Cheshire Rail Trail (south) – Keene to the MA Border

Mt Monadnock from the Cheshire Rail Trail

Mt Monadnock from the Cheshire Rail Trail

What’s not to love about a rail trail?  Free of road traffic, with a unique blend of urban and rural, providing touches of history, both the natural and man-made kind, and marvelously, relentlessly flat, they offer a great opportunity for a care-free bike ride.

Having just returned from a 6-day ride on the GAP trail, I thought I’d take a closer look at a trail closer to home.  I’d already biked the Northern Rail Trail so today’s (early July) destination was Keene NH, a great little town more famous for its pumpkin festival than its trails.  But with 3 rail trails, each about 20 miles, extending north, south, and west of a cute downtown, maybe Keene has another identity waiting to be discovered.

Leaving Keene

Leaving Keene

The trail started out paved in downtown Keene but rapidly deteriorated after crossing Route 101 and the Arch Bridge a mile or two outside of town.

The restored station in Troy NH

The restored station in Troy NH

At about the 10-mile mark the trail headed into Troy NH where the old station has been restored.  For the next few miles the trail surface improved noticeably and became fun to ride again.  Riding past Rockwood Lake even afforded a glimpse of Mt. Monadnock.  Alas! that was about the only view of the mountain for the day. And Double Alas! the condition of the trail deteriorated again.  A few of the road crossings were really in rough shape!  Upon entering the town of Fitzwilliam I could have taken a detour of about a mile and visited Rhododendron State Park, especially as this was July and the rhodies would have been in full bloom, but it wasn’t in the cards for today.

The restored station in Fitzwilliam NH

The restored station in Fitzwilliam NH

Fitzwilliam has also restored it’s station but for me that was the only highlight of the town, although there was a scenic little quarry just next to the trail and a good spot for a rest.  The rail trail continued south towards the Massachusetts border where theoretically it connects up with another 16-mile trail extending southwards.  You’d have to research the connection because there were no signs.

At the state border the trail just ends abruptly

At the state border the trail just ends abruptly and leads into a dismal morass

Heading back north again was more enjoyable, partly because I knew what to expect and partly because from Rhododendron Road northwards it was all a very gentle downhill slope, allowing for a faster ride.IMG_4541One nice thing about this ride is that it feels pretty remote without being very far from any town.  I didn’t see any large wildlife today but considering the mid-day temperatures, that’s not surprising.  There were a few interesting rock cuts and bridges, reminders of the days when the line was active, although I only saw one mile marker the whole way.IMG_4557I was tempted to stop at one of these cuts, as Allen, a popular blogger from Keene, tends to wax poetic about them as places to spot interesting plants.  But I had lost my desire to dally and wanted to get back to Keene for a well-deserved supper.

Mt.Monadnock from Rockwood Lake

Mt.Monadnock from Rockwood Lake

For a pretty accurate description of the condition of the trail, I found this review by AMCHiker to be pretty accurate.  For another blog with more photos and another perspective, you might check out this entry on the NH Parks website.

Happy travels!

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