Common Pathway

New Hampshire

8 Reviews

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Common Pathway Facts

States: New Hampshire
Counties: Hillsborough
Length: 5.5 miles
Trail end points: Old Railroad Trail just south of the W. Ridge Dr. & Scott Mitchell Road and US 202 and Cabana Dr. (Peterborough)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6542679

Common Pathway Description

The Common Pathway travels 5.5 miles from the outskirts of Peterborough south to downtown’s Noone Falls area, paralleling US 202 and the Contoocook River for most of its journey. The small town of Peterborough boasts the Peterborough Town Library, the oldest tax-supported public library in the United States. Founded in 1833 by Reverend Abiel Abbot, the library collection has grown from 100 to more than 43,000 books, and the space supports research and hosts a variety of educational programs and events.

The pathway offers easy, mostly level terrain, with crushed stone making up the very northern portion of trail and a paved portion spanning from Southfield Lane to the trail’s southern endpoint. Note that there are a few small, narrow, or poorly maintained sections, so hybrid bikes are recommended.

Beginning at the northern trailhead on Scott Mitchell Road, you’ll find a small parking lot adjacent to the trailhead, and additional parking just south where US 202 intersects Scott Mitchell Road. This trailhead also serves the Old Railroad Trail, which seamlessly connects to the northern endpoint of the Common Pathway and heads 2.7 miles into Hancock.

Heading south, the trail alternates between quiet on-road and wooded off-road segments. Bike route signs help with wayfinding, although they are not prevalent, so proceed carefully. About 2.5 miles along the trail from Scott Mitchell Road, you’ll pass another parking area accessible from Summer Street.

The trail runs south to and beyond the small town of Peterborough, which is a hot spot for home-based entrepreneurs and telecommuters, and a popular tourist spot for those seeking outdoor pursuits such as fishing. Access to downtown Peterborough is provided through mostly residential, low-traffic streets; here, you’ll find a quaint main street with restaurants, shops, preserved historical buildings (to reach the Peterborough Town Library on Concord Street head east on Main Street for one block), and a restored train depot that now hosts shops and a café.

South of downtown Peterborough, the route is not well signed and may be difficult to navigate for those not familiar with the trail. You’ll continue south on US 202 to the intersection with SR 101, turn left, and loop around a gas station to the SR 101 underpass by the Contoocook River. You’ll then head around the east side of the Peterborough Shopping Plaza and then west to a side-path portion of the trail (composed of asphalt that is not regularly maintained), which travels on the left side of busy US 202 S (across the highway is another strip mall) to the trail’s end just before Cabana Drive.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the northern trailhead near the Peterborough Recycling Center from the intersection of SR 101/Wilton Road and NH 123, head north on Granite St./US 202, and go 4.1 miles (the road becomes Pine St., then US 202 E/Concord St., then Hancock Road). Turn right onto Scott Mitchell Road, go 0.2 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot (immediately after Sanitation Lane).

To reach the alternate northern trailhead and the Old Railroad Trail, follow the directions above, but turn left instead of right at Scott Mitchell Road. Look for the parking lot immediately on your left. The northern endpoint is located about 0.2 mile north along the trail.

To reach the trailhead on Summer St., from the intersection of NH 101/Wilton Road and SR 123, head north on Granite St./US 202, and go 0.6 mile (the road becomes Pine St.). Turn left onto Main St., and then immediately turn right onto Summer St. Go 0.9 mile, and turn right into the small trailhead parking lot.

There is no parking at the southern endpoint.

Common Pathway Reviews

Mostly Bike

Too urban to be considered a hike or bike; winds along community roads along river. Not a hike.

