By SARAH EARLE, Concord Monitor
July 29, 2009 – 6:59 am
The idea of mountain biking may stir your inner adventurer with images of rocky, rutted terrain and mud-spattered calves. But if you choose Waterville Valley for said adventure, you ought to know that your first challenge will arise before you enter the bike rental shop.
The little town square, with its brick courtyard and white, clapboard buildings hugging the shore of Corcoran’s Pond, is so enticing you may be tempted to ditch that whole adventure thing and sit down on the patio with a cappuccino and a good book.
But don’t give in. The sandy beach, the paddle boats, the candy shop and country store will still be there after you’ve conquered the network of biking trails that spool out from the village. And you’ll feel all the more deserving of their charms (though you may have to do something about that helmet head).
The 30-mile tangle of trails begins at the foot of the village and crisscrosses a section of the White Mountain National Forest, utilizing cross-country ski trails, old logging roads, fire roads and hiking trails. You can bring your own bike or rent one at the Waterville Valley Adventure Center, which offers two-hour, half-day, full-day and multiple-day rentals, with prices starting at $20 ($17 for children and seniors). For an added challenge, you can stop at the Tennis Center and ride a double chairlift to a variety of trails flowing from the summit of Snow’s Mountain.
But have no fear of getting more thrills than you bargained for on these trail systems: In keeping with Waterville Valley’s winter identity, all of the trails are marked just like ski trails, with green circles, blue squares and black diamonds. You’ll also get a map showing the topography and distance of the trails.
If you’re a beginner, the folks at the bike shop will likely point you toward Pond Loop, a 2-mile trail that circles Corcoran’s Pond. Here, the sun-washed village quickly gives way to a quiet, shaded path scattered with pine needles and pebbles. Birds swoop from the trees to the pond, calling out insistent ch-ch-chs like school teachers.
The trail stays mostly level, but it does turn rocky and grassy in places, sometimes shrinking down to a single-lane path through the woods. There are puddles here and there, too, as well as an unavoidable underpass that sometimes floods with several inches of water. Young children may have trouble navigating portions of the trails.
But tackling rugged terrain is, after all, the point of mountain biking. And you’ll get plenty of it here. The dusty, corrugated paths offer a workout for the arms as well as the legs, as you steer around large rocks and in and out of ruts. The trails are quiet but well-marked and offer a solid day’s worth of exploring. There are several picnic tables along the various routes if you want to throw some sandwiches in your backpack before you go.
Or, save your appetite for your return to the village, where you’ll find a deli, a coffee emporium, an ice cream shop and a store called Mountains of Chocolate. You may want to plan your trip around one of Waterville Valley’s signature summer events, such as the Curious George Cottage Family Festival, the Bluegrass Festival or a Theatre Under the Stars performance. There are a couple of campsites right along the trails, too, if you decide that one day of adventure just isn’t enough.