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Harrisville & Hancock Rail Trails NH


• 3 & 4 star trails
• 0.5 to 2.8 miles each way
• Medium difficulty | Easy elevation
• Marlborough-Harrisville-Hancock, NH | Monadnock Region
• Driving Directions: See below

Standing in the forest. Above is a railroad embankment with a steel truss bridge spanning a small but fast-flowing creek.
A 100 year old steel truss bridge spanning Jaquith Brook since 2018.

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The hilly terrain east of Keene wasn't the most ideal geography for a large nineteeth century civil enginering project, but in 1878 the railroad optimistically known as the Manchester and Keen Railroad successfully connected Keene with Hancock and Bennington. It never made it as far as Manchester. Though the massive valley-spanning trestle bridges are no more, much of this abandoned industrial age infrastructure remains intact if you know where to look.

Efforts have been made to restore and recover sections of the old route for public access, including the recent success at spanning Jaquith Brook with a repurposed steel truss bridge and annual upkeep by both Harris Center and the local snowmobile clubs. Despite this, some sections of these accessible routes remain undiscovered to all except a handful of locals and gravel bicyclists.

There's a lot to enjoy along the route including several intact former stations, some massive earthworks including an embankment that has to be at least 100 foot in height, small settlements and mill towns, and many natural woodland sights. Expect rougher trails best suited for rugged hybrid bikes, gravel and mountain bikes. We've highlighted the smoother trails, but expect some brain rattlers on others.

dark green icon Hardpack, purple icon Rough, dark gray icon Live Rail, light gray icon Historic. Expand Map

dark green icon purple icon All Harrisville & Hancock Rail Trails 3-4★
11.4 miles each way, Medium, Gain 387 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails
Trailspotting Map: GPX Download
Trailspotting Map: Google Earth KMZ

We set out on a mission to live up to our name and conduct a little research - locating and mapping all the navigable routes along this old railroad route while respecting no trespassing signs where the alignment now runs through private property. We also note that much of this route is also described in the 2016 New Hampshire Rail Trails book by Charles Martin, though we arrived at our maps and observations independently.

Below we offer summary descriptions of each section of rail trail to help you decide what to check out first. Where possible we've utilized existing known names for sections of rail trail for reasons of consistency.

Man looking over the end of a bridge abutment into a valley filled with evergreen trees.
Looking for what remains of the Canada Brook Trestle.

  1   Buffler Memorial Rail Trail 3★
0.7 mi ea way, Rough trail, Gain 130ft (20ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Short wide trail through forest to the east abutment of the former Canada Brook trestle bridge. Marginally rough. Watch out for the left turning spur near the end of the trail which terminates at the stonework abutment. There is also a trail that continues to the north but we have no evidence that this was ever a rail alignment. Trailhead is on a road that may look like a private driveway, but that is not the case. Trailhead is signed and marked for public access.

  2   Roxbury Rail Trail 4★
2.2 mi ea way, Rough trail, Gain 190ft (40ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Picturesque brook side forest trail that includes vies of the Minnewawa Dam and reservoir. Please respect no trespassing signs. Marginally rough. Parking for only one vehicle is possible on the east side of Roxbury Road without blocking the gate. Wide service road leads from Roxbury Road towards the dam. After the dam the snowmobile club maintained trail continues on, almost all the way to the Chesham Rail Trail through a missing bridge prevents connection. A further short section of trail is west of Roxbury Road includes a massively tall valley-spanning embankment, but eventually strays from the railroad alignment and terminates at the edge of a field. Remnants of Glen Falls Trestle can also be seen on nearby Horse Hill Road.

Top of a curved concrete dam with handrails. Reservoir behind the dam reflects the green trees that surround it.
Minnewawa Dam and Trestle (photo on private property with permission)

  3   Chesham Rail Trail 3★
0.5 mi ea way, Rough trail, No gradient
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Short trail that starts at the old Chesham railroad station and follows Minnewawa Brook for a short distance until a missing bridge ends your journey. Open views near Chesham leading into forest. Roots across this narrow trail make this harder going for bicyclists.

  4   Harrisville Rail Trail 3★
1.9 mi ea way, Rough trail, Gain 90ft (50ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Forest trail that begins by the former Harrisville railroad station now police station. This longer section passes alongside and between several ponds with pleasant views. Marginally rough trail with occasional spots of light mud. To the west the old alignment is now occupied by private houses between Chesham Road and Chesham Pond. To the east, the route of the rail trail can be followed for an additional mile along Skatutakee Lake Road but eventually terminates at private property before reaching the Eastview trailhead on Hancock Road.

Two images. Small station building surrounded by open grassland and an occasional tree, with an old railraod switch in front. Photo of a 'B&M Chesham Station Bulletin' chalkboard that is presently blank.
Not many activities to report at the B&M Chesham Station.

  5   Eastview-Jaquith Rail Trail 4★
2.8 mi ea way, Hardpack/Rough, Gain 90ft (240ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Forest trail with a mostly hardpacked surface, and a 0.6 mile rough section at the east end with roots and old railroad ties. We recommend starting at the west end, so you can turn around if the route gets too rough. The trail includes a new 2018 bridge crossing - a repurposed and relocated century old steel truss bridge that now spans Jaquith Brook gully. An additional short ride up Hancock Road at the west end of the trail is also recommended to check out the PJ Memorial Dam and Lake Skatutakee. At the east end, continue to the SE corner of the Jaquith road bridge abutments and find an informal trail that connects you directly to the Old Dublin Road Rail Trail.

  6   Old Dublin Road Rail Trail 2★
2.3 mi ea way, Rough, Gain 90ft (170ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Harris Center calls this section an easy 0.7 mile trek from Old Dublin Road to Eaton Road in Hancock, but when we rode the trail we were able to continue for a further 1.6 miles all the way to Jacquith Road and connect with the Eastview-Jacquith Rail Trail. One word of caution however, as this section includes some muddy parts, a few fallen trees and a 0.1 mile length that was substantially overgrown. It's so bad we felt compelled to show this area on our map. This is mostly a wide trail through woodland, with few distinguishing features. The easternmost trailhead is opposite 92 Old Dublin Road down a driveway with a small 'trail parking sign'.

  7   Hancock Rail Trail 3★
1.0 mi ea way, Hardpack/Rough, Gain 50ft (90ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails | Driving directions
Though short, this forested section close to Norway Pond in Hancock includes a preserved station building, ruins of the Moose Brook trestle bridge and a quarter mile of hardpack trail at the east end. Thanks to considerate residents for providing a trail connection between the two ends of the trestle bridge.

Pond reflecting fall colors on the Harrisville Rail Trail.
Pond reflecting fall colors on the Harrisville Rail Trail.

Left: a narrow boardwalk spanning a marshy section. Right: bicycle leaning against a trail bridge.
More scenes from the short but picturesque Chesham Rail Trail.

Tangents:
• External Links: TrailLink (Eastview-Jaquith), Harris Center Trails
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Nearby Trails:
• 4 miles away: Peterborough Rail Trail
• 5 miles away: Cheshire South Rail Trail
• Show on map: All nearby rail trails

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