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Rockingham Recreational Trail

For active travelers, the Rockingham Recreational Trail is probably the most readily available of the New Hampshire rail trails. Due to its proximity to Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest town (and airport), the trail is a cinch to access.
Once you get to Manchester, the trail is not quite so easy to find, but if you use the map found below, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty. Many people, including some bicycle enthusiasts I spoke with, did not know where the Rockingham Recreational Trail was located. So if you’re asking for directions, you might want to start by asking how to get to the Massabesic Lake boat launch. The trail is quite close to the boat launch and actually wanders alongside the lake for awhile. Basically, if you’re traveling from Manchester, you’ll follow State Route 101 north/east, then take State Route 28 south. After a fairly short drive, you’ll go through a rotary/roundabout. When you see the boat launch on the left, you’re also at the trailhead. There is parking at the boat launch, but if you get there early, the gate to the parking lot will be locked, so you may need to park in the baseball fields parking lot across the street. There were some no parking signs there, but it seemed to be where most of the trail-users were parking.
Once you’re on the trail your parking worries and pretty much every other worry will quickly melt away as you follow the lakeshore and begin crossing scenic bridges and waving at friendly people. Much of the trail has a nice shade cover and the first part is no exception. Although I heard numerous reports of mosquito infestations, I wasn’t too inundated with the little critters. Given the proliferation of puddles, ponds, and bogs, however, I can imagine that the insects can be pretty bad for some portions of the year; so I recommend you take along some repellant, just in case.
The trail is excellent for mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and maybe even for most recumbent bikes. I wouldn’t, however, recommend it for road bikes. I was pleasantly surprised by the trail surface. I imagine it can be a bit muddy in the spring, but since I was there in the fall, the trail was in pretty good shape. From what I understand, we have the regional snowmobile clubs to thank for that. Like most of the rails-to-trails in New Hampshire, it is the winter trail users who maintain the trail. Hats off to the snowmobilers. They make great trail partners.
While near Lake Massabesic, there were a fair number of fellow trail users, but before long, I felt like I had the trail to myself most of the way to Newfields, NH. As with so many other rail trails, the trail abounds with tranquil scenery and historically significant detours. Some of the old railroad bridges cross beautiful New England waterways. And near the halfway point of the trail, riders are treated to the old railroad depot in Raymond, New Hampshire. It is the perfect midway spot for hungry, weary bike riders to stop for lunch. In addition to history and nourishment for the soul, the town of Raymond also provides nourishment for the tummy with plenty of snack options located quite near the trail.
Most Rockingham trail users will ride out and back in one day. But since the trail ends near Great Bay, I’d love to hear from any of you who spend the night in one of the towns near the east end of the trail. It seems as if it would make for a great weekend to spend a day on the trail and leave time to explore some of the small towns near the bay. I imagine there’s got to be some great seafood and nice little shops. If you decide to do that, please let me know through either the trailsnet contact page or blog page.

Trail Map


Suggested Lodging

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