Jericho Lake is the perfect place to do it.Located just 45 minutes up from North Conway in the Great North Woods in Berlin, Jericho Mountain State Park (aka Jericho Lake) is the region's newest and largest all-terrain vehicle (ATV) park featuring an extensive trail system for off-road riding. Jericho Lake, also known as "man-made lake," was built in the 1970s and now surrounding it is a scenic 7,200-acre recreation site offering a number of year-round outdoor activities apart from just ATV and UTV riding, including mountain biking, snowmobiling, fishing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.The network of well-maintained, color-coded trails at Jericho provide riders of different abilities with a different experience and very varied terrain. The green trails are recommended for all users, including beginners, while the blue are more intermediate and the black provide a much more technical course for the more advanced riders. On July 10 and 11 of this year the park celebrated its first ever "Jericho Festival" - a two-day event that featured mud riding, scavenger hunts, obstacle course, music, food and games and activities for children and families. The park boasts some of the loveliest views in the North Woods and autumn is an ideal season to get outside, hit the trails and take them all in. The trails are open year-round from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily but closed during mud season, April (or loss of continuous snow cover) through May 23. For more information on this park (or any others) and the Bureau of Trails, call (603) 271-3254 or visit www.nhtrails.org.Impressive FactHere in New Hampshire the Bureau of Trails' management covers a total of 250 miles of wheeled off-highway recreational vehicle trails, more than 300 miles of state-owned rail trails and 7,422 miles of snowmobile trails.Gear BoxYou would most likely want to rent an ATV for your first few times out to get a feel for your needs, but if you should find yourself in the market this 250cc-class Honda FourTrax Recon with 2wd starts at $3,899.Helmets vary greatly in style and pricing, but this Adult DOT ATV Motocross helmet for $39.95 is a good budget-friendly option.Though not required for riding, a nice jacket designed for a day on the trail will bring added comfort to your adventure and will make you look pretty cool, too. This Four Back Woods ATV jacket features 100 percent Cordura nylon construction and chest and underarm ventilation. $69.99These Scott Voltage X ATV riding goggles feature an anti-fog Lexan lens and are a good bet for all riders. $31.95Proper hand protection is a must for any rider and these Scott SD series ATV gloves feature four-way stretch, neoprene-and-silicone lever grips. $22.99Expert AdviceChris Gamache has been the N.H. Bureau of Trails chief for the Division of Parks & Recreation in Concord for more than nine years and his line of work first introduced him to ATV and trail riding.What was the response to the new ATV trail system at Jericho? The park has received attention nationally and folks came from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and Rhode Island, even Canada. The first festival was in July and we waived the registration for the day. Lots of people came for the day and the most common comment we would hear from visitors was "our state doesn't recognize our recreation needs, but if New Hampshire wants our tourism dollars, then we'll give them to New Hampshire." People tell us that folks in New Hampshire are more polite than most other places they visit. If they asked someone a question they would be happy to answer.What makes riding at Jericho Mountain a unique and worthwhile experience? At Jericho Mountain State Park all the trails are being planned, designed and built specifically for ATV use. Most other ATV parks were adopted as existing parks that were already designated for use, but Jericho was bought for the purpose of building these trails. We can build specifically for the experience of the rider and their enjoyment. We can walk through the park, examine the trails and terrain and say "this would make a great spot for a turn here." There are currently 50 miles of trails for riding and the end goal is approximately
140 miles. What's your favorite trail? I enjoy the longer winding trails. Holt's Revenge, Panorama Hill, Magella's Run and Deerfly are all great rides.Any recommendations or safety precautions for novice riders new to ATVs and the park itself? Look for an ATV sized for the rider. Bigger is not always better - go much smaller. You want what's the right size for you. Any reputable agent can size you properly. Wear appropriate safety gear, including a helmet, gloves, boots and eye protection. Learn and know the laws of the trail. There are speed limits on the different trails and intersections. Maps of all the legal areas are on the website. There is currently no use fee, but donations can be made at the park.Are there plans in the works for added features or changes to the trail system in the next few years? Current development includes the building and management of a campground with some sites projected for use next year and also a visitor's welcome center equipped with restrooms where visitors can get maps, ask questions, etc. The building will hopefully be ready next spring for the May 23 opening of the park.
This article appears in the November 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine