Abby Evankow describes a recent loop using the Presidential Rail Trail from Gorham 15 miles, about 3 hours.
One of the appeals of this loop is that you can get on at several different points–from your motel in downtown Gorham, from your campsite at Dolly Copp Campground or Moose Brook State Park, or from the Rail Trail parking lot on Rte 2, just west of Gorham.
We got a late start on our mid-September ride because of a flat tire. Fortunately, Crooker Cycle Sports (240 Glen Ave., Berlin, 603-752-3632) graciously replaced the defective tube so we weren’t held up for long. We parked at the Rail Trail Parking lot and headed west, toward Randolph, on the Presidential Rail Trail. It’s a beautiful bike path with a gentle uphill grade along the Moose River with increasing views of the Presidential Range. Even cycling at mid-day, much of the trail is nicely shaded by the thick forest on each side. After about 2 miles, you’ll cross a bridge and find hidden, just off the trail to the north (right), a big gutted concrete structure. This is what remains of the Mount Madison Spring Company that bottled the spring water at the turn of the century and made various drinks, including Dolly Copp Ginger Ale. (When you’re back in town, visit the Gorham Historical Society, 25 Railroad St.-466-5338.) When you reach the open beaver pond and marsh, you’ll know you’re getting close to the junction with Dolly Copp Rd (also known as Pinkham B Rd). A giant blue heron took flight, not 10 feet from us. This is a great spot for birdwatching.
We left the PRT, turning east (left) on the Dolly Copp, a seasonal road that passes through the White Mountain National Forest and connects Rte 2 and Rte 16. We definitely appreciated the thick shade as the terrain got steeper–no railway grade here, but the 2-mile climb to the height of land is nicely modulated. A few cars passed us, but we mostly had the alternately rough asphalt/packed-dirt road to ourselves. Just over one mile up, on the right, is the Town Line Brook Trail, an easy 0.2 mile walk to scenic Triple Falls. It’s a steep, narrow gorge with plenty of lush moss, quite scenic despite the low flow. We appreciated the break and got back on our bikes to finish our climb. At the height of land, you’ll see the trail head and parking lot for the Pine Link Trail up Mt. Madison. Coasting down was lovely, but once we realized there were potholes of various sizes, camouflaged by the shadows, we slowed our descent.
About a mile down on our left, we passed the gated entrance to a snowmobile route–the Bear Springs Trail, a more rugged path with ups and downs, some uneven terrain as well as a few muddy patches. Being novice mountain bikers, we stayed on Dolly Copp Rd to Rte 16, roughly another mile. Here, we turned north (left) and cruised easily on a wide, smooth shoulder downhill all the way back to Gorham. While we missed the peace and quiet of the woods, we got to admire a handsome BIG moose, eating brush along the roadside. Once in town, we stopped at the White Mountain Cafe (212 Main St. Gorham 603-466-2511), one of our favorite places for a caffeinated beverage, lunch and cookie. To finish our ride, we turned left onto Bellevue Place at the sign for the Gorham airport, and flowed this quiet, dead-end street to a big locked gate that conveniently has a well-worn path for bikes and walkers to get around. The packed dirt road took us back to where we had started, at the PRT parking lot on Rte 2.
Including the stops at Mineral Springs bottling plant, short hike to Triple Falls, and wild-life photography, we made the approximately 15 mile trip in less than 3 hours.