On the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire, Wolfeboro bills itself as "America's Oldest Summer Resort." Vacationers have been escaping to this quaint village since passenger rail service began in 1872. By the early 1900s, seven train stations dotted the 12-mile corridor east to Sanbornville.
Today 7 miles of that route serve as the multiuse Cotton Valley Rail-Trail (a.k.a. Wolfeboro–Sanbornville Rail-Trail). Volunteers from an association of railway motorcar owners work with a committee of local trail enthusiasts to plan and maintain the trail, with an eye toward preserving the railroad's legacy. And in a unique rail-trail twist, sections of the trail actually run between the rails, which are still in place and visible, though you cannot see the ties.
From the trailhead at the restored train depot on Railroad Avenue, the Russell C. Chase Bridge Falls Path leads to the rail-trail proper. Be sure to pick up a copy of the trail brochure, which lists key points of interest marked along the way.
Causeways that lead across Crescent Lake, then along Lake Wentworth, are another stunning feature on this trail—at times you're surrounded by water on both sides, and the views are nothing short of spectacular. Locals use the trail for commuting to work and school, as well as for recreation and traveling between neighborhoods and the Allan H. Albee Public Beach on Lake Wentworth, where you, too, can pause to soak your feet or take a dip.
Further east, a new 0.75-mile section of trail opened in Wakefield in 2013. A highlight of this segment is beautiful Turntable Park with a restored turntable from the Boston and Maine Railroad. The next phase of the trail is set to begin construction in summer 2014, which will continue this segment northwest to Clark Road. Eventually, it will meet the longer section of the trail at Cotton Valley Road, closing the gap between the two.
The Wolfeboro trailhead is at the restored train depot on Railroad Avenue, just west of the intersection of State Routes 109 and 28. Parking is available at the restored depot.
To reach the Fernald Station trailhead from Wolfeboro, head 3 miles north on SR 28. Turn right on SR 109. The trailhead is 0.25 mile ahead on the right side of the road; park on the left. Here, you'll find a kiosk, covered picnic table and seasonal port-a-potty.