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The Ammonoosuc Rail Trail carries its users for 19.2 miles along the scenic river that shares its name and is itself a destination for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The trail passes through a variety of landscapes and several small historic mill towns that are ideal for sightseeing, shopping, or relaxing. The trail draws ATV riders, hikers, snowmobilers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers—and also permits dogsledding—but cyclists should note that parts are very rough and challenging, and would be best handled on fat tires.
The northern end of the trail is in the town of Littleton, which is the birthplace of author Eleanor H. Porter, who introduced the world to the inspiringly optimistic Pollyanna. A statue in front of the library at 92 Main Street, only a mile from the trailhead’s parking area, and an umbrella-draped gateway arch across the street honor the character.
After leaving Littleton on the former railbed of the Boston and Maine Railroad, you’ll alternate between shady deciduous forest, wetlands, fields, and farmland before reaching Lisbon in 9.5 miles. A refurbished 1868 railroad station serves as the town’s Historical Society Museum and rest area. Rich in history, Lisbon was chartered in the mid-1700s (at the time, wigwams were visible from the town’s center) and has been home to the world’s largest piano sounding board manufacturer, peg mills, and the state’s first ski rope tow. Refreshments are available near the trail.
Nearly 4 miles past Lisbon you will cross the Ammonoosuc River over a former railroad trestle bridge. Just 2 miles later you’ll arrive in Bath, which is known for its three covered bridges. The longest, built in 1832 and 375 feet long, spans the trail and an adjacent waterfall in the river. You may see people fishing and tubing here.
The trail crosses the river again and offers views of forest and farmland on its final 4-mile leg to the Woodsville community in the town of Haverhill. There’s no parking at the trail’s endpoint, but on-street parking is available nearby or at Railroad Park on the Connecticut River via US 302. A segment of the Cross Vermont Trail (Montpelier & Wells River Trail) starts about 2 miles away in Vermont across the Connecticut River.
To reach the Littleton trailhead from I-93, take Exit 42 onto US 302/Meadow St. toward Littleton. Head east 0.5 mile, turn right onto Industrial Park Road, and then go 0.3 mile to the dirt parking lot on the left. The trailhead is across the street.
To reach the Woodsville trailhead from I-91, take Exit 17 onto US 302 toward Woodsville. Head east 2.6 miles, and bear right onto US 302/Main St. N. Then go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto US 302/Railroad St. Go 0.3 mile, cross the bridge, and stay straight onto US 302/Central St. Go 0.5 mile, and look for the trail on the left at Highland St. Although there is no parking lot at the trail endpoint, street parking is available on Central St.
This is probably a nice ATV trail, but reading the other reviews, I can see it has long had the same problems we encountered as cyclists. We rode the length of it from Littleton to Woodsville and back in July, 2017.
There's some washboarding and a fair amount of scattered loose and embedded stone, making for a pretty bumpy, teeth rattling ride. In a couple of short stretches there's too much ballast and you have to walk. The approaches to the gates can be especially rough.
We went on a weekday and only saw one ATV, along with two dirt bikes. On the other hand, we met several other cycling couples.
The trail between Bath and Woodsville is in noticeably better shape; like a regular rail trail.
That said, the route the trail follows is nice and we're glad we rode it. Much of it is in the shade and there are peaceful stretches where its just you and the river.
I reviewed this trail a few years ago.
There is still a fair amount of ballast and gravel to ride through, but less than I remember. However, the overall condition of the trail has deteriorated since my last visit. Specifically, holes and washboards. Maybe this isn't as noticeable on an ATV, but on a bike it's miserable, even with a suspension. It got so bad, that when I returned (I went from Littleton to Bath and back) from Bath, I got on the road (US302) and stayed there for 9 miles before returning to the trail.
This seems to be more of an ORV trail than a bike trail. I saw 20 or so ATVs but not a single bike. ATV riders were friendly and considerate.
The scenery was a little better than I remember.
Still, as a bike trail, this one leaves a lot to be desired. 4 of 10.
