Fat Bike Trails: Where to Ride in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

February 1, 2016
Fat Bike Trails in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
ShutterstockThanks to those giant tires, fat bikes can navigate snow or sand, hitting trails year-round.

From the heart of Philadelphia to the woods of Maine, fat tire-biking has made a name for itself due to its appeal to riders of all abilities, in all seasons. Tom Stuessy, executive director of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, has seen the pastime boom in the last two to three years in both sales and trail access. “I think it’s another way to embrace the winter season; [and fat biking] is super friendly to beginner riders and families [and] to advanced riders,” Stuessy says. “As access expands, the hurdles of getting into the sport have been eliminated.” Whether you’re in the city or the country, fat bike trails abound. Here are seven top spots in AMC’s region.

1. Kiski Trail System  |  Dedham, Maine
The Kiski Trail system offers cyclists miles of groomed singletrack, with technical riding along Ridge Trail, wood ramps on Old Loop Trail, and even a waterfall at the halfway point of Brook Trail. The Penobscot regional chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) raises funds for winter trail grooming and maintains the site. Access is free and located off Route 1A. Another popular option, the Bangor City Forest, is half an hour away.

Distance: 5-mile trail system
Info: Penobscot Region NEMBA

2. Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring   |  Intervale, N.H.

The Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Center is a fat biker’s heaven. Trails winding through the Whitaker Woods area offer a variety of terrain all winter. Access to other trails, including those designated for Nordic skiing, depends on snow conditions. Riders must obtain a daily membership to use the trails and facilities ($10 to $15 for adults), and bikes must have tires wider than 3.7 inches and a pressure under 10psi. Don’t have a bike? Two retail shops nearby, Stan & Dan Sports and Joe Jones Ski & Sport, both offer daily rentals for $30.

Distance: Approximately 8 miles of trails
Info: Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation

3. Kingdom Trails  |  Lyndonville, Vt.
Kingdom Trails features some of the most extensive mountain biking and winter fat tire biking in New England. Miles of maintained groomed single track trails on the east side of Darling Hill are open in the winter. Riders should note there is no biking along Nordic ski trails, and fat tires must be wider than 3.5 inches and under 10 psi. The trail network opens as soon as snow conditions permit, and the season ends April 1. A day pass is $15, and bike rentals are available nearby at Village Sport Shop and East Burke Sports. Come June, Kingdom Trails will host NEMBAfest 2016, a celebration of New England mountain biking.

Distance: 20-mile trail system
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Kingdom Trails

4. Millstone Trails  |  Websterville, Vt.
Central Vermont’s Millstone Trails system sits in the middle of some of the state’s best fat tire and mountain biking. The year-round operation grooms more than 15 miles of trail in winter in Barre Town Forest. Once temperatures warm up, riders have access to 90 miles of trails, spanning the Barre Town Forest, the Canyonlands, and Gnome Man’s Land. “It’s very fat bike appropriate,” says Tom Stuessy, executive director of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association. “It’s around granite quarries and aspens. It’s a beautiful spot.” The Boston Globe ranked Millstone the second-best mountain biking network in New England in 2009.

Distance: 15-mile winter trail system
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Millstone Trails

5. Kenoza Lake  |  Haverhill, Mass.
The 200-acre Kenoza Lake property—including Winnekenni Castle, built on the lake’s shore in 1875—became the town’s first public park when Haverhill purchased it in 1895. Besides being a historic site, the park offers 5 miles of trails appropriate for all levels. Beginners can stick to the wide trails, while more advanced riders can strike out onto hilly singletrack. To extend your ride, connect to nearby Millvale Reservoir, and its 7 miles of trails, via the Pear Tree Lane Trail. Kenoza Lake is open year-round but can get crowded during warmer weather.

Distance: 5-mile trail system
Info: Winnekenni Castle

6. Wissahickon Valley Park  |  Philadelphia, Pa.
Half an hour from downtown Philadelphia, Wissahickon’s 57 miles of steep, wooded trails—surrounded by meadows, old-growth forest, and rock formations—let bikers (and hikers and runners) escape the bustle of city life. From the relatively flat Forbidden Drive running along Wissahickon Creek, turn onto one of the many singletrack trails climbing both sides of the valley. All types of bikes are allowed in the park although not on the Lavender Trail. Cyclists must obtain a permit online from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation before hitting the trails, must keep their speed under 7 miles per hour, and should stay off the trails following rains.

Distance: 57-mile trail system
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia (AMC Books); Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books); Friends of the Wissahickon

7. Douthat State Park  |  Millboro, Va.
Ranked as one of the top five places to ride in Virginia by the mountain biking website Singletracks, Douthat State Park’s 40-mile trail network is open to cyclists. Dave Stackhouse, a former president of the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club, calls Douthat “five stars, all the way.” The park lies in a valley with 2,000- to 3,000-foot peaks on all sides and roughly 20 miles of singletrack, from classic Virginia climbs to ridges. “The trails are awesome,” Stackhouse says. “Anyone who goes there will have a great time.” Admission to the park is $4 on weekdays, $5 on weekends; Buck Lick, Heron Run, Mountain Side, and YCC trails are off limits to bikes.

Distance: 40-mile trail system
Info: Douthat State Park


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Alexandra Malloy

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.