The Sawyer River Trail offers a memorable 7.5-mile journey through a pristine mountain valley. Following the old Sawyer River Railroad logging line, the trail is popular with mountain bikers, and hikers for its combination of challenging single-track and dirt road sections. Snowmobiles and cross-country skiers use the trail in winter.
There are a number of ways to attack the trail. The southern half of the corridor, off the Kancamagus Highway (SR 112) is single-track. The northern half, near US 302, shares the corridor with Sawyer River Road, a dirt road that closes in winter but is open to traffic in summer. At its junction with US 302, Sawyer River Road ascends steadily at a manageable grade for 4 miles, following the Sawyer River. On your left at the start, watch for the abandoned sawmill village of Livermore, once-thriving hub of the Sawyer River Railroad. The single-track section of the trail begins shortly after the Forest Service gate at the end of Sawyer River Road.
If you're looking for a shorter, less-challenging trip, you can drive to this point of the trail and park in the nearby parking area. Beyond the gate, turn left at the fork and follow signs toward Meadow Brook. The trailhead will be on the right, around the bend. The trail mostly sticks to the old railroad grade, detouring only to bypass sections flooded by beaver dams. While a generally flat grade affords hikers an easy walk through this stunning valley, the trail still provides cyclists some technical challenges. Watch for old train ties still in place, bridge supports for wooden railroad bridges and other hints to the corridor's past.
Approaching the trail's end, you must cross the Swift River. There is no bridge, but boulders in the usually shallow river facilitate crossing. Use caution, particularly in the spring or after heavy rains, since high water can make the crossing difficult and dangerous. This is a great spot for lunch, however, and one of the best swimming holes around. Beyond the river, you'll soon reach the trailhead at Kancamagus Highway.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the northern trailhead, take Interstate 93 to Exit 35 and follow US Route 3 north to its junction with US Route 302. Take US 302 east through Crawford Notch. Sawyer River Road is on the right about 3 miles before the town of Bartlett. If you reach the Fourth Iron Tent site, on your left, you've just missed the turn for Sawyer River Road. Park by the gate along US 302 or at pullouts farther up Sawyer River Road.
To reach the southern trailhead, take Interstate 93 to the exit in Lincoln and follow SR 112 (Kancamagus Highway) east to the trailhead. The trailhead is on the left (north) side of the road, about 16 miles from Lincoln town center. Begin looking for the turnoff about 0.8 mile after you pass Lily Pond.