A riverside route familiar to cross-country skiers in winter, the Lower Nanamocomuck Ski Trail is a fine ride for mountain bikers in the Mount Washington Valley.

The trail parallels the boulder-strewn Swift River along the winding Kancamagus Highway in the Saco Ranger District. Just as the Kanc darts near and far from the river, crossing over bridges and leaving its side to climb into the fir and birches, so does the Nan.

This is a gem of a trail because there are an incredible number of vistas and options. The Swift River itself is a stunning backdrop as the trail runs along its length for a good portion of the route before cutting back into the forest, only to come back to water's edge.

At Rocky Gorge, mountain bikers must dismount to explore the shores of Falls Pond and gaze up among the spruce and pine to see Bear Mountain or cross a bridge to gaze upon the roiling waters of the gorge against the walls of granite.

Now a few words about all those Native American names. Many of the peaks in the White Mountains are named after the Indians who once lived in the area. Kancamagus, "The Fearless One," was chief of the Penacook tribe in the 1680s. His father was Nanamocomuck. Wenonah happened to be the daughter of Chocorua and the wife of Wonalancet while Wenunchus was the daughter of Passaconway and sister of Nanamocomuck. Don't worry, there isn't a quiz.

The starting point for the east-to-west intermediate mountain bike adventure is the Lower Nanamocomuck trailhead on Bear Notch Road, some 12 miles west of Conway off the Kancamagus Highway. Those using two cars, can park the other one at the trail's terminus, the Albany Covered Bridge, located about six miles west of Conway off the Kanc. Before starting out, pop into the ranger station on Route 112 (the Kanc) for the latest trail information.

A one-way trip on the Nan is about seven miles. The trail does have a fair share of rocks and roots, tight tree twists and a number of bridge crossings. Beginners should think twice before attempting this one.

The Nan starts out rather rocky and sometimes, though bikers can bypass some by creeping up a hill on Forest Road 209 and hooking a right on the Paugus Link Trail and following it to a right turn onto the Lower Nan.

For those who start on the Nan, rock, twist and shout. Ride down to the Swift. Bridge crossings lead to an eroded river bank through the spruce and fir. Rocky Gorge is reached at about the 4.2-mile mark. Explore for a while.

The way around Rocky Gorge for those wanting to continue to The Nan is via the Wenonah Ski Trail that hooks up with the The Nan on the other side of Rocky Gorge. The Nan becomes technical again before riders turn right on Deer Brook Road (FR 28) for a ride down to the Albany Covered Bridge and opportunities for camping.


Marty Basch is the author of "The White Mountain Ride Guide" (2nd) and can be reached through www.onetankaway.com


UPDATED BY TE 5-20-14.

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