Route: Northern Rail Trail (NH)

New Hampshire, US
95 km
Vertical Gain
400 m

The Northern Recreational Rail Trail, also known as the Northern Rail Trail, is a 58-mile multi-use rail trail in western New Hampshire, USA, running from Lebanon to Boscawen. It uses the right-of-way of the Boston and Maine Railroad's former Northern Line, which was acquired by the State of New Hampshire in 1996.
I actually ran the trail in reverse, from Boscawen starting at the Hanna Dustin Park and Ride which is the closest parking to trails start 1/2 mile away. Ending at the trail terminus in Lebanon. I choose this direction as I live in Canterbury NH near the start of the trail in Boscawen. The detailed description below if from Lebanon down to Boscawen.

Begin your journey in Lebanon at the trail’s northern end to take advantage of the mostly downhill slope. Lebanon offers a handful of restaurants and shops, and you’ll want to make sure you stock up before you set out, as there are remote sections between towns.

The journey southeast from Lebanon is easy and scenic as you cross nine short bridges over the Mascoma River in the first 4 miles. The trail then skirts the northern shore of the 1,100-acre Mascoma Lake, where you may encounter bathers taking a dip on a hot day. The trail then enters the lakeside community of Enfield. Past here, the path occasionally narrows and can be overgrown with grass and other vegetation. You’ll appreciate the dense tree cover in this heavily wooded country in the summer, however.

About 20 miles past Enfield you’ll arrive in Danbury, a popular near--midway point for rest and replenishment. The Danbury Country Store offers snacks, restrooms, and a welcome porch. By now you have crossed into Merrimack County, where the trail is upgraded to a crushed stone surface rather than the cinders in Grafton County. Several interpretive signs scattered throughout the remainder of the trail also improve the experience and inform trail users on the rail line’s history.

Seven miles past Danbury you pass Andover’s Potter Place Railroad Station, restored to look as it did in 1874. The depot’s museum, caboose, and nearby freight house are operated by the Andover Historical Society. In 1 mile, the trail crosses the Blackwater River next to the 1882 Keniston Covered Bridge. Andover stretches along US 4/Main Street roughly between Eagle Pond and Highland Lake; restaurants are on Main Street north of the trail.

East of Andover, the trail enters slightly denser environs, so expect to encounter more people using the trail. This is particularly true at the popular swimming spot Webster Lake, named for local 19th-century statesman Daniel Webster. In Franklin, 1.7 miles past the lake, a short on-road connection links to the Winnipesaukee River Trail.

Continuing south on the Northern Rail Trail, you’ll come across the stone remains of a turntable that once assisted in changing the direction of locomotives. For the remaining 11 miles south, you’ll closely follow US 3 and the Merrimack River to the trail’s end at a cornfield in the southern reaches of Boscawen.

GPS Track