I just want to correct the comment about access to Bath being a steep walk up hill. That route of ballast stones is true and awful but if you go under the bridge north there is a nice easy route up to the bridge and the village or visa versa. I did Bath to Woodsville again this August and although there are a lot of ATVs the track was firm in most places. Youker
I've seen this trail prominently visible along US-302 with it's candy-striped gates and handful of old railroad buildings. Today i said to myself, aw, maybe ride 5 miles & I'll turn around. Well, this trail with it's beautiful views of nearby hills, and especially it's namesake river were so inviting, I did the whole ride, 19.5 miles out to Littleton and back.It does have a few drawbacks, notably varying surfaces from a nice hard-pack dirt surface, to inexplicable heaps of ballast rock on a couple of overpasses (you hit one a couple of miles out of Woodsville) and also near gates & intersections. But really 75-80% of the surface is fine, but you will encounter some loose ballast and softer dirt in your travels. Seems like most of it was on either side of the Town of Lisbon, in particular a 1/2 mile section just northeast from the US-302 grade crossing outside of Lisbon. But it's all doable, I did walk a couple of sections, but they were not extremely lengthy.Here's the good stuff, the views and tranquility of the river are exceptional. I did ride this is very early spring, and the foliage has not really come out yet impeding some views, but even in summer there are many areas where this trail glides along next to the river. The river on this ride (it's spring) had a nice healthy flow to it.Also good, there were several ATV riders I came across, probably at least 10 or so. ATV's are allowed on the trail the full length, and every single ATV rider slowed to a crawl (they weren't going fast anyways). They were very aware of dust, and would wait before proceeding at a faster rate. Also every single rider and passenger on the ATVs gave a big wave and hello... it really was great - something I thought was going to detract from the trail I enjoyed. BTW, the only cyclist I saw, about my age, barely grunted a hi when I said hello to him.The trail climbs slowly to Littleton, and passes through two other towns on the way, Bath and it's iconic covered bridge (the railtrail passes below the bridge), and the Town of Lisbon. Both towns offer food and shopping, to get to Bath you'll have to take the steep incline to get up to the covered bridge. Lisbon is much more accessible, when you get to the beautifully restored train station in Lisbon, look down the street a 1/2 block and there's downtown Lisbon!This trail totally surprised me, it was beautiful, you do need a mountain bike for this one, because the ballast and loose crap seems pretty well spaced out the full length of the trail... good thing is, the bad parts don't last forever (except for that 1/2 mile by Lisbon).I should also mention Woodsville has plenty of food stops right at the trailhead, and Littleton has a great downtown, but it is a road ride to get there (you could try the old RR tracks though, they're still in place for the last 1/2 mile into downtown Littleton from Industrial Park Rd
Was a good ride nice view around
On August 21 I checked out a bit of this trail near Woodsville since I found the Blackmount Trail in such terrible shape from ATVs. The old 1832 covered bridge in Bath was opened again August 14 so I was able to drive across and park and bike. I am happy to say the trail is still in good shape with just a few problems from ballast stones. Youker
I did the Lisbon to Woodsville 10 miles the next day. 90% is excellent but the bridges have very deep ballast stones that have to be walked with a bike and the gates also are rough. Views are excellent. In Woodsville you can connect with the 5 miles Blackmont trail. Bob
I did the Littleton to Lisbon 10 miles this morning 8/10/13. It is 98% smooth and packed cinders. It is rough around the gates and there is a bad 100 yards just north of Lisbon with large loose ballast stones I had to walk but mostly excellent. Youker
good ride on atv with kids along,maybe a little boring, but a little challenging for kids on bicycles
This trail is close to our home so we have traveled it several times in the last few weeks. We are new to retirement and new to biking. We have taken the trail from Littleton to Lisbon and from Woodsville to Lisbon. There are areas that are a little rough especially an area east of Lisbon but we didn't have to walk our bikes at all. Each time we have seen walkers and ATVs. Everyone has been friendly and just having a great time...just like us. We've had some hot days this summer and this trail offers a lot of great shade and woodsy smells and views of the river.
Contrary to what Mr ckielt says, this is a great ride. This is the third year we have ridden this trail, I mean on horses, on the Fourth of July. And it was another great day and ride. We started about a mile east of Woodsville, where next to the main road there is a gravel parking lot along the old 302 before the new 302 goes over the hill and crosses over the RR grade, next to the river. We rode up the old road and jumped up onto the old rr grade and over the high bridge over the Ammonoosuc. The trail has really cleaned up over the last few years. The ATVs have actually thrown off the rocks and most of the rough going. The ATV folks are all very politeand no one scared our horses. There were 9 of us, and we stopped at the usual stops; my friend Tom with the caboose and freight house worthy of House Beautiful (very classy!), riding through the long Bath covered bridge, and stopping for an ice cream at the retro ice cream shop, At The Hop. When we finished the ride, we even went swimming down in the river. Great ride!
