Also known as the Sugar River Recreational Trail, this picturesque 9.8-mile path stretches from Newport to the southeastern edge of Claremont along the banks of the Sugar River. To reach Claremont proper, you can seamlessly connect to the Bobby Woodman Rail Trail, which meets the Sugar River Trail at Washington Street and heads toward the center of the city.
Wildlife is abundant amid the secluded woodlands. Stay alert to spot deer, rabbit, beaver, raccoon, fox, wild turkey or even an occasional moose around the next bend. The trail's surface varies from firm cinder/ballast to soft sand. Traveling west from the Newport trailhead, the first 2 miles are particularly soft.
River crossings add to the Sugar River Trail's scenic allure, and covered bridge aficionados can anticipate a special bonus-two spans that once carried trains over the Sugar River: Pier Bridge (east of Chandler Station) and Wright's Bridge (named for S.K. Wright, who sold the right-of-way to the Sugar River Railroad). Both were built by the Boston & Maine Railroad and are on the National Register of Historic Places. Unlike covered bridges on New England roadways, these are much narrower and taller, with 21 feet of vertical clearance.
Additionally, the trail has nearly a dozen other bridges, ranging from small wooden plank structures to steel truss bridges that span the Sugar River and its side streams. If the trail inspires you to see more of the region, finish your day by hiking, fishing, boating, camping or just relaxing in one of two nearby state parks. The beach at Mt. Sunapee State Park is a great place for a swim after you get off of the trail, and you can take rented kayaks and canoes for a spin on Lake Sunapee.
In Washington, Pillsbury State Park offers heavily wooded hiking and mountain biking trails. Seasonal camping is available in both parks. Call for reservations, fees and hours. The Sugar River Trail is one of just six rail-trails in New Hampshire that permit motorized use year-round; be prepared to share the trail with ATV users and snowmobilers. Also keep watch for equestrians.
To reach the Newport trailhead, take Interstate 89 to State Route 103 west. In Newport, follow State Route 10 north for 0.25 mile past the town green then turn left on Belknap Avenue. The well-marked trailhead parking lot is on the right.
To reach the Claremont trailhead, follow the above directions to Newport, then follow State Route 11/103 toward Claremont. Where the highway becomes local Washington Street, look for the trailhead parking sign.