EASY to MODERATE rides (10 minutes from the Green)
Oak Hill is the site of the majority of Dartmouth’s cross country ski trails. The Outdoor Programs Office promotes its use for mountain biking. These trails have been widened for skate-skiing and are mowed every fall. There is an almost complete absence of technical riding here, except if you attack the S-turns on a couple of the descents with enough speed. Watch out for compacted clay in the middle of trails which gets slippery when wet.
The trails are generally smooth and free of obstacles, although after storms they may be strewn with blown-down branches. Although you won’t see many oaks on this ride, it is certainly hilly. The closest the riding gets to flat is very rolling, and it takes some climbing and descending to get to and from the majority of the trails. When the grass gets hub-high in the middle of the summer, it reduces the wide trails to a single track.
Even when the grass is up, Oak Hill is the best area for beginners. Its proximity (about 1.5 miles) to Hanover and the gentleness of the trails makes it a good place to become acquainted with mountain biking.
How To Get There:
Take either (1) Route 10 North past the golf course, take a right at the gas station onto Reservoir Road, go a few hundred yards past the school on the left and the day-care center on the right, and over the rise and down to the next left — the entrance to the Storr’s Pond Recreation Area and the Oak Hill parking lot; or (2) East Wheelock past the Alumni gym, through the light, past A-lot, and part of the way up the hill. Take a left on Rip Road and follow it to the end, where you take a left and then the next right onto Reservoir Road. Go over the rise and down to the Storr’s Pond turn. If in a car, you can park either at the outside of the turn here or go down to the first open area.
If you’re on your bike, don’t take the turn down towards Storr’s Pond but continue straight ahead as you face the T. Head up the wooded path and around the green gate. This leads onto a smooth, gradual ascent up Oak Hill. For safety reasons, this trail should be used only for ascending, and the two trails coming down the hill on its north-west side for descending. At the top of this trail, on the right, the access trail from the reservoir bridge joins the trail.
There are too many trails at Oak Hill to try to describe, so this will touch on a few highlights letting you have the fun of finding your way around. It’s a bit of a maze up there, what with trying to jam in as many kilometers of trail as possible into a limited number of acres. There are a lot of abandoned trails that the current trails loop around and through. Nobody has gotten lost up there for more than a few minutes, so don’t fret. Making sense out of the X-C trail markers and following the signs towards the finish works.
There are only a few ways to exit this network of trails that don’t bring you back to the base of Oak Hill. Two are at the north-west corner, and join and descend over water bars down to Route 10 at Fullington Farm East, next to the biathlon range. This might be a good option if you want to take the simplest and most rapid way home, straight and on the pavement. Turn left onto Route 10 to get back to Hanover.
A third way to exit the Oak Hill trails is on the back loop, part of the way up the section of the trail that runs roughly east-west. It looks like nothing, but soon runs into another warren of trails which are often steep and windy but still relatively smooth. About sixty yards before the 8K sign, look for a faint trail heading into the woods. The trail rolls sharply across a side-hill and eventually broadens. There are several side-trails, some of which are posted. One trail to the left will eventually bring you down onto Route 10 just north of the Fullington Farm exit. If you continue straight and follow the main trail, you will eventually come down onto Pinneo Hill Road, a few hundred yards above where it meets Route 10. This is a fun area to explore.
This back loop also has a designated direction for riding. If everyone rides it clockwise, the fun on the windy descent won’t endanger others ascending.
Storr’s Pond Cyclocross Course
MODERATE ride (5 minutes from Oak Hill) — requires dismounts
Start/finish on the pavement in front of the tennis courts heading towards the pond. Follow the road around to the left up the hill. Right after it turns to gravel, turn left and shoulder your bike up a short, steep two-tiered run which leads to a couple of campsites at the top of a little ridge. Remount and take a hairpin right turn down the wide, loose path back to the gravel road, which you take a sharp left on. Ride about 400 meters up a shallow climb and take a right and ride up a little bit more. This might be called the “printing press loop”. It goes downhill through a very dangerous and narrow cut-off around a tree (that fell on the sharp right downhill turn). You are now on a fast, rougher and narrower trail with a couple gullies and fallen logs, two of which are significant enough to warrant dismounts. This opens into the corner of a field with a volleyball net, called area five. There is a bathroom here. Ride across the field to the far right corner, get on the end of the pavement, and follow it until you take a right about 500 meters up. You will have to run up through the woods. This is a long run. You remount and get back on the gravel road going straight downhill. Ride down maybe 300m, and when the phone poles end take a left down a little embankment and around a tree. The turn is across from where you turned left for the first run up. After going around the trees at the campsite and making a little slalom of it, go across the grass field, jump over one of the logs on its edge, and turn left going down the hill on the road. Stay left through the parking lots and go across the footbridge at the end, then across the little campsite and over to the left and through the clearing in the bushes. This takes you up a small rise where there used to be a hurdle, so I usually dismount and run up it, too. Remount, ride down to the right, and you’re on the road again. Follow it to the right across the bridge and you’re back where you started. It should take five to seven minutes all told.
Dogford–Pinneo Hill Trail
MODERATE ride (2+ hours)
If you’re out at the base of Pinneo Hill Road and still looking for more excitement, consider this loop. There’s a lot of dirt road and a bit of pavement (blech), but the trail is a gradual but technical descent. The trail is a Class VI road (class IV is basically only a jeep trail), so it is very brushy, and might not be much fun in the summer or without tights to protect your legs. On rainy days in November it’s a lot of fun.
How To Get There:
The most direct way to Pineo Hill is to head north on Route 10 towards Lyme approximately three miles, and after descending past the Chieftan Motel, look for Pinneo Hill Road on the right.
A more fun but also more time consuming route runs through the back loop at Oak Hill. From there, take the trail and continue on the main trail until it makes a windy descent that brings you onto Pinneo Hill Road — take a right.
Head up (and up) Pinneo Hill until it runs into Dogford Road, which is newly paved. Take a left and continue a ways until you see a small Class VI road sign on your left. Head into the small clearing just off the road and bear left again along the old road which runs parallel to a stream. You need to cross the stream (probably on foot) a few times. The combinations of rocks and downed trees make for interesting, almost rhythmic technical riding. Enjoy.
You eventually come into someone’s back yard, but don’t be nervous, you’re exiting a public way. Go out onto the dirt road and descend back towards the base of Pinneo Hill Road. Either head back up the trail towards Oak Hill or continue down to Route 10 and then back to Hanover.