The Tripoli Road / East Ponds mountain bike ride begins on Tripoli Road, a scenic, narrow and heavily forested White Mountains Forest Service Road that begins in Waterville Valley, NH and winds its way east for 9.6 miles to I-93 in Woodstock, NH. The trail is sandwiched (Sandwich Range) between Mt. Osceloa and West Peak to the north and 4,000-ft. Mount Tecumseh and Hix Mtn. to the south. Tripoli Road climbs to Thornton Gap (1,519 feet), where it meets the East Ponds Trailhead. The East Ponds Trail heads north, taking you on a mountain biking adventure over a combination of old logging roads and challenging singletrack past scenic overlooks of tree covered summits to small, lucent mountain ponds.
You've got a few mountain bike ride options, depending on how much time you have and your aerobic fitness and MTB skill levels. We list three below.
Tripoli Road: Easy / Moderate, out and back, 7.7 miles one way
Tripoli Road / East Ponds Trail: Advanced, loop, 13.6 miles
East Pond / Little East Pond Loop: Advanced, loop, 4.8 miles
The Tripoli Road / East Ponds Loop Ride can be ridden from either direction. You can leave one vehicle at the Woodstock end of Tripoli Road, if you just want to do a one way mountain bike ride. There is camping available at the popular Russell Pond Campgrounds in Woodstock or the Osceola Vista Campground at the Waterville Valley end. While there is no designated parking area on the Woodstock side, you can access Tripoli Road from Exit 31 off I-93.
Trail Highlights: White Mountains National Forest, beautiful fall foliage, two bike or hike-in only secluded mountain ponds, mountain peak views, rushing streams, nearby campgrounds and cross country and downhill skiing venues.
Tripoli Road – Ride Option 1
Tripoli Road gets it name from the Livermore Tripoli Company (see Historic Note below), a mining company formed around 1911 to mine Diamatomaceous earth from East Pond. The road is usually open seasonally to vehicular traffic from May to November 1. Because this scenic Forest Service Road is also a popular access route to the campgrounds, trails and forest roads that branch off of it at various points, it is very busy, especially during the peak summer and fall seasons.
Begin your mountain bike ride at the entrance to the Livermore parking area in Waterville Valley. Pass the green Forest Service gate and ride across the Mad River via the bridge. Make a right turn onto Tripoli Road. The Tripoli Road climbs moderately on a paved surface for 4.3 miles to Thornton Gap (1,519 feet elevation ) and the junction with the East Ponds Trail, before descending on dirt for the rest of the way to the Russell Pond Campground access at 7.7 miles. Turn around here for the return trip if you are doing an out-and-back ride or continue past the entrance to the Russell Pond National Forest Recreation Area and head downhill on pavement towards I-95 to where you parked the second vehicle if you’ve opted for a one-way bike ride with the return trip via a shuttle back to where you started.
Tripoli Road / East Ponds Loop - Ride Option 2 and 3
The East Ponds Loop Trail takes you on a 4.8 mile mountain biking adventure over a combination of old logging roads and challenging singletrack, past the secluded East Pond and Little East Pond before rejoining Tripoli Road at the point where you diverged. This ride requires several rough stream crossings, steep technical climbs and descents and several push and hike-a-bikes. You will encounter obstacles such as as rocks, boulders, roots, blowdown, tight technical single-track, overgrown and marshy sections.
Begin your ride from the Livermore parking area as described in Ride Option 1 and bike up Tripoli Road. You can access the East Ponds Trailhead from Tripoli Road (right) at around the 4.3 mile mark of the ride (0.3 miles past the Tecumseh Trailhead. if you just want to bike the 4.8 mile East Pond / Little East Pond Loop, there is a small gravel parking area off Tripoli Road at the East Ponds Trailhead (see directions below).
