Kenneth Dubuque State Forest
The Kenneth Dubuque Memorial State Forest, (formerly called the Hawley State Forest), is located 25 miles west of the Connecticut river among the northwestern slopes of Massachusetts' Berkshires. At 7,822 acres it is the state's seventh largest state forest. Many of the forest's roads, though unpaved, are maintained for vehicular traffic. There are plenty of hills, a few long singletracks and lots of doubletracks. Dubuque doesn't have a campground and its two small lakes are used mostly for fishing. Although, I have enjoyed swimming in Hallockville Pond. Dubuque is a mountain biker's paradise nicely juxtaposing moderately hard rolling woods roads and technically difficult singletrack trails.
The best place to start riding is forest headquarters. From there head uphill on Klingholt Road and try not to get lost on the hilly paths that keep branching off this old woods road. Clean your glasses because the scenery besides this particular road will forever after define the term "deep woods" in you're mind. After passing through a metal forest gate, check out the abandoned apple orchard right in front of you. In season there are great tasting apples here for snacking. Also, as you'll observe, this area is a very popular deer yard. I suggest bearing left up through the field and then going right onto a usually muddy old jeep road. There are any number of good riding options off that road, including a few singletracks that you won't want to miss.
If you plan things right, or get very lucky, you'll cross Route 8A, on a very steep downhill. This will be at Dubuque's snowmobile parking lot about 1 1/2 miles north of your start. (Or you may come out on Route 8A 1/2 mile north of there in West Hawley Center.)
Watch out for the bridge at the far end of the parking lot. It's usable, but the last time I was there it was missing a few planks. And get ready for a long hill. Now you're in the eastern part of the forest where you'll find the majority of the riding. A simple non-repetitive tour around Dubuque's most obvious woods roads will net you a 20-25 mile ride. But that's only for starters.
I feel that many of the best trails are in the eastern part of the forest north and south of Hallockville road. And because they see little use in the summer, save for mountain bikes, they are quite secluded and private. In particular you want to head North (downhill) on three trails, Gould Meadow Trail, the steep frightening Marsh Trail singletrack and The Moody Springs Trail, which some feel is the best example of a downhill in the Berkshires.
Dubuque has frequent, repetitive, elevation changes of between 200 - 400 feet. These provide an unexpected benefit, interval training compliments of Mother Nature.
Dubuque is a good example of the Second Law of Singletrack Placement which roughly correlates the frequency of singletracks, and their use, or lack of same, with nearby population pressure. Not only does Dubuque lack a nearby population center but it's located just west of the 10,500 acre Savoy State Forest and just south of the 6,547 acre Mohawk Trail State Forest. You would need a motorized vehicle, a mountain bike, hiking boots and a week's time to adequately explore all three of these areas. A fringe benefit of this isolation is solitude. You will rarely meet any other trail users in Dubuque. Therefore smart riders should be totally self reliant, or part of a group.
As Dubuque is surrounded by mostly unpaved woodlands, a town road map, or a geological survey map is essential for keeping yourself unlost. The DEM's latest Dubuque Forest map shows few of the surrounding roadways, but fails to show many of the forest's paths and trails. And some of the trails on the map, don't exist on the ground any more. This is very confusing, especially when you arrive at a 4-way intersection that's not even on the map. Also many of Dubuque's roads and trails extend quite a ways beyond the forests boundaries. So it's easy to ride out of the forest and off the map. I went on one such ride recently, starting at Hallockville Pond, we rode to the forest fire lookout tower in nearby Savoy State Forest and back. About a 21 mile round trip.
In the fall of 1996 NEMBA hosted the Northeast Mountain Bike Advocacy Summit at Dubuque. Spending a four day weekend riding in the forest has greatly improved my impression of the place. As well as familiarizing me with a whole bunch of previously unknown trails. In recent years Pioneer Valley NEMBA members, working with The Staff of the forest, have created some excellent new singletracks. Most of these are located to the north of Hallockville Road in the central part of the forest. Unfortunately the trails are not yet on the map.
You'll enjoy exploring Dubuque.There are plenty of opportunities for easy, as well as, challenging rides. Just don't forget to bring a map.
The Kenneth Dubuque State Forest is located mostly in the town of Hawley, Massachusetts. From Route 2 go about 5 miles south on Route 8a until you reach forest headquarters. Alternatively, forest headquarters is about 1/2 mile north of the junctions or Routes 116 and 8A on 8A.
There will be a lot of hunters in the forest during hunting season. Wear orange. However, there is no hunting in Massachusetts on Sunday. Don't expect the trails in this forest to dry out until late may at the earliest. Snow can fall, and stay any time after Halloween.
By Bill Boles