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The Cotton Valley Rail Trail connects the small town of Wakefield, near the Maine border, and the quintessentially quaint New England vacation town of Wolfeboro. In 2017 the towns held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a short segment between Cotton Valley Road in East Wolfeboro and Clark Road in Wakefield—-resulting in a continuous 12-mile route.
The trail is bookended by wonderful glimpses of its railroad history, making it a must-see for any railcar enthusiast. From the easternmost point in Wakefield, the trail begins at a small park surrounding the old-fashioned Old Boston and Maine Railroad Turntable, which was refurbished in the 1990s for the benefit of riders and park patrons. The trail makes no bones about its past as a railroad corridor, delightfully switchbacking along either side of the rails and even providing some well-paved opportunities for users to ride between the irons through the canopied northeastern woods. The eastern section includes some small hills that might prove difficult for some.
Continuing west, the Cotton Valley Rail Trail travels on a heavily wooded path leading toward Lake Wentworth. The western portion of the trail is very flat, making it ideal for horseback riding and cross-country skiing. In 3.1 miles, you will find a resting point where the trail intersects State Route 109, complete with a restroom, picnic benches, shelter, and the headquarters of the Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club. In 1.3 miles, you’ll come across the Albee Beach access point and a short, winding trail portion before finding gorgeous straightaways, including some narrow causeways over beautiful lake basins. The trail passes through the Linda Baldwin Preserve before finding the edge of the Back Bay, which is surrounded by parks, eateries, and charming shops that help make Wolfeboro a vacation destination.
To reach the easternmost trailhead at the Old Boston & Maine Railroad Turntable in Wakefield from the intersection of US 202 and SR 16 in Rochester, head north on NH 16 toward Ossipee/Conway. Go 18.6 miles. Turn right onto SR 109 S, and go 0.5 mile. A small parking lot and the trailhead will be on your left, just after you cross Forest St.
To reach the Cotton Valley Road/N. Wakefield Road endpoint, follow the directions above to SR 109, but turn left instead of right. Head west toward Wolfeboro on SR 109, and go 6.4 miles. Turn right onto Bryant Road, and go 1.2 miles. Turn right onto Cotton Valley Road, and go 1.3 miles. Turn left onto N. Wakefield Road, where two to three cars can park on a small gravel patch on the corner immediately to your right.
To reach the Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club trailhead, follow the directions above to SR 109. Turn left (west) onto SR 109, and go 8.7 miles. Parking at the Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club is situated on the right of SR 109/Governor John Wentworth Hwy., across from Fernald Crossing.
To reach the Albee Beach parking lot, follow the directions above to SR 109, and turn left. Go 9 miles, and turn left onto SR 109/SR28/Center St. Go 1.1 miles, then turn left onto Albee Beach Road. Follow it 0.3 mile, at which point the parking lot entrance branches off from Albee Beach Road.
To reach the northwesternmost endpoint in Wolfeboro from the intersection of US 202 and SR16 in Rochester, head north on US 202/SR 16, and in less than a mile, take Exit 15. Turn left (northwest) onto SR 11, and go 14.6 miles. At the traffic circle, take the second exit (straight) onto SR 28 N/S. Main St. In 2.5 miles turn right onto Glendon St. then make an immediate left onto Depot St. Public parking can be found immediately surrounding the Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce, which resides in a retrofitted train depot.
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