Sample Rides

Beginner:

Ride 1 (3 miles), Minimal Hills from Renee’s: 

Start at the Renee’s Way parking area/trailhead.  Ride in on Bee-line which is just behind the trail kiosk.  Follow the black arrows about 1 mile, past Erratica to Bambi, which is another 1.0 miles of riding in a counter clockwise loop.  Add in segments of the summit loop (blue) as desired from M2.  Altogether, Ride 1 is 3 miles round trip around Bambi, with plenty or room for add-ons.

Ride 2 (2.5 hilly miles), East Loop from 79 lot:

Starting at the 79 lot, Renee’s Way, you will begin with a climb of roughly 300′ vertical over .75 miles.  If you are not into climbing, choose ride 1.  Ride around the red loop which is 2.5 miles in its entirety and brings you back to the Bike Park/79 lot.  Plenty more options are available for add-ons along the Summit area trails (blue).

Intermediate

Ride 3, Stacked Loops from 79 lot (8 miles plus plenty of options): 

Starting at the 79 lot, Renee’s Way, you will begin with a climb of roughly 300′ vertical over .75 miles.   Follow arrows but watch for the green sign and split blue/red arrows at .75 miles that points left for Summit Area Trails and right for East Loop.

Continue climbing by turning left onto the blue arrowed trails.  You will reach a kiosk after a short bridge marked M2.  Look right from the kiosk and find the blue arrows heading into “Mary’s Ghost Trail.”  This trail is named after the Legend of Mary’s Ghost and starts with a sidewinderish flow with some smooth jump/roller options spread out over 1 mile of short climbs and descents.  At the exit of Mary’s Ghost, look up  to see the beginning of Thunderdome.  Start here, by crossing the green access road (Summit Loop), and wind through an uphill section.  Climbing is mostly behind you.  Cross the Summit Loop again to continue on Thunderdome and look for the first few dips, jumps, and logrides that are typical Summit Area fun.  You’ll hit a big pit after a rock roll, cross Summit Loop one more time, and arrive at map M3.

M3 marks the A) Dirt Church B) Thunderdome option…Each similar in difficulty and each worthy of a visit, if not in the same day, another trip altogether.  A) Dirt Church has more flow and is slightly faster.  B) Thunderdome has lots of skinnies and jump features. Thunderdome heads into Beyond Thunderdome and gets a little more challenging, but nothing you can’t ride around trouble.  You can take either option, A or B to end up eventually at Darkside, after about 3 miles of very fun riding.

Darkside winds uphill through the Northern face of Mt. Rockland (not really a mtn) and spits riders out at a fire road marked yellow (Dead Hill Road).  Continue on to Bambi, marked blue, yellow and black at marker M5.  Bambi winds around options to add in Mag 5(advanced) or Erratica via Bee Line at M8 (5 miles of beginner+).  Continue on Bambi to M11 at Dead Hill Road again.

From M11, jump on Rishy, still blue arrows, winding through jumps and other fun until you reach a crossing of the orange marked hiking trail (Rockland Trail).  Cross orange to stay on blue arrows and split right at M12 onto red.  This puts you on track to get back to that green sign at the blue/red split…This time split right on red and take the East loop along its route over a few small bridges and some big turns, up to Moebius rip and down the winding hillside trail back to the 79 lot.

Ride 4, Erratica Loop from Renee’s Lot (5.5 miles)

Start at the Renee’s Way parking area/trailhead.  Ride in on Bee-line which is just behind the trail kiosk.  Follow the black arrows about 1 mile, to the Erratica trail at M9.  Hop on the Erratica trail and wind though almost 4 miles in a space about of 80 acres.  Erratica is marked beginner because there is no challenge that is impossible to ride around or see coming and the hills are not exceptional.  It is however, a long trail with few bail points and there are plenty of expert sections.  Erratica is a favorite for riders of all abilities.

When you reach the giant boulder (you’ll know it when you see it), which is a glacial erratic and the namesake of the trail, you’re about half way through the course.  It seems to be all uphill for a while with lots of mini rock gardens, skinnies and a teeter.  Eventually you come to a short split which offers an A) expert option toward the Brown Mounds and a few jumps of increasing height toward the right and B) a beginner option that goes around the mounds and the jumps.  Both meet up in about .25 miles from the split, so your call on option.  IF you choose A, please respect the work that was put into building the mounds.  DON’T ride them wet and don’t stop halfway through.

A and B options meet up around M10 at some small hip jumps and a skinny.  Continue on the dual use trail marked with yellow paint and the black arrows.  There may be hikers on this trail.  They always have right of way.  At the T, follow the signs and black arrows left up a short segment of loose, rocky fire road.  Soon you will reach M11, a perfect spot to add in segments of the blue marked Summit Loop.

To continue on this black loop, ride about 100 yards and look left for your next turn onto Bambi.  Jump on Bambi counterclockwise and at about .5 miles.  You’ll come to M8 which offers another add on option along Mag 5 (yellow expert trail), continuation on Bambi, marked blue, or return service on Bee Line (black)  Take the return trail to head back to the Renee’s Lot.

