Outdoor Adventures: Pack the passport for mountain biking Quebec’s Circuits Frontieres

  • Rows of balsam firs stand along the trails of Circuits Frontieres in East Hereford, Quebec. The 40-plus kilometers of mountain bike pathways is just over the border from Beecher Falls, Vt. Marty Basch / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Sunday, August 27, 2017

Columns of balsam fir stand under the open sky. Abundant fern gullies bob as mountain bikers whisk by. Rippling hills stretch between two countries.

Grab that passport and head to East Hereford, Quebec, a quiet small town just north of Beecher Falls, Vt.

Mountain bikers come to ride the wooded trails on 2,835-foot Mount Hereford called Circuits Frontieres.

Credit logging for introducing mountain biking to the community. In 1992, locals started pedaling the logging roads, according to Mathieu Gagnon, Circuits Frontieres coordinator.

Soon there was an annual race, and as mountain biking developed, Circuits Frontieres was born in 2005 with single track and double track trails made for the knobby tired set.

The growth of the trails even got some help from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, which encourages sustainable community and economic development in Coos County and nearby Quebec towns. In 2015, Circuits Frontieres received a $4,000 grant to construct a 1K single track trail.

There are 40-plus kilometers of trails on the network, which Gagnon says are flowy, but rocky.

“The trails aren’t that hard, but they’re not that easy,” he said during a phone interview. “They’re in between.”

For those new to mountain biking, the terrain might be a bit hard because there are some steep climbs and descents with rocky sections.

“You have to be a little more intermediate to appreciate it,” he said.

Though most riders come from Quebec with many from Montreal, there are those Canadians who integrate mountain biking there during a trip to the States. Gagnon has seen an uptick in riders from northern New England, mainly coming midweek to the Eastern Townships.

There’s a fee to ride ($10 CDN daily, $35 for a season pass) and many visitors start from the village trailhead by a church. During midweek, mornings riders might find a local student answering questions if not on trail patrol or doing maintenance while weekends, with more mountain bikers, mean more people to answer more questions.

The website (circuitsfrontieres.com) has some loop suggestions, among them a 21-kilometer ride from the village using the Terminus, Rembobine, Bobine, Aiguille and Ficelle trails. It’s a good introduction to the network with its collection of land owners including the Hereford Community Forest but comes with a sustained climb from the village that requires copious granny gear.

But it’s well worth it. The myriad of trails take in forest roads, grassy double track and of course single track. S-turns, berms, stone armoring and wide wooden bridges are also crossed. There’s lots of smooth single track, but the occasional rock and root mix will make many south of the border riders think of home. Wildlflowers were on display as were gullies of ferns and peaceful groves of trees.

The planted stands of open balsam fir were unexpectedly delightful making dismounting for a whiff mandatory. A huge white boulder of streaked quartz was another stopping point for many bikers.

The trails were generally well-marked in French. But fellow mountain bikers spoke English, too. Numbered and lettered emergency stations abounded along the network, too.

Though the village is a fine place to start, Gagnon has some other suggestions. From the Houle Street parking area, he recommends intermediate trails like Quartz US, Quartz Canadian, Indian Stream, Recupe and Panache.

“Both Quartz are old school trails with rocks and roots but fun to do,” Gagnon said.

For something more challenging, he advises parking on Lepine Street and doing a six kilometer loop with JDA, Chasse-Galerie and 50 Pesos and maybe throwing in a gravel road called Sam’s Turnpike.

No matter what route you take, roads do lead back to the village where bikers will find a much-appreciated bike wash and showers. Free, the showers opened last year.

“We aren’t that close for most people who come to ride,” he said. “At the end of the day when you are all muddy, it’s good to get in the car after a shower.”

Gagnon says in September, with a $5,000 CDN grant from Velo Quebec, they plan to start building a 5-kilometer beginner trail from the village with an easier slant that’s currently offered and with views south to the States.

For those who want to stay overnight, there’s Camping Mont Experience Hereford. But for that post-ride craft beverage, maybe it’s best to wait until you’re stateside.

“We don’t have anything close,” he said. “At least not yet.”