Stow Town Forest
The Gardner Hill Town Forest Conservation Area or Stow Town Forest and surrounding conservation lands offer well over 300 acres of densely wooded forest. Purchased in 1968 it was the first conservation land bought by the town. Not far from the parking area you'll see the ruins of historic Conan's Sawmill. It was built in the 1600's and was in continuous operation until about 1830.
The forest has miles of old woods roads, most of which are quite smooth, a couple of sandpits one of which contains an old motorcycle practice track and many miles of singletrack trails. The singletracks are, for the most part, rock free, as the soil near the Assabet River is largely made up of sand and gravel. Few rocks peak through the earth, but there are more than enough roots to make up for their lack. Save for long rocky sections Stow's singletracks include everthing, including the kitchen sink.
Riding the singletracks at Stow is a lot of fun. They wind around the woods mostly on fairly flat terrain. Near the Asabet River they follow low ridgelines and scoot up down and around sandy drumlins while giving you beautiful views of the secluded Asabet and the waterfowl that inhabits it.
Gardner Hill is an exception to this. The 340-foot hill has four singletrack trails leading to the top. Two of the climbs are rideable for a strong rider. The other two will have to be walked. At least in part. And one of them, a fall line trail, is so steep and rocky that it should only be attempted as a downhill by a very skilled rider.
The dirt roads are quite different. Mostly flat they follow old forest paths and a buried AT&T line. They loop around the forest with few hills and are very well suited to family riding.
The Stow Town Forest is usually quite quiet. It's very secluded and on a weekday morning or afternoon you may not encounter anyone else out on the trails. So bring a cellphone and a copy of the map that's on this page. The map is incomplete. There are a lot more trails than what's shown. But at least it will get you in and out of the woods without getting lost.
Got a few hours to spend outside on your bike? The Stow Town Forest would certainly be a good place to explore. And if you do, I'll bet that you'll return.
The Stow Town forest is located in the town of Stow right near the town's shopping plaza. From Route 2 in Concord take route 62 west for 6.5 miles. You'll pass through the towns of West Concord and Maynard before you get to Stow. (Look for Erickson's Ice Cream Stand on the Maynard/Stow line and remember it for after your ride.) Right after the Stow Shopping Center you'll see Bradley Lane on your left. Follow it to the end. Park in the large dirt parking lot.
You'll encounter lots of people with dogs on these trails. You may see some motorcycles, although motorized vehicles are not allowed in the Stow Town Forest.
By Bill Boles