This trail could be a real gem, but as previous reveiwers noted, many sections are surfaced with large chunks of rock making it extremely rough and unpleasant. Railroad ties remain in place along stretches. It clearly hasn't been improved other than removing the rails. We also ran into ATV traffic which I found dangerous, noisy and dusty. However, this is a multi-use trail, so that comes with the territory. If this trail was paved and limited to pedestrian and non-motoized vehicles, I think it could be a real boon to Lisbon and the other North Country towns through which it passes. One can dream...Unless and until that happens, I won't go back.
I did the western half of this trail (Woodsville to Lisbon) on September 2, 2011. I found it quite enjoyable and I look forward to doing it again. I have a cross bike. As others have said, there are a few spots that cannot be ridden due to gravel but that are only for a couple hundred feet so it is no big deal to walk your bike on them. This half of the trail had very good water and open field views. Some woods, but not much. For the 10 miles I rode it only took me an hour each way so that is 10 mph. On this bike my normal paved road speed is 12 mph so you can see it was not too difficult to clip along. I would say that this is not bad for an unpaved trail.
When I got to Lisbon the trail got sandy but it was very nice to hop off the trail and ride through downtown Lisbon which has quite a few shops and some nice New England architecture.
The trail begins on 302, a few blocks from the bridge across the Connecticut River, across the street from the Donkin Donuts. While it is not part of the trail, about a couple of blocks from the Woodsville end of the trail you can bike across the Bath-Haverhill covered bridge. If you are going to be up in this end of New Hampshire, this trail is worth a ride.
I've been watching the progress of this trail since i first heard about it in the early 2000s. Tried to ride it sections of it here and there and was always turned back by stones and ballast. Did a few miles last summer, and it was better, but still not great.
This year, after reading some of the reviews here from 2010, i tried yet again on June 4. I was on a mountain bike, with road slicks. No knobbies, but wider than street tires.
Did the whole trail from Littleton to Woodsville, and i was somewhat disappointed. Much of the trail is relatively smooth, for a rail trail, but not as buff as the Missisquoi trail in northern Vermont It's more like a gravel road, which is fine. However, in some places it was terrible.
There were several places where repairs where apparently made, leaving stretches of deep stone, very hard to ride through. Nearly every gate (they appeared to be new, and there are a lot of them) had stone piles around them, which were quite difficult to maneuver. You will not make great time on this trail. There was a particularly bad spot east of Lisbon that was very rough and washboarded.
As for the visuals, again, not bad, but disappointing. Some of it is quite scenic, but much of the trail is in the woods, too far from the river to enjoy it. Lots of junky backyards. Very few bridges for a trail following a river, and I love bridges. There are nice portions too. Some nice farmland in Lisbon and Bath, and the village of Bath itself with a great covered bridge (the trail goes under it).
The trail felt almost flat, no significant grade changes that i noticed. I shifted gears not because of grade changes, but because of trail conditions.
This trail allows ATV use and may contribute to the trail bed quality. They were kicking up a lot of dust too, but i'm willing to share. A great deal of improvement could be had using a small tractor with a rake to clear up some of the stones.
I'll try it again in a few years and hope for the best. 6 out of 10 rating
I did this trail on three different days in early August. There are a few spots with bad inch square rock ballast but it is not a serious problem. See pictures of one bad spot and the heavy ballast at the gates. I walked thru several gates where the ballast was very thick. The Depot has been restored in Lisbon and the falls and dam under the covered bridge in Bath are well worth seeing. There is parking at the Bath Bridge but one of the connnections from the road to the trail is very, very steep. There is an old caboose and an information display at a little park in Woodsville where the bridge to the Montpelier to Wells River RR crosses the Connecticut River from Vermont. The trail is level with a gradual decline along the river from Littleton. Youker 8/25/2010
I rode a short portion of this trail between Bath and Lisbon while touring New England and found the deep ballast along that section to be too much for my touring bike. In fact, I walked a couple sections of it. However, I can imagine this being a great ride for a bicycle with a slightly fatter tire. And if it gets paved in the future, I'll be back! I very much enjoyed my overnight stay in Littleton and would enjoy visiting it again.
