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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 8 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.
Farther east, a new 0.75-mile section of trail opened in Wakefield in 2013. A highlight of this segment is beautiful Turntable Park, featuring a restored turntable from the Boston and Maine Railroad. The next phase of the trail was completed in 2014, seamlessly continuing the 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.
I've been riding the Cotton Valley rail trail since it opened and I'm excited that the last phase of the trail is almost finished. I was told that it should be done by August. I'm gearing up for the ride from Wakefield into Wolfeboro! Thank you to all of the people who worked hard on this beautiful trail and making one of my dreams come true! Job well done!!
Earlier today I was at the Cotton Valley end of the trail and found that a new, 2 mile, section of the trail had been completed. The new section runs towards Wakefield, NH and ends shortly after the S4 mile marker stone.
It's pretty nice. Most of this section is between the rails.
We started in Wolfeboro, and about 4 miles north into the ride, encountered a bumpy section with tall grass between and beside tracks. There was one rider walking his bike. We couldn't see how far this walk would be, so we tried riding a little way, but even with mountain bikes it was not enjoyable, and maybe unsafe to ride. A little disappointing, but I have heard that they are working on the trail from either end, so maybe next time it will be ok. The rest of the trail was very flat and straight, some parts too much crush stone to get a grip on. Nice scenery
July 29, 2016
Absolutely beautiful both waterside and in the forest. Very high recommend for walkers and bikes.
Recently did my first bike ride on this trail and it was awesome just love the views of the water, mountain and woods and that it is not just a long straight trail that looks like it has no end but you go from riding between the railroad ties to a spur path through the woods or beside the old RR Bed. It can get a little tight if you meet another bike on the trial between the RR Ties but two bikes can pass you just need to know how to handle your bike and use caution. As far as going from the trail to up over RR ties and riding between there are signs that say stop and walk your bike over but with my mountain bike I have no problem. Love this trail and will be back again soon here is the link to my GoPro Video of the ride on the trail.
This trail is totally awesome!! Nice trial all the way to the end. It's well kept only a few tree stumps here and there. The trail is rather narrow so you need to be careful when riding bikes lots of walkers/dogs and joggers. Pack a lunch/backpack because along the path there is Crescent Lake with picnic tables,public restrooms and grills for BBQ's a real treasure and just a perfect place to take a short break and enjoy the beautiful lake...I would recommend this trail to anyone who loves getting outdoors. After your ride you can walk around Wolfeboro a quaint little place with little shops...
I live in Wolfeboro, and have used the trail many times for walking, running and biking. It is a real asset to town, but it is not without problems.
Myself, friends and 2nd hand information indicates that many people biking this trail have been injured. The problem is where the trail crosses existing rail road tracks which can be slippery, but one can get their tire stuck in the ruts causing a fall. I have heard of at least one person getting airlifted out for medical treatment after falling on the trail.
Someone should consider redesigning the cross-overs, so this trail becomes the safe trail it has the potential to be. I'd hate to hear of someone else getting injured, but I frequently find more people getting injured on bikes on this trail multiple times a year
The trail is provides beautiful views of the lake and begins and ends in Wolfeboro, which is nice.
Because the rails are still in the ground and much of the trail in between the rails, the trail frequently crosses the rails. Riders have to be careful crossing over the rails to avoid flipping the bike.
When trail has two way traffic, one of the parties has to stop and stand to the side while the other party passes between the rails.
There is one busy intersection in Wolfeboro with heavy vehicle and bike traffic. My wife is currently wearing a walking boot for ankle fractured when her bike flipped. Fortunately, she was wearing her helmet.
Early mornings on a weekday when traffic is light would be best time for this trail
Pedaling between and alongside the actual rails was a completely new experience for us. This is the first trail we have come across were you actually ride between the rails, which can make for some interesting moments as two bikers pass, especially on the causeways. But, as we found, a smile and a little common courtesy go a long way.
The views along the causeways and the public beach are absolutely beautiful, and the wooded sections were so peaceful you could hear a pin drop. My wife and I spooked a blue heron into flight, and watching its' great span soar just above the waters surface, was extremely thrilling. The only complaint for us was that the groomed trail ended at Cotton Valley Road, so we pedaled back and spent some quite time at Albee beach.
This trail is a real gem, and like most things in New Hampshire, just waiting to be explored. Hopefully the section between Cotton Valley Road and Clark Road can be completed in the not so distant future, and if so, we'll be back.
Nice ride, not very crowded
The CVRT is a bit more than a mile longer now running from Rte. 16 in Sanbornville, NH to Clark Rd. in Brookfield, built Summer/Fall 2014. (There is still a gap between Clark Rd. and Cotton Valley Station, but there are plans to put the trail here as well.)
The section from Rte. 16 to Clark Rd. is a pleasant walk or ride, very quiet. It's the same crushed stone as in Wolfeboro, alongside or in between the rails.
Near Rte. 16 the trail moves off the railbed, and there are some short steep hills that may challenge some people who expect a nearly completely flat rail trail. In addition, a section next to the railbed not far from Clark Rd. is narrow with a drop off to the side, so use caution in that area.
Always use caution where the trail crosses the rails, as it can easily grab your bike tire. They recommend getting off and walking to make the transitions.
The crushed stone is still new and a little mushy, but it has improved since it was put down and should be just as good as the Wolfeboro section as it settles and sees use.
Simply put: This is a great trail with lake views, amenities at both ends, streams and ponds, turkeys and moose, history, and all kinds of trail users who are ALWAYS happy to be there. The rail fans and their speeders share the trail, and I think that adds something special to the CVRT that is different from other rail trails.
