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The year 2017 marks 20 years since a rails-to-trails project was first mentioned in the Goffstown Master Plan, and thanks to work by the Friends of the Goffstown Rail Trail and support throughout the community, this trail has become a shining example of what can become of an old rail corridor. The trail inhabits a segment of the former Boston and Maine (B&M) Railroad route that once spanned northern New England. A flood in 1936 damaged much of the line and its spurs, and in 1976, a fire consumed the covered bridge that crossed the Piscataquog River.
Beginning in Goffstown, the trail starts with little fanfare on Factory Street and sneaks behind neighborhoods with fleeting views of the glistening river to your left. Upon traveling on East Union Street about 0.3 mile, the trail picks up again past a school bus parking area and starts to take on a life of its own, with glimpses of the river far below.
You’ll pass by one of many convenient access points to the trail, the Goffstown Parks and Recreation Department complex, and go another 0.5 mile to the first of two crossings over Mast Road. Though the trail is mostly hard-packed gravel, the three street crossings—two over Mast Road and one over Henry Bridge Road—are paved and have plenty of signage to help residents easily connect to the trail.
In 0.7 mile, you’ll emerge from the woods and travel through the parking lot of a service station. (The trail picks up just on the other side, as signs indicate.) Here, a mile marker lets you know that you are 3.5 miles from the eastern end and the beginning of the Piscataquog Trail.
After another mile, the trail slips behind the New Hampshire State Prison for Women and the Hillsborough County Complex and courthouse. Friendly county workers maintain this part of the trail, and trail parking is available in the municipal lot. Note the brilliant redbrick buildings to your right, which once acted as coal storage for the B&M line and are now home to administrative offices.
More of the corridor’s history is apparent after you cross Danis Park Road and pass inside the deep cut where the cliffs were blasted to allow trains to travel at a proper grade. If it’s a hot day, you’ll also appreciate the cool breeze on your way through! Next, a secret tip: As you pass the Moose Club Park Road trailhead, keep an eye on your GPS; soon you will be at exactly 43ºN latitude, the same parallel that forms most of the boundary between Nebraska and South Dakota.
Near the eastern end, about 300 feet short of mile marker 0.0, a connecting path leads to the Sarette Recreation Complex, which has ample parking. At the official eastern end of the Goffstown Rail Trail, the route seamlessly connects to the Piscataquog Trail, which heads over the Merrimack River and into Manchester.
To reach parking in Goffstown from I-293, take Exit 6 for Amoskeag St. toward Goffstown Road. (If coming from I-293 S, follow the right fork of the exit ramp to Amoskeag St.) Take a slight left onto Amoskeag St. (signs for Concord/Goffstown Road/I-293), go 0.1 mile, and then continue straight onto Goffstown Road 1.8 miles. Continue onto Goffstown Back Road 2.1 miles, and then continue onto Center St. 0.7 mile (taking the second exit to head straight through one traffic circle). Continue onto Elm St. 2.6 miles, turn left onto SR 114 S/SR 13 S, and go 0.1 mile. Look for parking to your right in the Goffstown Town Hall lot. To access the northern end of the trail, travel south on SR 114 S/SR 13 S 0.1 mile across the Piscataquog River bridge, and take your first left onto Factory St. Go one block, and turn right onto the trail to head southeast.
To reach the southeast endpoint in Manchester from I-293, take Exit 5 for Granite St. toward West Manchester. Head southwest onto Granite St., and go 0.1 mile. Turn left onto S. Main St., and go 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Varney St., go 0.4 mile, and continue onto Mast Road/SR 114A 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Laurier St., and go 0.2 mile. Laurier St. turns slightly left and becomes Louis St. Turn right into the Sarette Recreation Complex, and look for parking on your left.
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