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Gile Mountain and The Blue Ribbon Trail

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 5.0 from 1 vote
  Intermediate from 1 vote
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Rank: #1 in Dartmouth and Hanover
#2 in New Hampshire
#235 Overall
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“A stout, switchbacking climb to a fire tower with 360° views and first prize style singletrack.”
Zephyr Sylvester on Sep 8, 2013
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13.0 Miles 1,433’ Ascent 1,843’ High 4.2% Avg Grade
35% Singletrack -1,433’ Descent 556’ Low 13.5% Max Grade
Restrictions
Avoid use before May to minimize trail damage and erosion.
Overview
This ride is a local favorite and offers one of the most extensive views of the Upper Valley at the top of the 7 story fire tower on the summit of Gile Mountain. From there, the trail descends ~4 miles down flowy singletrack over and around some classic glacial boulders.
Need To Know
The hike up to the fire tower on Gile Mountain is an incredibly popular hike in the area any time of year. On a clear BVD (Beautiful Vermont Day!) views of picturesque Dartmouth College, the White mountains to the east, and the green mountains to the west, can all be easily seen. As it is such a popular hike, a specific mountain bike trail was designed to zig-zag up the trail to minimize riding interruptions and improve the short but steep climb.
Description
This ride can be done as an easy loop from town. The most popular (and fun!) way to ride this way is to ride from the Huntley Meadow Parking out Turnpike road until you reach the Gile Mountain Parking-lot or at the pull out just below the lot - about a 5 miles gradual climb up a bit of pavement and mostly dirt road.

To avoid order to avoid hikers, begin below the parking lot at the base of the power-lines as primitive two-track. In the spring and early summer, water flows down parts of the two track making it slick, muddy, and buggy. The climbing is fairly technical in some spots with lots of lose rocks. After powering up through the trees for a little ways, the trail climbs up the power-line meadow and becomes slightly less techy, though not less steep. Finally, the power-line meadow begins to level out somewhat and the main hiking trail crosses the biking trail.

If you don't care that you'll be running into a lot of families and dogs, you can also start at the hiking parking lot and go ~.3 miles up the hiking trail until it reaches the power-lines.

Intersecting the hiking trail, the mountain biking trail continues up the grassy power-line by going on and off of the maintenance vehicle doubletrack.

After climbing a bit more up the exposed power-line, the trail cuts left and back into the woods (a big relief on a sunny day) on well built singletrack. Rolling over roots and rocks, the climbing is much milder after this point as the trail continues to switchback up the mountain and hiking trail for another mile. Each intersection with the hiking trail is marked with a carved wooden sign indicating the walking and biking route directions. Stay on the biking trail until you reach a trail junction that is signed near a vernal pool at the top.

At this point, if you've never been to the fire tower before - turn right and go about .1 miles to the big rocky base of the tower and climb up the 7 stories (just don't look down if you're scared of heights) for an amazing view. Otherwise, turn left down the "Gile Ridge-line Trail" or as most people call it: The Blue Ribbon Trail.

From this point on it's all downhill - except for the ups of course! Many folks call the Blue Ribbon trail pure cross country, singletrack bliss. There area a few climbs thrown in to keep you working not to mention plenty of terrain variety from big boulders and small drops to muddy foot bridges and tight switchbacks. It's approximately 3.7 miles of bomber singletrack all the way down the ridge-line to where the trail spits you out onto a logging road. From there turn left around the big green gate and your back on pavement.

On the pavement, turn left down Beaver Meadow Road and fly down the 5 miles back to town - If you left your car at the Huntley Meadow Lot be sure slow down just after the local creek pool and look for a left turn onto Moore Lane. One last right turn onto Turnpike Road and you're back where you started!
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COMMENTS
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PHOTOS of Gile Mountain and The Blue Ribbon Trail
 3.3 from 3 votes
Early fall colors (Lebanon, NH)
 3.0 from 3 votes
The tower stairs. 7 stories! (Lebanon, NH)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Amped up and covered in mud after ripping down from Gile (Lebanon, NH)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Looking down the powerlines into town before hitting the singletrack (Lebanon, NH)
 2.3 from 3 votes
June-gloom (Lebanon, NH)
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