6-14-19 Basch-Bear Notch Road

The views are worth a stop on Bear Notch Road. (MARTY BASCH PHOTO)

Table Mountain is a small overlooked peak in Bartlett with a trailhead off Bear Notch Road. A series of south-facing ledges provide smile-inducing outlooks to a multitude of mountains, including the Sandwich Range.

Recently, during a hike with my wife, Jan, we gazed out and watched as flashes of color caught our attention — vehicles traveling on the Kancamagus Highway.

That perch was something of a crossroads for a couple of classic valley roadways that when put together make for a memorable spin using the Kanc and Bear Notch Road.

Pairing the two for about a 35-to-40-mile intermediate loop ride from North Conway village into a section of the White Mountain National Forest is easy as they feed off each other. Choosing which direction of doing a loop can be a coin toss for many cyclists. Wind speed and direction can also be influencers. For this one, the coin landed on clockwise.

The winding and undulated roads, particularly the Kanc, contain several points of interest. Roll over the Albany Covered Bridge and by natural wonders like Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge.

Bear Notch Road wiggles between the Kanc and Route 302 in Bartlett village. The road is home to the Bartlett Experimental Forest, a working outdoor lab with a maze of dirt roads. Much of the road has a decent smooth surface and a welcome canopy of shade-providing trees for much of the way except for the pull-outs that display rippling mountains.

Closed in winter, many hardcore cyclists like to try to ride the road before it is officially opened and still littered with winter's debris and patches of snow.

Whenever I cycle the road, I often find myself traveling back in time to the valley’s pioneering days of mountain biking when forest roads were the main thoroughfares for the knobby tired set.

There were a myriad of trails near Bartlett that saw some early single track. And of course, on the Kanc side there still is the Lower Nanamocomuck Trail that at one time provided rough, sumptuous and sweet single track when hard tails roamed the earth.

The loop has cyclists spinning by Cathedral and White Horse climbing ledges, past the popular Diana's Baths hiking trail, by the Attitash ski area with its chair-lift served mountain biking, and by a number of swimming holes that no doubt will be popular during the dog days of August.

I like starting the ride in North Conway village and riding down under the railroad trestle on River Road before turning left on West Side with its gentle rollers, good shoulder, horses, farms and views.

Then it’s a right on Allens Siding Road and Passaconaway Road. It also has a rolling rhythm going by 7-acre Eagle Pond and showing glimpses of the rushing Swift River before coming to the Albany Covered Bridge by the campground that shares its name.

A right on the climbing Kanc leads to a right for more uphill on Bear Notch Road, the canopy overhead providing shade and a couple of pullouts providing some views. Fly down to Bartlett with its gazebo and old snow roller.

A right on U.S. 302 eventually takes you to a right to snake down West Side Road as it provides a look at the Saco River. The popular Diana’s Baths trailhead is passed as are far animals and soon strawberry fields meaning the 37-mile ride is almost over.

In local news, nice to hear Glen’s Marianne Borowski on NHPR’s "The Exchange" last week talking about rail trails. She’s the founder of the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail which spans 83 miles between Woodsville by the Vermont border and Bethel, Maine. The route uses the Ammonoosuc and Presidential Rail Trails.

“It’s a patchwork of multi-surfaces,” she said.

She was on a panel that also included co-chair of the New Hampshire Rail Trail Coalition Dave Topham and former executive director of Bike Walk Alliance of New Hampshire Tim Blagden.

Look for some new signage in the Marshall Conservation Area off West Side Road as well as trails that have been raked or felt the power of a leaf blower. A huge tree that obstructed Lager’s Lane has been removed. Thanks go to the White Mountains chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association for the spring sprucing.

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