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NH Seacoast Greenway Rail Trail


• 4-star trail
• 11.6 miles each way
• Medium difficulty | Elevation gain nominal
• Seacoast | Portsmouth-Hampton-Seabrook NH
• Driving Directions: North (Barberry), South (Salt Marshes)


This undeveloped trail feels like a trip down a country lane.

Heading South from Portsmouth in the direction of Newburyport the railroad tracks of the former Hampton Branch are still present in many places, but not for long. The State of New Hampshire purchased the full length of the route from Portsmouth to the state line in 2019. Designs are being finalized with an eye to begin construction of a formalized rail trail during 2023, with completion of the Northern 9.7 mile segment in early 2024. Development of further segments are likely up to a decade away however.

For now this narrow trail feels like a very pleasant trip down a country lane, and trail conditions are already on par with the quality of some formalized rail trails we've ridden. Authorities aren't encouraging the public to visit, even intentionally not removing "no trespassing signs" that ceased to be enforeceable once the property changed hands. However there's no reason why locals, rail trail riders and explorers in small numbers can't still get one last look at the current state of the route before the tracks are removed and modern facilities installed.

Hardpack, Rough, Access, Live Rail, Historic.


We chose to begin at the North end of the trail close to Portsmouth where the route branches off from existing live rail. We took one of three informal parking spots where the trail intersects with Barberry Lane and headed South to see how far we could travel. The narrow hardpack track is free of vegetation and easy to cycle along in single file, and passing oncoming trail users was easy too. Most of the trail is under cover of mixed forest and hedgerows, passing under occasional faced stone abutment overbridges, and passing by a pond, an informal mountain bike park, a radio controlled flying club and Hampton Airfield on the way.

Old railroad infrastructure is limited to signs of track in the bushes, occasional granite mile markers and two former stations. North Hampton is now a picturesque residence and Hampton Depot is a restaurant which features terrace located on the old platform. We can picture that Bogie's Bar And Grill is going to be a great midway point to recouperate once the full trail is complete.

Just South of the old Hampton Depot you'll arrive a gap where the Drakeside Road bridge usef to be. Walking the bike across the road and up and down gentle embankment slopes was easy. It's around this point on the trail where there are more frequent - but still only occasional - rocks and roots to bump over, but still nothing that a road bike can't handle.


Old railroad bridges on the salt marshes of Hampton-Seabrook Estuary.

Travelling under the Route 1 and Route 101 interchange does get a little bumpy, though it's worth the effort to reach the salt marshes of the Hampton-Seabrook Estuary. Here we leave the trees behind for expansive views that lead the eye all the way to the New Hampshire coastline. Rusted old railroad bridges underfoot are still sturdy and easy enough to cross the inlets and rivers below. The old railroad continues South alongside electricity lines originating from the Seabrook nuclear power plant visible before us. Trail users have reported that previously washed-out parts of this marshland trail can require some wading in extreme conditions. There's a large parking area at the South end of the trail for trail users and birders, located on the site of the former Hampton Falls station of which no trace remains.

The navigable portion of this rail trail ended for us just before the power plant at around 11.6 miles where the route becomes too overgrown to continue.

For completists, we've marked a further rough and undeveloped yet rideable section of rail trail on our map at Seabrook. Best accessible by an intersecting road, or possibly via an informal access trail from Route 286 that runs alongside private property. Also beginning by Route 286 is the 3.6 mile Old Eastern Marsh Trail that continues the Hampton Branch into Massachusetts and ends on the Northern banks of the Merrimack River by Newburyport.


The salt marshes of the Hampton-Seabrook Estuary.

Once complete the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway Rail Trail will be an excellent way of traversing the full length of the state without sharing high-speed roads with cars, trucks and with almost no bicycle accomodation. Presently this is the only way to connect Massacheusetts with Maine on the US East Coast Greenway. Thanks go out to all those involved in the purchase and development of the rail trail route and its current development. Trailspotting looks forward to updating this article with another in 2024!

Trail Conditions
Hardpack single file trail. South end has occasional rocks and roots. Elevation gain minimal.


A pond near Portsmouth. We found this view on a short detour (marked on the map).


The bustling Hampton Airfield includes a well-appointed cafe.


The former North Hampton Station looks splendid today.


Hampton Station, now trackside restaurant. | Disappearing track at Barberry Lane.


One of several faced stone abutment overbridges.

Tangents:
• External Links: City of Portsmouth, North Hampton, Hampton-Seabrook Estuary
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Nearby Rail Trails
• South 3 mi: Old Eastern Marsh • South 5 mi: Salisbury Ghost Trail & Amesbury Riverwalk

NH Rail Trails Map
New Hampshire’s first complete rail trail map. Includes links to all rideable trails, shows live and abandoned railroads.
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