Douglas State Forest
In june of 1994, this state forest in southern Worcester County was the location for NEMBA's National Trails Day event. Douglas State Forest was chosen because of its centralized location where Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island come together, (a"Tri-State"marker is located in the southwestern corner of the forest).
Douglas is less than an hour's drive from Boston, Springfield, Hartford and Providence. Douglas State Forest also offered us the opportunity to plan routes for several good rides on its 30 plus miles of trails and dirt toads. With the exception of a few trails in its southeastern corner, which are limited to hiking only, all of its trails are open to mountain bikes as well as to other non-motorized trail users. While many of the forest's trails were created by and for motorcyclists, they have lost permission to use the forests trails effective with the fall of 1996. Even so, many uninformed motorcyclists and ATV'rs are still out on the trails. While this latter prospect might give pause to some mountain bikers, the motorcycles are the creators of many of the singletrack trails we can enjoy riding on our bikes.
The forest is on a plateau with no major hills and a total elevation variation of around 300 feet. Many of the singletrack trails are very rocky, and they interlace amongst a number of two track woods roads and a network of loose surface gravel forest roads. It's possible to switch back and forth from tough technical going to easier doubletrack riding handily once you have figured out how it all holds together, This provides for a wide variety of riding experiences from beginner to advanced expert, simply by picking the trails to suit.
The trail map from the Departmen of Conservation and Recreation is usually available at forest headquarters on Wallum Lake south of route 16, which bisects the forest from west to west, (follow signs from route 16 if you choose to go there). It shows all the known trails, including some adjacent to the forest in neighboring Douglas Woods.
One suggested starting point is on Wallis St. just off route 16 near Whitin Reservoir. This is a dirt parking area opening directly onto a doubletrack into the forest. We don't suggest starting near forest headquarters as trails leading from there include those limited to hikers only. We normally park on Route 16 which is more centrally located. At a location near a metal gate where several of the forest dirt roads and trails cross that highway and run from there either north or south. This allows more flexibility in planning a route. (Don't block the gate if you choose to park there.)
Route 16 is easily accessed from the Webster interchange on Rt. I-395 just north of the Connecticut state line. The western boundary of the forest is about 3.5 miles east on Rt. 16 and in another 1.5 miles is the Cedar St. crossroads where a right turn leads to the forest headquarters (a sign is posted here) and a left turn leads to the Wallis St. parking area. There is a great swimming area near forest headquarters. Just follow the signs.
As a result of NEMBA's hosting National Trails Day events at Douglas State Forest, we undertook trail maintenance responsibilities for a section of about five miles of the Mid-State Trail where it runs through the forest from Rt. 16 to its northern boundary. The previous volunteer from a hiking group found advancing years were handicapping his effectiveness and NEMBA has volunteered to step in for this individual. We cleared this entire section as we have used much of it on the National Trails Day routes. It makes for very technical riding. We've been back each spring since to continue the job.
In a further effort towards trail maintainence, NEMBA's Symms Grant award for trail maintenance projects was, in part, spent in the forest, building bridges on this section of the Mid-State Trail. So even as this location becomes more significant to us as riders, this investment will add to our long term enjoyment of the forest's trails.
NEMBA's National Trails Day ride returned to Douglas State Forest in both 1995 and 1996. In the three years well over 600 NEMBA members and non-members enjoyed Douglas's extensive trail network and we have been enjoying them ever since. Why not join them.
By Bob Hicks