The East Pond Trail heads northeast from Tripoli Road on a slight uphill grade along a grassy track. In about a quarter of a mile, you’ll come to the historic but overgrown Tripoli Mill site and the start of the Little East Pond Trail (yellow blazed singletrack) to the left. The East Pond Trail bears right. No matter which direction you choose to take to begin the loop, you're going to encounter some moderate climbs. Most people head in a clockwise direction. To the right, it's an elevation gain of about 1,300-ft to East Pond and in reverse, it's a 1,300-ft fun descent past East Pond and a great way to finish this challenging mountain bike ride.
Don’t feel like biking the whole loop? A jaunt up the Tripoli Road with a picnic lunch at East Pond and back sounds just fine? Then bear right onto the East Pond Trail at the junction, cross East Pond Brook and climb for 1.5 miles, paralleling the brook through shaded forest towards the 65 acre, 27-ft deep East Pond. Before reaching the pond, a side spur peels off to the right and travels about 35 or so yards to the East Pond’s south shore. The gravel beach along the rock-lined shore is the perfect spot for a picnic. The views of the mountains up the open U-shaped valley (notch) are a treat. After lunch, rewind on the spur back to the main route. You've completed the first leg of the East Ponds loop ride.
Back at the main route, the East Pond Trail actually continues to wend its way north past East Pond, and travels through the notch between Mount Osceola and the Scaur Ridge, ending at the Kancamagus Highway (Scenic RT 112).
If you've opted to forgo biking the entire loop, retrace your route back to your start. To continue on the East Pond / Little East Pond Loop ride, turn left at the junction with the East Pond Loop Trail. The East Pond Loop Trail is a narrow, challenging singletrack trail that runs between East Pond and Little East Pond. It traverses a ridge, snaking for 1.5 miles to the small, shallow Little East Pond which is fringed by tall grasses and decorated with lily pads. How marshy, the area around the Little East Pond is will depend on beaver activity, snowmelt and rainfall. You might get your feet wet. The East Pond Loop Trail ends and you’ve just completed the second leg of your mountain bike ride.
Turn left onto the Little East Pond Trail. It’s a 1 mile moderate descent, on narrow, singletrack to Clear Brook. The path is edged by velvety moss covered boulders, ferns, bluebead lily, red trillium, mushrooms and other flora common to White Mountains National Forest pond habitats. The route dips into a ravine. Cross the brook. The trail now travels southeast on a gentle downhill grade for 0.7 miles along the former railbed of the Woodstock and Thornton Gore logging railroad that operated from 1901 to 1914.
Rejoin the East Pond Trail to complete the loop. Turn right and rewind back to your starting point.
The Livermore Tripoli Company was formed and owned by the youngest son of J. E. Henry, a logging and railroad magnate in the White Mountains. It was one of only two companies of it's kind in the entire State of New Hampshire. It mined Diamatomaceous earth from East Pond, an unusual substance formed from a type of ancient algae whose cell walls were made of silica. When these tiny creatures died, the skeletons settled to the bottom of the pond over the millenia forming a thick deposit. At one point, the mining operation consisted of 10 - 12 buildings including a kiln and a mill. Supplies and finished product were carted in and out via the Woodstock Lumber Company logging railroad. The dry, super absorbent, light colored material still has a myriad of uses today, from water filtration systems to silver polish.
The White Mountains National Forest diligently acquired the land that is now the White Mountains National Forest peice by peice. It acquired the East Pond site in 1994, from the Henry family.
Tripoli Road Trailheads: Take exit 28 off I-93. Turn east on Rt.49 and travel around 11 miles to Waterville Valley. Turn left onto Tripoli Rd. After 1.2 miles bear right at the intersection with the ski area entrance. For the parking area, follow signs to Camp Depot and Livermore Rd. and cross bridge. The Tripoli Road / East Ponds Trail ride can also be done from other direction by taking exit 31 off I-93. Turn east onto Tripoli Rd.
East Ponds Trailhead: I-93, exit 31 onto Tripoli Road. Head east on Tripoli Road and at around 5.3 miles from the I-93 underpass, make a left turn onto an old dirt logging road that leads to a gravel parking area. The East Ponds trailhead is located at the far end of the parking lot between 2 boulders.