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Sugar River Rail Trail & Bobby Woodman, NH

• 5-star trail
• 9.5 to 11.3 miles each way
• Medium difficulty | Elevation gain nominal
• Sunapee Region | Newport - Claremont NH
• Sugar River Directions: West, Oak St, East
• Bobby Woodman Directions: West, East

Wright's Covered Bridge and the Sugar River, looking West.

Among the most picturesque rail trails in New Hampshire, the shady Sugar River Rail Trail intertwines with the wide and fast-flowing river from which it is named, over several river crossings including steel truss bridges and historic covered railroad bridges.

Historically the route of the Western section of the Concord & Claremont Railroad built in the 1870s, the state of New Hampshire had the foresight to buy this right-of-way after it was abandoned in 1977. The route is now a multi-use trail maintained in part by fees from snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle owners, who share the trail with hikers, cyclists, equestrians and cross-country skiers.

Hardpack (some sand), Live Rail, Historic.

For the best out-and-back bicycle experience we advise starting at the West end by the Route 103 trailhead near Claremont. Here the Eastbound trail runs along the banks of the Sugar River on a surface that is mostly hardpack with short patches of occasional sand. Bikes with smaller tires and less seasoned riders may struggle with some of the trail conditions, and by starting at the less sandy West end and riding the gentle uphill gradient, the rider has the option to turn around and head back downhill depending on their comfort level. From the Western trailhead of the Sugar River Trail, the covered bridges are at mile 2.3 and 3.5 and the two steel truss bridges are at mile 6.1 and 6.5.

Walkers will also likely prefer starting at the Western end, though alternatively parking by Oak Street would start you by the two steel truss bridges and a Westerly 4 mile trek leads to the covered railroad bridges. Check out the interpretative sign by the parking lot to learn about the factories that once stood on this site, and the covered bridge that once carried Oak Street traffic across the river.

Following closely to the Sugar River, the rail trail has great views.

One-way bicycle trippers will likely want to start in the East by the Claremont trailhead and head downhill. From here you'll experience the most numerous and deepest of sandy sections, which are at their worst in dry summer periods and immediately after being graded in the spring. Starting an out-and-back journey from here though, would set you up for an uphill return journey ending with the worst of the sandy conditions. Those with light gravel bikes or e-bikes might find the sand less of a problem however.

The 1.8 mile Bobby Woodman Rail Trail continues along the route in a Westerly direction, starting at the Route 103 Sugar River Trail trailhead and progressing as far as the remaining live railroad tracks just South of downtown Claremont. Instead of running alongside the river, this trail unfortunately runs between a highway and box-store parking lots for half its length, with the remaining distance traversing unremarkable residential neighborhoods.

The Sugar River Rail Trail is a genuine gem of a trail that's best explored between the months of May and October. All-terrain vehicles riding this route are most popular at weekends and holidays, so for the most tranquil visits we recommend a weekday visit where possible. Regardless of when you can visit however, this is a trail not to be missed.

Trail Conditions
Sugar River: hardpack, occasional sandy sections at the East. Flat 2.2 miles starting at the East, then light 35 ft/mi Westward descent. Bobby Woodman: hardpack & mostly flat.

Wright's Covered Bridge.

One of several steel bridges crossing the Sugar River.

• Official Links: Sugar River, Bobby Woodman
• AllTrails Public: Sugar River, Bobby Woodman
• TrailLink: Sugar River
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

NH Rail Trails Map
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NH Covered Bridges
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NH State Parks
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