I rode this R2T from Littleton to the Rt 302 bridge in June on our horse Tektonic and it was failry good. There still is some concern with deep ballast in places, but the ride was well worth it. It has beautiful views of the river, and the cut under Rt 302 along the river is interesting. Lots of friendly people living along the trail. There are places where you can cut down to the dirt road, but be sure to talk to the landowners first. NH, yu are very lucky to have this old BM line. At times, you see old BM mileposts along the grade, indicating the distance to Concord!
I rode this trail in July from Lisbon to Woodsville and return. The good news: absolutely stunning views of the river and valley. The bad news: although the railroad ballast has been removed, enough imbedded and loose rock remains to make for a very unpleasant ride - even with wide tires and shocks. The news is apparently out because I met only one other cyclist. The several ATVs I encountered were polite and considerate. It's a shame, because this trail certainly has the potential to be a real gem.
"We rode the Ammonoosuc Rail Trail yesterday from Littleton west for 5 miles. There is now a large parking lot at the Littleton end west of town on Industrial Park Road. The Trail starts across the road and immediately goes under the I-93 overpass. A bike shop on the east end of town on US-302 near the river gave us directions. The trail has been getting a lot of ATV traffic which has packed down the cinders and scattered the larger stones making the trail surface just fine for bike riding, except for brief segments at gates and on the one trestle we crossed. There are great views of the river, country stores across the river on US-302, surrounding mountains, wildflowers, apple trees, and blackberries. The grade is downhill heading west, but very gradual and almost not noticeable. We would definitely go back - we are age 56 & 58."
"Great ride, view of the river is wonderful. Lots of wildlife: deer, turkey, other birds, chipmunks. I agree with the loose ballast comments. The majority is good riding. "
"I was on your site today and noticed that you have listed the Ammocoosuc Rail Trail as available to horseback riding. Unfortunately, it really isn't available to horses because of the surface of the trail. The stones are very sharp and will cut the horse's hooves. I contacted NH Bureau of Trails last year about this issue and was told that it would be too expensive to pick the stone up and they don't want to push it off to one side. That is unfortunate because I am the list manager for a group of about 50 horseback riders just in the Woodsville, North Haverhill, Bath and Lisbon areas. Most of them would like to use that trail but are concerned about the damage to their horse's hooves.
I have also spoken with bikers, walkers and joggers. They all have the same concern. That stone is just too sharp and needs to be taken up or pushed to the side in order for that trail to be considered multi-purpose.
The bridges are also not solid and save enough for a horse to pass over them. Many of the bridges have spaces between the boards or holes that would allow a horse's hoof to slip down into the wood.
I would be very interested to know if there are plans in the future to pick up that stone or push it off to the side so that it can, in fact, be a multi-use trail. Thanks!
There are many horseback riders who would love the opportunity to ride this trail but the ballast is simply too deep and sharp. Also the bridges are not built with a horse's hoof in mind. Nice trail for snowmobiles and 4-wheelers but not safe for horses.
I found the ballast too deep for safe cycling for us seniors. I hope it can be improved as it's a lovely area
"While this is a very pretty trail, there is still too much ballast on about one third of the trail. The sections with heavy ballast require a bike with wide tires and a lot of hard work."
"As of last summer, this trail was unusable due to a thick layer of coarse ballast covering the entire route. The ballast has been completely removed, and the trail is open and wide now. There are a few small areas with a smattering of gravel, but all-in-all, the surface is good for walking or biking. The trail begins at Industrial Rd, just southwest of Littleton proper, and ends at Woodsville, where some temporary road work may interfere with the trail.
There are pleasant views of the surrounding mountains and the Ammonoosuc River is always close by. There is ample access from Rte 302 and some side roads and services are available in Littleton, Lisbon, Bath and Woodville. This trail provides walkers and off-road bikers with an alternate route to travel along a busy highway.
Rates a 7 out of 10!
"Certainly a full day's investment .. While there ARE portions (short) that need to be walked due to heavy ballast, downshifting and a few nasty words will get ya successfully through most. Not to be confused w/the comfortable rail trails on the Cape .. but a raw and rough beauty worth the effort and not to be missed. Proper Mountain Biking attire suggested .. It frightens the natives and adds to the enjoyment."
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