I've always been fond of dirt road ridding. I enjoy the slightly more difficult terrain, but can still comfortably ride my road bike with plump tires. The reduced car traffic, and the rural and wooded scenery are definite plusses.
Over the winter I heard about two old roads in Estabrook woods on the border of Concord and Carlisle, between Concord Road and Monument Street. Estabrook Road and Two Rod Road are both old farm roads that run north to south. Some of my research suggests Estabrook Road was one of the main roads leading to the Old North Bridge.
I have always found the ride from Somerville out to North Bridge pleasant. I typically take the Minuteman Trail out to Bedford. At the end of the trail, continue on Railroad Ave. Just as the road turns right, continue straight into the dirt parking lot. From here begins the Reformatory Branch Trail, which is an unpaved rail-trail that continues into Concord.
The trail is mostly smooth and double track, though a little narrow to ride side by side. My Raleigh 3-speed moves along the trail just fine. But, of course, some parts get narrow and obstructions are not uncommon.
This is a pretty heavily used trail, so obstructions usually don't last that long. In fact, this tree was gone a couple weeks latter.
The trail is not just woodland. It also passes through a couple wilderness parks, such as the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge, which is a favorite spot for birders. In particular, I like the agricultural fields along the trail.
And we wouldn't be in Concord if we didn't have a historic plaque. This one is along the Reformatory Branch Trail, which must have been a normal road in colonial days.
As you can see, the fields are no more, but North Bridge isn't too far away. Just take a right when you get to the next road, and you'll see the North Bridge to your left shortly.
A nice, well graded trail heads down to the bridge. On the far side of the bridge there is a nice view across the field to the river. The bridge is often crowded later in the day, so be prepared to walk your bike. Often there is someone in colonial dress describing the history of the bridge.
At the end of the trail continue right on the country road. Take your second right on to Estabrook Road, a lovely pastoral way with horse farms on either side. Shortly the pavement will end in a well graded dirt road with a stone wall and barn to the left.
Soon the farmland becomes woodland, take the left (straight becomes very rough and hilly). The road through the woods is only a little rougher, so go a little slower, especially around others hiking along the road. And say Hi, most are very friendly when walking through the woods.
Eventually you will leave the woods and enter a wooded neighborhood. Continue along taking right turns as they present themselves. When you hit Stearns Road, go left. Just as the Stearns Road turns left again, you will see a dirt road to the right. This is Two Rod Road.
This road is more like a trail and continues back to Monument Street. It is more rough, but taken slowly a 3-speed can make it just fine. The slower trail, which will require some walking from time to time, will allow you to spend a little more time to enjoy the woods. Towards the end of the road you will reach a wonderful little pond to take a snack and ponder.
The remainder of the trail to Monument Road is smooth and easy. Take a right on Monument Street. For those who like fresh produce, Hutchinson's Farm will be on the left. Soon you will pass North Bridge on the right. Then take the left onto the Reformatory Branch Trail to return to the Minuteman Trail and Somerville. For those who like maps, here is our track:
View Estabrook Woods in a larger map