Tucked away in Massachusetts, the Franklin State Forest offers a 7-mile loop that promises an intriguing, albeit conflicting experience for mountain bikers. Classified as intermediate level, the trail comprises a range of conditions that can either delight or infuriate riders, depending on their expectations and the kind of bikes they bring along.
To access the trailhead, take the 495 to King Street/Bellingham exit. King Street morphs into Washington Street as you enter Franklin, leading to a right turn onto Grove Street. A small sign on the left marks the area, and parking is available on the right side of the street.
The Franklin loop features:
At its best, the loop offers windy, twisty paths perfect for an exhilarating ride. Speed demons will find the berms delightful, and those who prefer slightly technical features can navigate through rocks and roots. However, there are areas where dirt bikes and ATVs have wreaked havoc, resulting in deeply eroded patches. Some sections have turned into quagmires, especially after rain, becoming impassable puddles of 1-2 feet deep water.
Motorbike trails weave in and around the loop, which adds an element of unpredictability to the ride. The trails are not well-marked, and cyclists often find themselves at dead-ends or private property. Keep an eye out for dirt bikes when riding at high speeds on berms.
Efforts to clear big trees from the trail have been observed, but many 'derailleur thieves'—smaller obstacles that can snag and damage a bike's derailleur—remain. There's no official parking at the water tower as some maps might suggest; however, parking at the nearby YMCA is a viable option.
Franklin State Forest's trails present a patchwork quilt of experiences. While not the best-maintained or most cohesive network, it offers enough variation to appeal to riders looking for an intermediate challenge. Just set your expectations accordingly, and prepare for a ride that will keep you on your toes—or perhaps, more fittingly, on your treads.