Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mountain biking at Spier Falls

I’ve been out on my bike quite a bit since the end of ski season, so it seems like it’s time for a mountain bike trip report. This is from last week, my first-ever time riding the Spier Falls trails at Moreau Lake State Park.

Riding the Western Ridge trail at Spier Falls.

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Western Ridge trail

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure I had the skills for Spier Falls. The reputation is that the riding is great, if you survive. You can read what others have to say about Spier Falls here. In a nutshell, the riding is rocky and technical, comparable to some of the advanced trails at SMBA but with one added twist: a lot more vertical.

Bedrock on the Rolling Ridge trail

I rode with my friend Kirby and his regular crew of mountain bikers, a group that’s been riding at Spier Falls for years. I’ve ridden with these guys a few times at SMBA, enough to know they ride hard. That suits me fine: if I’m going to be away from my family for the evening I want to get some bang for my buck, and these guys always deliver.

Fun terrain on top of the ridge

The thing about riding at Spier Falls is that all of the trails are at the top of a 1200’ mountain ridge, the Palmertown Range. All of the trailheads are at the bottom. To get to the real riding you’ve first got to tackle a long climb. For us, starting at the Spier Falls boat launch, that meant a climb of about 800 vertical feet to kick off the ride.

One of the overlooks on the Western Ridge trail

I still consider myself to be a novice mountain biker. I usually figure that I can compensate for my lack of technical skills and experience with a decent level of overall fitness. That strategy worked pretty well for the first half of our climb to the top of the ridge, but the second half whipped me – and I was still at the back of the pack. Luckily, I got a flat, which gave me just enough of a break to recover while changing the tube (credit: Kirby did 99% of the flat repair).

View from the overlook

Eventually we topped out, and that’s where the real fun began. The trails on top of the ridge are challenging but fun singletrack that wind through a beautiful forest of oak and pine, with lots of rocks and roots and technical ups and downs. We rode a circuit that combined sections of the Ridge Run, Western Ridge, Cottage Park and Eastern Ridge trails, but there are many options for long and short loops on the ridgetop. Stopping at one of the overlooks on the Western Ridge trail, we caught our breath for a few minutes while the sun’s rays streaked through an opening in the clouds. 800 feet below lay the Hudson River with the foothills of the Adirondacks rising beyond.


The last bit of our descent back down to our parked cars was almost in the dark. We rode for almost exactly 3 hours, covering (my guess) maybe a dozen miles. One of the guys asked me how I liked the ride and made the comment that first-timers either get hooked or never come back. Oh, I’ll definitely be back.


Trail map can also be viewed here.

11 comments:

  1. I've been there 3 times, even though after each time, I put myself firmly in the "never again" camp. I just don't like the climb at the beginning and the rest of the place is meh. Plus I have to drive past SMBA to get there, and if I'm going to go past SMBA, I'm always thinking that I might as well go to Pine Hill Park in Rutland (it's only another 40 minutes, I tell myself).

    I keep trying to go back to Spier Falls, thinking maybe I'm just doing it wrong and there has to be a reason that people like the place so much, but I just can't seem to find it. I'll probably give it another shot this summer, but if I hate it again, I'm officially done with the place.

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    1. Matt, you should try coming along for one of the Weds night rides with K-man & crew. Then if you still hate it at least you gave it a more than fair shot. I think I’ve already got my permission slip for next week’s ride.

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    2. I might make a run at it tomorrow. 6:00? Boat Launch?

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  2. So what time are these rides, and are they open to others? Maybe I'll shoot down from Brant Lake.
    ED

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    1. Ed, Blue Sky Bikes in Saratoga Springs does weekly rides at SMBA on Thursdays. I've done a bunch of these and they are a lot of fun. The guys I rode with at Spier Falls ride there every Weds. If you'd like to be on their email list, shoot me a pm.

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  3. Jeff,

    Great post as always. Check out Pittsfield State Forrest sometime. Lots of vertical and rocky, technical terrain. Group rides every Thursday at 6:00 PM. Fun, casual pace. Bonfire and micro-brews after.

    Ken

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Ken! Pittstown sounds like fun, I will have to try to make it there this season.

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  4. Sorry...I meant Pittstown in my previous post.

    Ken

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  5. I have been there for several times. I was there for the second time because I have got enough pleasure from this place. I like so much this place. There are so many natural scenes are there to watch. Hope you have enjoyed a lot Jeff!

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