Friday, May 17, 2013

Trails of Vietnam and College Rock

   In the circle of Massachusetts mountain bikers, Vietnam is a rock star.  The trail system here has been home to riders and hikers for a long time.  The real prize for riders came in 2003, when the New England Mountain Bike Association purchased 47 acres of the land, becoming the first MTB group in history to purchase and own property.
   The section owned by NEMBA is just a part of a much larger system of trails.  The piece of land that NEMBA maintains is the most bike specific and challenging part, however.  There are rocks. Lots of Rocks.  There are jumps.  There are things that aren't really jumps, but will do just fine to create distance between you and terra firma.  There is a glorious dirt half pipe, seen below, with some nice jumps leading into it.  If you want difficult riding, you can have it.

   You will also be able to find plenty of challenging down hill.  Some of them are do able by experienced riders.  In this section, beginners and less experienced riders will find themselves walking parts of the trail.  Not for long, just over the really intimidating stuff.  I personally don't like falling down rocks.  My knees are mostly aftermarket parts these days and I'd like to keep OEM parts where possible.

   This one is more my speed.

   NEMBA has done wonderful work here and it is much appreciated.  Here is their web site if interested in joining: NEMBA.  As mentioned before, the trail system known as Vietnam is much larger.  The NEMBA property is 47 acres of about 1000 acres of ride-able trail and even other attractions.  There are several maps available HERE and HERE.  It is entirely possible to get lost.  It is likely, if you do not take a look at the map first.  I recommend carrying one with you.
   To the north, and connected via some fast and fun single track, is College Rock.  CR is home to a locally famous climbing wall.  I'm not much of a climber, so will offer no technical knowledge, but can see that it is often busy with people stubbornly defying gravity. There is parking very close by and this is actually my preferred parking spot for accessing Vietnam and the Upper Charles.  The lot is on College Rd. in Hopkinton and big enough for 5 or 6 cars.  The climbing wall below.

   The South end of Vietnam is the power line trail.  This is along the same line in an earlier post: Upton Cairn Stones, although further south.  There is a lot of track along here and some great terrain.  More rocks and jumps, but also some wide open trail and the hill known as the widow maker.  Hills get a name like widow maker for a reason, this reason happens to be really steep and full of loose rocks and sand.  On top of the hill is a great view and several offshoot trails.  One thing that is required in 'nam is judgement.  Know what you can and can not do.  Also be able to judge some of the man made stuff.  This one looks legit, right?

  The south side of the power line trail overlooks 495.  Most it is fenced off, as it looks directly down on the highway.  It is accessible in parts, but going to the edge is ill advised.  Even where the fence has been flattened, please stay away from the highway.  The 5-0 get sensitive about people being up there.
   Down at the bottom of the widow maker and across the street is the Upper Charles Trail.  The Upper Charles is part of a planned 20 mile bike path that is going to run through 5 different towns.  The Milford section happens to be complete.  The UC trail is paved and heavily traveled by hikers, bikers, strollers, skaters, and children.  There is plenty of easy riding for a warm up or cool down or for a leisurely ride with family.  There is a large parking lot at the north end of the Upper Charles that provides a lot of spaces an access to Vietnam as well as the paved bike path that runs up the West side of the woods.  The lot is on Cedar St. at 42* 11.328 / 071* 30.299.  Parking for access to all of the trails has traditionally been behind the "Wendy's."  This practice is still done, but using the Upper Charles lot is encouraged.
   Jumping over to the East side of the woods, there is some great single track and scenes.  The trail over on this side is not too difficult and can be ridden at a good speed.  This side is one of the reasons I tend to park at College Rock.  The ride south into 'nam is wonderful, making the ride back to the car a good "last run."  There is some private property over here.  However, the owners allow use of the trails under the conditions of respecting the property and not tearing up the trail.  They are multi-use and home to some beautiful horses.  The farm land that the trail passes through is also private, with the same terms applied.  Please be respectful so the trail stays open.  

   There is riding available for all skill levels here.  If you want some easier single track, stay to the East side.  If you want to put yourself in harms way and launch off of stuff, give the NEMBA land a try or bomb down the power lines.  If you want to bring the kids out, they will love the Upper Charles trail.  Or hike through it.  The terrain features are quite attractive and make for some enjoyable hiking.  Check the Geocaches below, they are found throughout the entire area.

Near by Geocaches: GC386T5, GC2486Q, GC25BXR, GC27KKD,


  1. Is it safe for hikers to hike in this area? I'm also wondering if Mountain bikers tend to think that Vietnam is theirs and will treat hikers with disrespect if they see people using the area to hike? Is hiking allowed here and how well do the two groups hikers/bikers interact here? It is a problem in the Middlesex fells, so I am curious.

  2. Also are there trail maps anywhere of this area? and is it marked at all? Could someone mark the trails in the future to make it easier..--with blazes etc?

  3. Sorry, Yagura, I have been away. There are maps out there:

    Hiking is not an issue here. You may see horses on some trails as well. I have been hiking and running through this area for a long time. The NEMBA managed area is well marked. Some of the other trails are not so well marked.