I have run this trail many times, and really enjoy it. The crushed stone surface is softer than pavement, but firm enough to get a good push off of it.
It can be a bit narrow when the trail is between the rails, particularly on the causeways over Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake. Use a bit of caution.
One thing that hasn't been mentioned: In the summer of 2014, a new section of the trail was completed. From Route 16 in Wakefield out to Clark Road (about a 1 mile stretch) is now open, and links up to the previously opened .75 mile section in Sanbornville. Use caution crossing Route 16.
This was our first time here. Myself, my three kids and dog truly enjoyed this walk along the waters edge. Great for biking, walking, & running. The kids got to see a rail car go by which was exciting for them.
This was our first time riding with our four kids, ages 6-12. The views are so beautiful, both along the lake and in the forest. There was a nice place for a pit stop with a picnic table, and we passed many friendly runners, walkers and bike riders along our way. Parking was great. Did have to cross a few roads, one pretty fast. Lots of shade!
Thought this was a great beginner ride for all ages. It was the first trail for my wife and kids. No complaints other than bugs.
Parked at Fernald Depot and rode into Wolfeboro. Excellent ride for beginners! After returning to the car, we headed to the public beach that the trail runs by. Found two gems in one day!
I have biked this trail from Wolfeboro center to Albee Beach each summer with my daughter and friends. Wide, flat trail accommodates walkers, runners and bikers alike allowing for common courtesy. Beautiful views of Wentworth Lake and plenty of donated benches with touching memorials to loved ones to stop, rest and take in the view.
This trail is approximately 6.5 miles one-way from downtown Wolfeboro to the intersection of Cotton Valley Road and Cotton Mountain Road. There, the rails continue, but they are not filled with fine gravel as is the case with other parts of the trail - they have the original ties and rock, with (as of June 2011) a lot of vegetation growing up through the ties. I wouldn't suggest trying to bike that area, although a mountain bike might be able to make it.
Even on a warm and sunny Saturday morning in late June, there was plenty of parking in the Wolfeboro municipal lot which is a bit behind the old train depot. Along the route, the trail alternates between being hard-packed fine gravel running next to the old rails, and hard-packed fine gravel between the old rails. At each point where you need to switch, there is a wooden platform between and flush with the metal rails, making it pretty easy. (At one point I chose to switch over before the wooden area, hit the rail at the wrong angle and almost fell but I caught myself - use the wooden area.) The trail is scenic and goes over some bridges, along a filled-in area of a lake, and through the woods. At one point you go past a public beach on Lake Wentworth - the next time we ride this will bring a picnic lunch and stop at the beach on our way back. The only drawback I saw was that the trail between rails is pretty narrow and if you have another cyclist coming in the opposite direction, it's a tight squeeze. The trail seemed to be used but not heavily so, making our ride enjoyable with a secluded feel. We saw other cyclists here and there, and some walkers along areas closer to Wolfeboro.
This trail is a very picturesque ride. It is a 6.8 mile ride from the old Wolfboro train station to the intersection of Cotton valley rd. and Cotton Mtn. Rd.. Don't know why some of the trail is between the rails and some of the trail is next to them. Still, it is a great ride.
The section from Fernald Station to Cotton Valley is really a dream to ride now. Horse activity is gone and it is a real ride through a wild area with very little traffic. Elevation gain from Fernald to Cotton Valley is very gentle and the ride back is a dream. Bring your binocs because there are a couple of areas that are great for bird watching. Can't wait to see the rest of the trail get done all the way to Route 16.
Extensive work by the Cotton Valley Railroad Club on the 3 miles of new trail have now really made it a great ride. The trail goes by a beaver pond with great views and bird watching. The total elevation gain is about 110 feet from Fernald Station and it is a real easy ride on the return trip. Horse activity seems to have subsided. The trail also passes through some interesting tornado damage from 2008. The rails are left in place and in some places, where you ride between the rails, it is a little tight if bikers are coming the other way.
This additional, recently finished section of the trail is great except for the rough surface created by horses. It may be great for hiking but the vibration on bike riding is less than fun.
I rode this trail again over the weekend. I'm very impressed with the additional 3 miles that have been completed. It's an easy trail to follow. I definitely will be back!
TRAC as completed an additional 3.5 miles from the Rt 109 trailhead to the Cotton Valley Siding.
New section is open for use, but there is expected to be a grand opening ribbon cutting sometime this summer.
Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club
Member- Board of Directors
"This trail is only accessible by bike for 4 miles on the Wolfeboro side. This is very scenic, beautiful, easy trail.
The Sanbornville end of the trail is only completed for 1 mile."
"Beautiful trail crossing 2 causeways and very scenic.
From Wolfeboro, first 3 1/2 miles finished in stone dust and gravel all of which is wheelchair accessible. The first 1/2 mile is Russell Chase Trail, the remainder recently named Cotton Valley Trail. Another 3+ miles expected to be built 2003-04"
"The mile from Wolfeboro to Wolfeboro Falls is excellent- smooth, hard, clear, an excellent path for any mode. From Wolfeboro Falls to Sanbornville (most of the trail length) it is an abandoned rail bed with rails in place. Our hybrid bikes (and their riders) were not up to the challenge. A very narrow, not well cleared path on one side of the rails is all that is available for biking.
This would be OK for hiking on the rails. Someone (snowmobile club?) keeps the brush at bay so it is passable for hiking."
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