Easy ride, beautiful scenery

Started at the trailhead on Scott Mitchell and rode south. A little muddy in a couple spots (very large puddles at the underpass for 202) , some roots in the path. My son was the leader in the ride and was easily able to follow the trail down to the center of Peterborough.

beautiful ride

First of all, Peterborough is a lovely little town to bike in and around. The trail was shaded, clean and paved all but 1 mile or maybe a little more. We parked in the shopping center parking lot and then followed the well marked signs along some town roads before getting on the bike path. Beyond the parking lot on the north end, the cinder path continues. We bikes for a while before deciding to turn around.

I ride this route quite a bit!

I ride the Common Pathway quite a bit and typically get about ten miles round trip.

There is a short section South of downtown and a longer section North of downtown. I don't really consider them the same path because you have to ride through narrow and busy downtown Grove Street to connect and it can be complicated getting across Rt 101 if you don't care for riding the shoulder of a busy road. So I almost exclusively just ride the North section.

Parking: the trails starts out going up Summer Street from Main Street downtown. There is no reason why you cannot park downtown or just North of downtown on Summer next to the firehouse (there is a small town lot) or head a bit further North on Summer to a proper "trail lot". All work for me but there are some great shops and restaurants downtown so don't skip them just to ride the trail.

Trail: this trail can be a bit Jekyl and Hyde. The first section is on the edge of Summer Street. There is no shoulder but it is almost never busy and I always feel safe. You are following the river on your right when the trail starts up. The trail kind of darts in and out of the trees between Summer Street and the river before a short not-busy on street connector (Tarbell Road) puts you on to a nice paved trail for about a mile before becoming hard packed.

Eventually the trail comes out alongside busy Route 202 which you need to get across. There is a drainage tunnel under the road which is officially part of the trail but it is often very wet with sharp turns. Its easy to get crossed up because its downhill to a slow 90 degree turn and into the tunnel so watch for it.

From there the trail passes the town recycling center and becomes very wooded along the river and very scenic. The trail can be quite "rooty" so you will spend some time picking your spots as you ride (not a road bikers dream scenario).

Tip: I suggest riding this all the way to Forest Road (no sign when ou get there so check your map) and turning right going East. About 1/2 mile down is the County Covered Bridge. Great photo ops and if you cross the bridge and turn into the parking lot there are some great spots to look back and get a side view of the bridge. If you can tow your kayak behind your bike or carry it on your back (yes just kidding) this is great spot to launch from and either paddle South down the Contoocook River or paddle North into 400 acre Powder Mill Pond).

This parking lot could also be used as a starting point and just follow my directions in reverse :) Cheers and happy riding!


August 9 2017

Started this trail in Peterborough. There is a parking lot north of town center on town road where we started. It is a very nice trail and would be very scenic in fall. We went way beyond the recycle center where you come to a street and look for the trail , it actually continues across the street which is part of someone's (mail box ) and driveway . That section goes by a couple of farms , cows and farm land then not far beyond that it gets to a point where it becomes a more narrow path maybe more for mountain bike as opposed to hybrid bikes. Up until that point it's a very nice ride , no hills and nothing difficult. Estimate 6-7 miles one way. Only our 3rd time biking so should be easy for most people, we are in our early 60's.

My thoughts

Good trail until you get to the center of town (Peterborough). I don't care to ride where there is a lot of traffic. Also, the trail after crossing RTE 101 we picked up the trail again but it's condition was worse than north of Peterborough.

Pleasant day

Wednesday 6/29/16 made the trip North to South and back with a stop at the Noone Falls Café for refreshment.

Made an easy 1.5 hr ramble on the hybrid bikes. Trail was in good shape with little traffic. Gave a chance to speculate on how good the canoeing on the river might be.

This is a great way to get a little exercise without a lot of hassle.

The trail is longer now

It is possible to take this trail from Peterborough up beyond the recycling center to South Elmwood Road, just south of Elmwood Junction. That brings the ride distance to about 8 miles. At that point, you can follow S Elmwood Road to rt 202 and jog a left onto Elmwood Road where you'll find another section of old rail trail that goes about another mile to route 37. This last section is suitable for mountain bikes only. Round trip from Peterborough is about 18 miles.

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