Advanced/Expert Routes

Ride 5, Rockland Spine Ride from Dead Hill (9 miles)

Starting at Dead Hill Road entry, ride due south from the parking area to the closed gate on the access road.  There is a left turn to a driveway…stay right/straight.  Go around the gate on the small goat trail.  You’ve just entered Rockland at M7 on Dead Hill Road.  Dig in and pedal, you’ve got to earn your turns here by hustling up some rocky fire road, marked with both yellow paint and yellow arrows.

In about .5 miles, you  reach Bambi, the rotary loop that connects some great trail options.  Take Bambi, marked yellow, blue and black with arrows.

First, loop Erratica by hopping off Bambi at M8 on to the Bee Line trail marked black arrows.  Follow this to cross one fire road (marked yellow) to reach M9.  M9 is the start of Erratica.  Hop on the Erratica trail and wind though almost 4 miles in a space about of 80 acres.  Erratica is marked beginner because there is no challenge that is impossible to ride around or see coming and the hills are not exceptional.  It is however, a long trail with few bail points and there are plenty of expert sections.  Erratica is a favorite for riders of all abilities.

When you reach the giant boulder (you’ll know it when you see it), which is a glacial erratic and the namesake of the trail, you’re about half way through the course.  It seems to be all uphill for a while with lots of mini rock gardens, skinnies and a teeter.  Eventually you come to a short split which offers an A) expert option toward the Brown Mounds and a few jumps of increasing height toward the right and B) a beginner option that goes around the mounds and the jumps.  Both meet up in about .25 miles from the split, so your call on option.

A and B options meet up around M10 at some small hip jumps and a skinny.  Continue on the dual use trail marked with yellow paint and the black arrows.  There may be hikers on this trail.  They always have right of way.  At the T, follow the signs and black arrows left up a short segment of loose, rocky fire road.  Soon you will reach M11, a perfect spot to add in segments of the blue marked Summit Loop.

To continue on this Spine Ride, ride about 100 yards past M11 and look left for your next turn onto Bambi (you’ve been here before)  Jump on Bambi counterclockwise and at about .5 miles, you’ll come to M8. Here, turn onto Mag 5 marked with yellow arrows.

Mag 5 drew its name for the five magnificent sections which compose it.  Each segment starts and ends at some trail crossing.  Stay on the yellow arrows and you’ll have no trouble getting to the end of it.  Section 1 is the longest and starts with some rock challenges and drops that are harder to see the landing.  The uninjured cyclist knows to look before they leap and scout the exit before trying any of these challenges blind.  Section 1 ends at M6.

Section 2 starts steep and points you uphill quick at to the “Island in the Sky,” with lots of sharp rocks, roots, and rollers.  This is great New England riding with lots of unforgiving gnarly challenge.  The armored downhill points you over a rock bridge back to the fire road which is the end of section 2.

Section 3 begins parallel to the yellow fireroad and quickly heads back into the woods with a quick uphill.  Stay in the easy gear and dig in to stay rubber down in this section.  This riding will give you a good beating and a big smile.  You will cross an old hiking trail to get into Section 4, which feels a lot like section 3, but may be harder, if not just further in and more exhausting.  Exit section 4 again back to the yellow fire road either down the large roller or the ride around.

Cross the yellow fire road to reach section 5, the final section of Mag 5 and maybe the most challenging.  Keep your eyes open for challenging options along this rocky route.  You’ll hit one last roller before arriving back at the yellow fire road at M7.  You parked just North of this kiosk, so head right (as you exit Mag 5) to get back through the gate.

Ride 6, Northern Exposure from Dead Hill (4.5 miles)

This property is owned and managed by the Town of Durham, so the rules are a little different than Rockland proper, such as there IS small game hunting.  Be mindful of the differences and enjoy, the trails were built by the same crew that built Rockland.

Starting at the Dead Hill Lot, you’ll see a small bridge with a trail and kiosk on the Preserve side of the cul de sac.  Head in here.  Everything is marked with purple paint.

The first 9/10 of Pisgah seems to be uphill, even when you’re pointed down.  Its hard to explain.  Everything has some level of challenge in here.  Rock exposures abound and both climbs and descents are quick and steep.  You’ll track through dense forest with lots of Mountain Laurel.  The blueberries and huckleberries are everywhere in June-July and worth it.

About 2 miles in you will think you have reached the summit, both because you can’t imagine more climbing could be necessary and because the rock exposure looks like the satisfying looking at the end of a worthwhile hike.  Take a break, take a breath, and get over it-more climbing will follow.  Stay on purple and climb through the laurel.  You’ll cross the New England Trail (blue) 4 times in total.  Ignore it.  There is a cool log ride staircase followed by a 20 foot roller to hip jump.  There are a couple fun jumps here and skinnies to keep you focused.

You will exit the singletrack down a quick roller onto the fire road.  Look up for the last segment which is on your left, just beyond a nearly permanent puddle.  This last section is the most jarring, named “Exit Exam” or “Beaver Oil” depending on who you ask.  The next time you see the fire road, you’ve completed the loop.  Head out through the gate and back to the lot.

