Bear right onto Wild Acres Road; watch for the radio tower on your left. Park by the tower (keep to the edge of the turnaround: it's used by school buses that serve the children's camp a quarter of a mile beyond).
Source of additional information: Mountain Biking and Hiking the Belknap Range of Lake Winnipesaukee, a booklet by local mountain biker Eric Stinson, provides details of this and other rides.
Notes on the trail: From the tower, a side road heads into the woods for a short way. Take it for 100 feet or so, and watch for a trail on your left. Take it through the trees and into a large meadow. If you find yourself enjoying the view, you're on your way!
The trail drops into the woods and zigzags to a jeep trail at the bottom. Turn left and take it for a half mile. Just past the creek, turn right onto a sandy trail, which follows the creek to a paved road. At the pavement, turn right, ride for 0.8 mile, and turn left at the T intersection. The pavement ends at a gate; continue on the Class VI road beyond. The uphill portion of this road is heavily eroded and may reduce you to walking (only for a half mile or so). At the end of the climb, watch for an intersecting trail and turn right (you'll see a large boulder placed in the middle of this trail).
This trail twists through the forest in a generally westerly direction. A few trails branch off—stay on the main one by following the four-wheel-drive tracks and the snowmobile blazes. Eventually you'll reach a T intersection; turn right to follow snowmobile trail"15N," pass a beaver pond, climb one last hill, and you're back at the radio tower.
View: Trail Map
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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