The Northern Rail Trail (eastern half) – A Great Ride

In the 1840’s, the Northern Rail Line was built between Concord NH and White River Junction VT, thus connecting Boston to the Upper Connecticut Valley by rail.  It was still early on in the railroad boom as one of hundreds of lines being built across the country.  Now, nearly 170 years later, that rail line has been transformed into New Hampshire’s premiere rail trail, extending 58 miles from Boscawen to Lebanon NH.

Mt. Kearsarge towers over part of the trail

Mt. Kearsarge towers over this part of the trail

I have long been involved with the western end of this trail, the Grafton County portion, which volunteers worked to complete nearly a decade ago, but had never ridden the just-completed eastern end, the Merrimack County portion, until today.  So this blog is only about the eastern end.

Potter Place, Andover NH

Potter Place, Andover NH

Starting near the midpoint of the trail in Potter Place, with its restored depot building & museum and ample parking, I biked eastward through the towns of Andover, Franklin, and Boscawen NH.  It was a great ride.  You can get maps here.

Old trestle, Andover NH

Old trestle, Andover NH

One of the nice things about this trail is that it is shady almost its entire length, which on a hot summer day can really be a godsend.  Although the tracks and ties have all been removed, lots of reminders of the railroad remain, from trestles and depots to the granite mile markers which are being lovingly re-painted and in some cases re-installed along the trail.

Restored mile markers - 44 miles to White River Junction

Restored mile markers – 44 miles to White River Junction, VT

The distances to Boston are painted on one side and White River Junction on the other.

Foundation of a roundtable in Franklin NH

Foundation of a roundtable in Franklin NH

There was even the remains of a neat old roundtable in Franklin, where several other lines once led northwards and eastwards.

The trail's last few miles skirts the Merrimack River

The trail’s last few miles skirts the Merrimack River

Essentially flat the entire way, the trail does descend ever so slightly as it heads down the Merrimack River towards Concord.  There were lots of boaters enjoying the river today too.

The eastern end of the rail trail

The eastern end of the rail trail

Several parking lots are available all along the length of the trail so it’s easy to do as much or as little of the trail as you wish.  In my opinion, the Grafton County portion of the trail is more scenic, but the Merrimack County portion is a much better trail surface and ride.  There are several places along the line where it’s easy to get supplies if you need them and Andover had several picnic tables in convenient and scenic spots.  I enjoyed a stop in the Franklin Historical Society Museum, which is just off the trail (and has ice cream and drinks for sale).

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Happy travels!

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6 responses to “The Northern Rail Trail (eastern half) – A Great Ride

  1. I forgot to say that the hanging railroad hardware was used to warn anyone standing on top of the boxcars that they’d better duck down in a hurry, because there was a tunnel or trestle up ahead. Better to be hit in the head by one of the hanging wires than the keystone of a tunnel.

  2. Pingback: Cheshire Rail Trail (south) – Keene to the MA Border | The Park Explorer·

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