On June 24, 2022, a group of GrNY riders completed this epic ride to celebrate 2x Peter’s birthday (plus some extra miles to make it an even century). It was also a great sendoff before I head to Colorado for the rest of the summer. The upper ~65 miles come from Mark L’s excellent 2021 Riga route. I did an 80-mile version of this route last summer and knew that I needed to return!
Epic gravel ride that includes the climb up Mt Riga (~1250ft), the more challenging climb to Sunset Rock (~1050ft, but steeper), the flat (and beautiful) Housatonic River Road, and other premium stretches of gravel in the region. It includes the option to visit Bash Bish falls (just steps away from the route). Worth the drive!
I’ve pasted the RidewithGPS route below, which contains a detailed description and options for shorter 75- and 86-mile distances. The 75-mile route is probably the sweet spot as it includes both big climbs and the entire Berkshires part of the ride. The last 22 miles of the full route have some excellent dirt roads, too. We were originally going to start in Kent, CT, but moved the start location to Housatonic Meadows State Park Picnic Area to allow for some shorter “bailout” options (75 or 86 miles), in case anybody needed to get back earlier, or in case we ran out of steam. Thankfully we managed to keep the pedals turning for 100 miles and 9500 ft of climbing and had an awesome ride! We celebrated with some beer at the end.
19.5 mi: Optional water/gatorade stop at LaBonne’s Market in Salisbury
34.5 mi: Required stop at Depot Deli for snacks/food/water. This will be needed after climbing Mt Riga and before climbing Sunset Rock (each 1250ft and 1050ft, respectively). Bathrooms available at Taconic State Park near the swimming area (across the street).
49 mi: Lunch at the Marketplace Kitchen and Cafe in Sheffield (sandwiches, etc). They might not carry sports drinks, but we could backtrack 0.1 miles to the Mobile Station across the street if needed.
65mi: Optional detour to Falls River Cafe.
78mi: Required Stop at supermarket in Sharon, CT. Last reliable place to get food/drinks before end of ride.
Housatonic Meadows Picnic Area has been a safe choice. They had decent porta-potties when we last visited (late June, 2022). There is no fee (just drive and park — no booth). Mark’s ride starts at Housatonic High School. I’m guessing that will work for weekends or summer, only.
My Saturday ride was *not* a GrNY group ride, but I thought I would share a scouting report for those who are interested in riding in this lovely region in the future. I don’t recommend taking my exact route (i.e. don’t do this: https://www.strava.com/activities/5681995427). But I have posted a revised version below.
The heart of my ride was Mark L’s 2021 Mt Riga route, which he has characterized in detail (https://www.cyclesnack.com/2021/07/annual-mt-riga-pilgrimage.html?m=1). Thank you Mark! In my infinite wisdom (i.e. foolishness) I decided that I wanted an extended version of Mark’s adventure. The version I rode ended up being 80 miles and ~7500′ of climbing.
Overall: It was an epic ride that included the ~1250′ climb up Mt Riga, the steeper ~1000′ climb up Sunset Rock, and the beautiful (flat) River Rd along the Housatonic River just north of West Cornwall. My version added a pleasant southern gravel loop in the Sharon, CT region, which could easily be extended by continuing in the southeast direction (see GravelMap.com if you are unfamiliar). I had originally mapped >90 miles before sanity kicked in and I cut it down to 80.
Interesting dirt/gravel sections (in order of appearance):
The Mt Riga climb (1250′) was not as tough as I had expected/feared. It was long, but the average grade was ~5% and the really steep sections were not too long.
Sunset Rock (1000′) was actually tougher with a much steeper average grade on the main climb.
Between the Lakes Rd (mostly flat) was a wonderful stretch of dirt between Washinee Lake and Twin Lakes. Great water views in both directions.
Wildcat Hollow Rd (mostly flat) was somewhat true to it’s name in that it was a minimally maintained, very rough section of dirt/gravel through the woods. A bit more technical than other roads mentioned thus far.
The section of River Rd (flat), just north of West Cornwall, was a lovely highlight. It was between a seemingly rarely-used train corridor and the impressive Housatonic River.
Mt Easter Rd and Clay Bed Road (skip it): I rode this 3.5 mile sand pit so you don’t have to! After climbing at 9% average grade for 1.1 miles in the afternoon sun (up Swaller Hill Rd) I entered Mt Easter “road”. It was definitely not a road. I would characterize it as an unimproved jeep and ATV trail with big washouts and deep sand in many places. I continued for the complete distance, slowly fishtailing in the sand, bunny hopping over gulleys, and nearly toppling over countless times. A fat bike and a strong rider could push through the sand of this road, but I don’t think gravel bike tires can hope to maintain traction in many sections.
The southern gravel loop included Butter Rd, Bowne Rd, and Tichnor Rd. These were very pleasant forested gravel roads over rolling terrain. They were mostly well-maintained.
Steve’s extended version (78 miles, ~7000′): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/36928079 – This improved version removes the 3.5 mile Mt Easter Rd section of sandy jeep/ATV trails. By consequence, it also removes the Swaller Hill Rd climb.
Parking: Nobody gave me trouble for parking at the Sharon Audubon Center on a quiet Saturday, but there were tons of signs saying ‘no parking’ during morning and afternoon camp pickup hours (presumable on weekdays?). Mark’s ride starts at Housatonic High School, but I’m guessing that parking is only allowed on weekends when school is not in session? Maybe someone who is local can chime in.