NORTH AMERICAN BIKE PARK REVIEW TOUR
HIGHLAND BIKE PARK
AMERICA’S BIKE PARK
THE LITTLE MOUNTAIN THAT COULD
SEASON 2 | EPISODE 5
Photos by Dusten Ryen & James Willette
High on our list or dream riding destinations, riding Highland Bike Park has been a goal of ours for a long time. Red Bull Rampage winning riders to long-time bike industry veterans have all told me that Highland is the best bike park they’d ever ridden and only added to our team’s desire to get there. We knew that Season 2 of the Bike Park Review Tour would have us on the East Coast and naturally we had to make Highland a stop. Lucky for us, the team at Highland Bike Park are fans and facilitated an easy stop. Not only did they let us come ride and film, but they welcomed us into the “Highland Family” and had daily tour guides ready to show us the hot lines and secret hits. After just three days of riding at Highland, it’s easy to see why everyone from beginners to world-class pros love this bike park.
Located in Northfield, New Hampshire and just above the small town of Tilton, Highland Bike Park packs an amazing 15 miles of trail on just 600 vertical feet. The terrain is varied despite the seemingly short descent and riders can entertain themselves on everything from super-groomed flow trails to the raw, rooty NE tech the region is known for. There’s even a growing XC network and pedal-friendly trails along with uphill ride nights. Highland is a very family-friendly and community-oriented mountain with gatherings, get together and fun race events that really make the “Highland Family” a tight-knit group.
LODGING AND ON-SITE AMENITIES
As a dedicated mountain bike-only park, Highland doesn’t have a ton of on-site amenities like other multi-discipline resorts do. Instead they do one thing and do it well. Lodging options are varied and range anything from smaller hotels and inns to Airbnb’s or rentals on VRBO. There are plenty of options depending on your budget and we heard there are plans to develop a campground on the river in the near future along with some water activities, which would be a great option for those looking to keep the costs down.
Our crew was definitely well-fed while at Highland and we had to pry ourselves away from the park just to try some local dining options to report on. The full kitchen at Highland Bike Park serves everything from killer breakfast to lunch food and some great post-ride dinner options, including some delicious pizza! We ate at the park almost every day however a couple trips into town resulted in some good meals as well. Kettlehead Brewing Company is definitely worth a stop and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to check out the Dipsy Doodle Dairy Bar.
While Highland doesn’t have a huge village, they do have a pretty awesome setting by the side of a lake and we regularly found ourselves hanging in the outdoor dining area by the bar socializing with locals and visitors who’d just spent the day having as much fun as we had. The community vibe and feel is awesome, it’s like going to the Cheers bar except everyone there is a mountain biker. If you’re looking for other wild nightlife, you’ll be hard pressed as both Tilton and Northfield have less than 5,000 people and most places close relatively early. Honestly though, we didn’t mind since we enjoyed hanging with our fellow riders at the beer garden well into the night.
We couldn’t believe how many trails Highland stuffed into such a compact area. You’d literally be in a berm and look over the edge and see a train of riders on another trail having a blast sending it off a beautifully manicured lip. Something that has impressed us across the whole East Coast is how tight they can pack trails. Having over 15 miles of trails with 600 feet of elevation takes some real work and Highland’s trail building crew have done a great job. While there are some XC trails that lead off the property and can add miles to your day, we spent most of our time lapping the downhill bike trails and couldn’t have been happier.
Each day the Highland team had new trail guides for us, and they were all talented shredders that helped tow us into big features and trails we may have missed without their knowledge. The trail offerings are Highland Bike Park are very diverse and will entertain a wide variety of mountain bikers. On the hill riders can warm up or develop their skills on incredibly fun green and blue trails like Freedom Trail, Cat Scratch Fever or Meadow’s End. They’re smooth, very well-groomed and laid out trails that even beginners will feel confident on.
Progression to the blues is natural and trails like Cat’s Paw and Fancy Feast will help riders bring up their confidence before tackling the black and double blacks. Highland Bike Park has a great mix of expert level tech and freeride terrain that are labeled well and let riders know what type of trail they’re getting into. If you’re looking for big drops, wall rides, and plenty of air time, Highland delivers with their trademark Hellion and NE style trails. We also had fun on Tombstone, Bone Saw and Threshold, but didn’t quite have the huevos to send the slopestyle course.
Highland’s tech was a blast and the short runs prevent the dreaded arm pump and locked fingers that some longer mountains deliver. Some of our favorite runs were Maiden Voyage, O.D.C. and O.D.B, Eastern Hemlock and Jack Rabbit Run. The mixture of rocks, roots and natural flow you search to find had us looking for places to pick up speed and airtime run after run.
And if the trails aren’t enough, Highland has recently added Central Park, a skills development area that is located next to the Sherwood Forest jump zone. A legitimate dirt jump park has everything from rollable beginner level jumps to pro line doubles that flow and weave throughout the woods sees a constant stream of BMXers and dirt jumpers styling it out for the onlookers. A really cool feature that only adds to the park’s diversity.
THE WOLF’S LAST WORD
After hearing about Highland for so many years it was a dream to come ride America’s Bike Park. Our whole crew had a blast riding here and wanted to stay longer. The community vibe, delicious food, mellow setting and awesome trails make Highland a destination worth visiting for sure. We honestly didn’t know how such a “small” mountain could have a bike park that could be so highly ranked, but after a few days it’s easy to say that Highland’s attraction is more than just the trails. The passion of the mountain’s owner, trail builders, staff and locals are just as impressive as the well-built trails and challenging tech. We look forward to returning in the near future.
For more info visit, Highlandmountain.com
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