You Have to Experience the NH Rail Trails

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Rockingham Recreational Rail Trail
Source: John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

While the railroad was a popular mode of transportation in the 1800s, Americans quickly turned to automobiles when they became readily available.

However, many states that once had a thriving railroad industry found themselves littered with unused railroad infrastructures.

So what do you do with thousands of miles of railroad tracks you no longer need? The NH Rail Trails Coalition has the perfect solution!

Today, we’re looking at how a group from New Hampshire has converted these no-longer-needed train tracks into several hundred miles of all-season trails. You have to experience the NH Rail Trails! Let’s take a look!

What Are the NH Rail Trails?

New Hampshire had a generous amount of railroads that were no longer needed or beyond repair. The New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition saw the potential for recreational use and began taking steps to convert the infrastructures into walking, running, and biking paths.

The coalition’s mission is “to promote the development, maintenance, and active use of trails constructed on New Hampshire’s railroad corridors.” They hope to “build a world-class system of rail trails for four-season active use in New Hampshire.”

So far, they’ve created 52 rail trails that provide over 380 miles of rail trails managed by 29 rail-trail organizations. The trail infrastructure is a great way for individuals to enjoy various outdoor recreational activities anytime.

Plus, the trails travel through some of the best landscapes in the entire state of New Hampshire. 

Kid biking along NH Rail Trail

How Do You Access the NH Rail Trails?

Accessing the NH Rail Trails is very easy. Most NH Rail Trails run through towns and cities along the way.

As a result, there are plenty of places to find street parking or designated parking lots for the trail system. Some even have public restrooms and water fountains. The Raymond B&M Depot is a restored train depot along the Rockingham Recreational Trail with a parking area for those wanting to use the trail or explore the depot.

The State of New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development created a map of the recreational rail trails throughout the state.

You don’t have to start at the start of a trail. You’ll likely find multiple access points throughout. If there’s no designated trail parking, make sure you don’t block any gates and park entirely off the road. 

Is the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire Paved?

The Northern Recreation Rail Trail is not paved but uses cinder and crushed stone for the surface. This makes it an ideal trail for walking and biking, but cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mushing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are also acceptable.

At 48 miles, the trail is the longest rail trail in the NH Rail Trail system. However, there are plans for an additional 11 miles of trail. It begins in Webster Place in Franklin, N.H., crosses two counties, and ends in Lebanon, N.H. You can find parking areas in Lebanon, Andover, East Andover, and Boscawen. 

Keep in Mind: If you haven’t visited the Quaint Town Of Dublin, NH, here’s why you should!

The NH Rail Trails are all commonly used by residents of the Granite State. However, the Nashua River Rail Trail from Nashua to Ayer is among the most popular.

It’s 12.3-miles from Nashua, N.H., to Ayer, Mass. Parking is available at both ends of the trail in Nashua and Ayer. However, you’ll also find parking throughout the trail in Groton, Pepperell, and several other access points. 

What Do You See Along the NH Rail Trails?

The NH Rail Trails allow users to experience some of the best scenery in New Hampshire. Many of the trails run along bodies of water through thick forests and provide views of mountains.

A portion of one of the trails cuts through a section of rock near Mascoma Lake. Using the NH Rail Trails can be an excellent opportunity to get outdoors and experience New Hampshire’s beauty.

Keep in Mind: After you’re done on the trails, get tipsy at some of the best wineries in New Hampshire!

What Are the Best Times of Year to Experience the NH Rail Trails?

Luckily, many of the trails are open year-round. Many people find that experiencing the NH Rail Trails during the fall can be an incredible experience. The leaves are changing, and the temperatures are getting cooler.

Put on your favorite sweatshirt or jacket and lace up your walking or running shoes to enjoy the beauty of the New Hampshire fall foliage. The bright colors from the trees reflect in the waters along the trail and transform the entire landscape into a picture-perfect setting.

However, the best time to experience them depends greatly on how you plan to use them. You’re not going to visit during the summer months if you want to go snowshoeing.

Some sections or uses of the trail will significantly depend on the weather. Check the use restrictions for any trail before heading out on an adventure.

Wood bridge along a NH Rail Trail.

Are the NH Rail Trails Worth It?

If you’re looking for a smooth, flat place to get in some outdoor recreation miles, the NH Rail Trails is a perfect option. The trails are well maintained, and resources are often available nearby. You’ll likely find water fountains, restrooms, and even food from businesses near the trail.

With so many people using them, you won’t have to worry nearly as much about your safety. While you can find rail trails in other states, not many states offer such a great network and infrastructure compared to the NH Rail Trails.

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