IF 4.5 miles of this is not enough, rest assured, there are plenty more just to your South in Rockland Preserve.  See the Rockland Spine Ride for more details.

Ride 7, Rockland XC Challenge (15 miles)

The Rockland Challenge XC loop is to visit locations M1-M12 in order.  This loop is approximately 15 miles of singletrack, starting from the Route 79 lot.  Finishers get to write their name on the wall of fame.

Ride 8, Rockland Sufferfest Bonus Challenge  (20 miles)

Same as XC Challenge, but duck out at M7 to hit Northern Exposure and then resume the XC loop to M8 and back to complete through M12 and finish at 79 lot.  Finishers get to write names on Bonus Wall of Fame and may get a free drink at Krausers if you are showing visible blood from a fresh gash and show signs of faintness upon reaching the checkout counter.

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Parking and Trailhead Access

There are three great places to access Rockland and Pisgah trails.  Click the links for exact addresses and directions.  See sample rides to determine which is best for you.

Loop Descriptions

Loop Descriptions

East Loop (red arrows)

Each loop has characteristics suitable for different styles of trail users.  The East Loop (red arrows) starts from the 79 lot with a mostly gradual climb of nearly 300′ in the first mile of trail.  Riders will encounter an intersection with the Summit Loop (blue arrows) where they may continue climbing to access the other loops or they can continue around the flowy, contoured continuation of the East Loop.  Alone, the East Loop is 3 miles and after the initial climb it is has a lot of downhill riding with sweeping turns and contour hugging trails.

Summit Loop  (blue arrows)

The Summit Loop (blue arrows) gathers trail users at the M2 location and sends them through 5.5 miles of flowing, feature packed trail.  Mary’s Ghost leads users through a sidewinding sled ride and along the craggy East face of Rockland Preserve.  It points users to the Thunderdome trail where users can opt to continue along Thunderdome for lots of features on winding flat trails or along Dirt Church for more features along contour hugging trails mostly downhill.  Each option directs users back to the Darkside to close the Summit loop with a thrilling climbing path up to Bambi.  At Bambi, users will see the M3 sign and options to connect with other loops or continue around and back downhill to the East Loop and the 79 lot.

Erratica Loop (black arrows)

The Erratica Loop (black arrows) links at the Bambi rotary at M8.  There is a short connector segment to M9 where users can continue along Bee Line to the Renee’s Way lot or follow the Erratica trail.  The Erratica Trail is marked beginner based on the challenge level found by riding around obstacles.  However, there are many options along this trail to raise the challenge level to almost an advanced level.  Additionally, this trail is at least 3 miles, so true beginners may not prefer this option.  The trail starts downhill through carved turns and then climbs back through the center of the space past a giant glacial erratic that gave the trail its name.  It continues to wind uphill with plenty of breaks for obstacles and features.  A favorite feature appears near the end of the Erratica trail where it splits left for the beginner option or right to the brown mounds pump line (expert only).  All options converge at M10 and then direct users back along the yellow trail to M11  with options back to the lots or the Bambi rotary.

Mag-5 Loop (yellow arrows)

Alternately, from Bambi, users can connect with the Mag-5 loop (yellow arrows).  Mag-5 represents the 5 magnificent trail segments that make the loop.  From the juncture with Bambi at M8, users wind down and around a bony, jarring and exciting 2+ miles of the most challenging terrain within Rockland Preserve.  Mag-5 has plenty of stunt options along with steep climbs and descents along rock-lined ridges.  Mag-5 parallels the Rockland Trail fire road which allows option for return to the Bambi intersection or out to the Dead Hill Road entrance.

Northern Exposure (purple markings, Pisgah Area in Durham)

Users with boundless energy seeking even more thrills can continue past the North Gate along Dead Hill Road to the Pisgah property in Durham, where they can test their skills along the Northern Exposure loop (purple markers).  The Northern exposure trail is at least as challenging as the Mag-5 loop at Rockland with the most climbing and rocky outcrops anywhere in the region.

Visiting Rockland Preserve

Here’s what you need to know if you visit Rockland or Pisgah.

First thing you should know is that Rockland Preserve is not a commercial enterprise.  Rockland is a property owned and managed by the Town of Madison, CT, and the adjacent Northern Exposure trail on Pisgah Preserve is likewise municipally owned and managed by Durham.  It is the result of years of cooperation between the mountain bike community, including CCT NEMBA, the dedicated individuals that have built and maintain trails, the riders that frequent Rockland Preserve and respect “the code”, and management.  Rockland trail projects are completely funded by donations from gracious members of the community.  We insist on ethical rider behavior, such as wearing helmets, no night riding, riding only dry trails, and absolutely no motorized vehicles or e-bikes.

Navigating Rockland and Pisgah is different than many of the old school locations in CT.  Trails are built in stacked loops to help riders navigate trails.  Maps with location features are strategically placed around the common meeting points.  Trails are marked with colored arrows to guide through the loops, and differentiate between riding and hiking trails.  New riders should be confident that navigating Rockland is not daunting.