Peterborough Rail Trail

• 8.5 mile trail
• 2 miles road biking required
• Elevation gain nominal (700-770 ft)
• Monadnock Region | Peterborough NH
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Stopping in Peterborough for an ice-cream, with time to admire the town.

Established beneath Mount Monadnock and along the banks of the Contoocook River, Peterborough is a small, picturesque New Hampshire town popular with visitors for its dining, antique stores and proximity to the hills and lakes that surround it.

Although it's now virtually impossible to reach the town by any other way but road, we can enjoy tracing a journey along the former railroad line into the town from the North, where the Monadnock Railroad was extended to connect to the Milford-Bennington line. This route is also known as the Common Pathway.

The North half of the trail is on the Eastern side of the US-202 and known as the Old Railroad Trail. Here the trail passes through thick forest and mostly follows the Western banks of the Contoocook. Initially the unpaved trail is wide enough for two bikes to pass, but it becomes single track towards the end of the trail and occasionally a little muddy. Up here, it’s well worth a one mile side-trip to the Hancock-Greenfield covered bridge, which is accessible via the moderately trafficked Forest Road.

The Northern section follows closely to the contours of the Contoocook.

Parking at the North end is sparse. You could either start where the trail intersects the US-202, or alternatively park near the covered bridge at the Powdermill Pond boat launch.

The Southern section of the trail - known locally as the Common Pathway is located West of the US-202 heads towards Peterborough on a flat, wide trail which becomes paved from Prescott Hill Road. Highlights on this section include picturesque pond views, a boardwalk section near Hunt Road and upon arriving in Peterborough includes the Brenner Bridge footbridge crossing where the Nubanusit Brook meets the Contoocoock.

Brenner Bridge footbridge on Peterborough's waterfront.

Unfortunately, reaching Peterborough requires biking on road. We’ve made careful note of the 2 miles of road biking sections on our map to help you plan your journey. Traffic on these roads is somewhere between light and moderate, depending on the time of day.

The last half mile of Southbound cycling terminates at Noone Falls, formerly the site of a sawmill and now a pan-Asian restaurant with a patio that overlooks the waterfront. Although not signed, public parking is a common sight at the Old Sharon Road end of the lot. I parked in a lot behind the mill, after confirming with an employee that it was acceptable to do so.

Noone Falls at the Southern terminus of this trail.

Trail conditions are mostly good and elevation change is nominal. The hardest parts of the trail are occasionally and unsustained muddy single-track sections towards the North. The rest of the trail is either paved or very well compacted.

Overall, a fun trail that is best when paired with a visit to Peterborough’s attractions, or at least a visit to the covered bridge. The trail does get a failing grade for the way it drops trail users directly into road traffic – particularly at Summer Street where we’re expected to travel in the road gutter facing oncoming traffic, which by my reckoning is illegal as well as dangerous. I'm looking forward to the day that US road engineers start accommodating for bikes with more than just a painted white line as an afterthought.

The Hancock-Greenfield covered bridge.

Rail Trail Links:
North - Hillsborough Rail Trail
South - Monadnock Rail Trail

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