The Preserve is a collection of State Forest, municipal and land trust properties which permit mountain biking. This makes finding maps and routes challenging.
This route is my favorite clockwise ride hitting some of the best trails in the area. I highly recommend following the route using a smartphone mounted to your handlebars because the area is riddled with crossing trails. Although the trails are easy enough for intermediate riders, the trails are most fun for expert riders at near race speed.
There's lots of climbing with the rewards of intensely fast downhills. Expect to achieve average speeds 1-2mph faster than most other locations. Even though a large portion of these trails (40%) are doubletrack, they're way more fun than you're thinking.
Need to Know
The official public parking lot, large enough for about 40 cars, for The Preserve State Forest is off Rt 153 in Westbrook marking the start of the route. I highly recommend following the route using a handlebar mounted smartphone because the route is riddled with crossing paths.
From the parking lot, follow the wide doubletrack up hill snaking through several intersections to the top of the exhausting climb. The doubletrack turns into a super fast and insanely fun technical downhill section that ends in a rutted-out rocky mess at the bottom. Turn left at the T following the doubletrack right at the Y, then bear left over the sketchy wood planks.
Follow the doubletrack out to the T and turn left uphill. Keep an eye out for a narrow singletrack to the right at about 3/4 the way up the hill. Enter the singletrack. There's an opportunity to almost right away to take a right branch to a big easy roller. Follow the singletrack across several trail junctions to the bottom of the hill exiting onto the Essex parking lot.
Follow the paved Ingham Hill Rd for about 1/8 mile and take the narrow doubletrack to the right across from the alpaca farm. Follow up hill taking the second left and continue up. From here, follow the route closely as there are many turns and trail junctions.
Most of the route is singletrack with some doubletrack connecting. The downhills are crazy fun, especially the doubletrack ones as you can hit speeds well over 30mph. The Eyelid Peeler is especially fun as it bombs down a super fast doubletrack and at the bottom it Gs out up a short/steep natural hill then takes a quick right down a dirt roller into singletrack.
At just over the half way point and after climbing a stupid aggravating hill, you'll exit at a very small parking lot. Follow the paved road downhill and turn left at the T onto Merrett Ln. At the stop sign, turn right onto Mill Rock Rd and at the next stop sign turn right onto Ingham Hill Rd. Follow the paved road for a short distance and turn left onto a difficult to see trail into the brush. Follow this uphill.
Again, there are a myriad of trail crossings and junctions requiring close attention to the map. You'll eventually cross a series of boardwalks across a green swamp. You'll ride over a short intense rock garden. You'll also eventually enter the mildly technical singletrack area called Splitrock which has a variety of roller options. At the top of the final hill, you'll enter Narnia, a short technical descent with the option to ride two rock rollers of increasing difficulty. The final segment is a series of super-fast downhill doubletrack sections back to the parking lot.
History & Background
Most of the Preserve was privately owned and slated for development. Local support and advocacy led to the State purchase of the land preserving a unique and well-used forest area near the coast. Land trusts purchased the remaining sections.
Shared By: Bryan McFarland