You wouldn’t dream of touring the Louvre in a Lexus, the Prado in a Porsche, or the Vatican in a Volvo. Yet that’s how thousands of people view the New England fall foliage… strapped in a car, hurtling down the highway, craning their necks to get an occasional glimpse of rainbow colored trees.
There’s a better way. Believe it or not, it’s possible to explore New Hampshire’s autumn splendor at a calm and peaceful pace while leaving the crowds behind. And you’ll save the environment, save money, and get some exercise to boot.
New Hampshire is home to over fifty fabulous rail-trails. Each of these trails would be great for a relaxing view of the fall foliage. Five of them in particular are great for a full day tour of New Hampshire’s splendor.
The Ashuelot and Cheshire Rail-Trails begin in Keene, New Hampshire. Both of them are over 20 miles long and, as their names imply, are built over the remains of old railroad lines. The Ammonoosuc Rail Trail is based out of Littleton, New Hampshire and is 19 miles long. After a great day exploring the Ammonusuc trail, riders have only to cross a quaint covered bridge to enjoy delicious baked goods and historical ambience at Miller’s Bakery. And the Rockingham Recreational Trail begins in Manchester and runs to Newfields which is located on Great Bay. Manchester is New Hampshire’s largest city and may be the easiest to reach by air.
However, my favorite rail trail in New Hampshire, and probably the most family friendly, is the Northern Rail-Trail. At 23 miles in length, “the Northern” starts in Lebanon and is a pleasant jaunt to Danbury. While many rail-trails follow rivers along their course, the Northern gives riders a chance to get up close and personal with the Mascoma River as the trail crosses the river seven times within the first four miles.
The trail starts at the Witherell Recreation Center in Lebanon and is obviously a family favorite. Tagalongs, tandems, trailers, and training wheels (the four Ts) dominate the first couple miles of the trail as children and their parents enjoy this beautiful stretch of the trail that takes full advantage of old railroad bridges to cross the river about every half mile or so. Gradually the trail population begins to thin out and soon the biking broods give way to desolation boulevard.