I heard about the ďPuppy Dog Route
Ē (a route over dirt roads covering the entire state of Vermont
from the Mass.
border to Canada
) a few months ago. It inspired me to see if such a route could be traced through Massachusetts
, from the Connecticut
border to link up to the Puppy Dog Route
, thereby creating a series of dirt roads running from Connecticut
. I wanted to create a through-route for a multi-state dual sport adventure.
Using a Rubel
bicycle map and a GPS I set off exploring public, dirt roads, seeing how accurate the maps were and whether they were passable for bigger bikes, like my KLR. I wanted a route that nearly anyone could ride, especially a noobie like myself.
After a lot of trial and error Iíve come up with what I think is a decent route, one Iím dubbing the Trans-Mass Trail. The attached file has two routes: a north and a south leg. The total distance is only about 90 miles for the whole route. I had to create two legs because several of the roads on the north leg are mistakenly listed as closed on the GPS and Mapsource wants to route you around them. For the north leg the gpx file contains my actual tracks so that there wonít be any confusion.
I would encourage people to look over the route and suggest or make changes to it. I would consider my draft a first step. Although Iíve taken it as far as I can, others with a fresh set of eyes or more local knowledge will likely suggest better alternatives to some of the roads Iíve chosen.
A few notes about the route if you would like to explore it:
- The route starts in Winsted, Connecticut, the closest place I could find that has reliable gasoline and close proximity to dirt roads. Unfortunately I could find no dirt roads that crossed the border in this area. There are several roads that the Rubel map indicates cross the border, such as Norfolk Rd, State Line Hill Rd and Simmonís Pond Road. In reality each of these roads is either a dead-end or turns into gnarly single track before reaching the Connecticut border. I had no choice but to ride Route 183 into Massachusetts and then hit the dirt.
- In almost all cases the route is over dirt roads that are public ways and are town-maintained. I did this intentionally so that nearly anyone could do this ride.
- Three of the roads in the north leg are not maintained in the winter: Old Route 9, (the start of the north leg), Stage Road (both in Cummington) and Hawks Road (Shelburne). These will be rougher than the rest of the route, but still do-able on a big bike. Be especially careful after a recent rain storm as there may be some washout sections. There are easy ride-arounds on paved roads if you donít feel comfortable tackling these sections. A note that these roads may have signs that say, ďClosed.Ē Donít let that deter you, each are open to vehicle use, but closed to all traffic in the winter.
- Iíve ridden every mile of the route personally and believe the GPS files are as accurate as possible, but there may be some errors.
- Massachusetts has a number of dirt roads, but the challenge is linking them together. It was much easier in the southern part of the state. The south route is about 75% dirt, 25% pavement; the north route is about 65% pavement. Even though it is not truly an ďall dirtĒ route I think most people wonít mind the paved sections. Many are in pretty remote areas and you will be rewarded with great vistas, rural farms, no traffic lights and few other vehicles. Itís a side of Massachusetts not seen on the main roads or in the tour books.
- Many of the roads that are dirt also have some short sections of pavement to prevent washouts. Be careful as the road can change from pavement to dirt without much warning.
- If you care about that type of stuff...Bill Cosby has a residence on Bardswell Ferry Road in Shelburne. Immediately after crossing the Deerfield River and going over the railroad tracks, his estate will be the first property on the right.
- Enduroís could still have some fun on this route. Many of the roads have single track trails running off of them. There are a lot of other dirt roads in the area that are worth exploring that I didnít use in the route.
- The route ends in Greenfield at the same gas station where the Puppy Dog Route into Vermont takes over.
This is typical of what most of the roads on the route look like:
Crossing the Mass Pike, on dirt!