Winter has definitely overstayed its welcome this year. The snow bike thing was fun for a little bit, but Chris and I were both jonesing for some real dirt. We decided to head south to a place that promised dry trails and warmer temperatures. That place turned out to be Allaire State Park in Wall Township, New Jersey. Chris told me about the sandy, winding trails this place had to offer and after speaking to a few friends, it became clear that Allaire was “the” late winter getaway of many downstate New York mountain bikers. It was settled, then; we’re hitting up the Jersey shore! Two hours and an astonishing amount of 1970’s Mercedes-Benz sedan sightings later, we were there. At ten degrees warmer than the Hudson Valley and no snow in sight, we weren’t gonna let the gloomy sky dampen our spirits. It was shorts weather, after all!
Allaire is a pretty compact place with winding ribbons of singletrack. There are only a few official trails, all loops – distinguished by blue, white, and orange trail markers. In reality, there are braids and short cut offs everywhere, yet it seems almost impossible to get lost. Every trail or detour brings you back to the main loop and you’re only ever a couple of miles from the trailhead. By the end of our ride, we stopped bothering with the trail map and just took the trail that looked more fun at each intersection.
The conditions were perfect. The soil here varies between hardpack and pebbly, sandy, patches. There are no big rocks here and the roots are minimal. Just smooth, fast singletrack. The sandy stretches are formed by the erosion of the topsoil that leaves narrow, sandy channels, surrounded by what’s best defined as catch berms with ribbons of moss at the top edge. Double wheel slides all day out here!
There is minimal elevation gain and this forces you to be on the gas constantly. If you wanna slide into those berms or double that little natural double, you’re gonna have to pedal for it. Allaire is the ideal place for nimble XC bikes or dare I say, even cyclocross bikes. The harder you pedal, the greater the reward. Along with fast, swoopy sections, there are plenty of tight turns with narrow trees right where you’d wanna lean your bike. Old school trail design that makes for challenging and sometimes awkward cornering, while being a great training ground for perfecting those skills.
Sprinkled all over the park are little play areas with skinnies, table tops, and hip jumps. The jumps are in a really sandy area and would be best attempted in the wet. With the conditions we saw this weekend, I can only imagine how much speed and energy you’d lose trying these in the dry summer months.
For a geographical location that doesn’t have much elevation variation, Allaire State Park packs in a lot of action in a small package. Come here on any bike short of a DH machine, and you’re guaranteed to have fun. Whether you’re just starting out and want a place with low intimidation factor, an expert looking to advance your cornering or even jumping technique, or an XC powerhouse banging out laps, short track style. I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to learn about this place.