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To get to the trail from Interstate 495, take Route 119 northwest to Townsend, Massachusetts. Continue west toward West Townsend for less than 2 miles, veering right at a sign that points toward Mason, New Hampshire, and another that reads Greenville 8." In 1.5 miles, veer right at the fork and proceed 1 mile to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. A gravel trail parking lot is located on the left side of the road. To get onto the trail, take a right on Morse Road (which is just up the road ahead of you) and travel uphill for 0.3 miles. You will see an orange gate on the trail corridor to the left, which is the direction you want to travel. If you head right, the trail ends in less than a half-mile at the state line because the tracks are still in place in Massachusetts.
Easy to locate by following directions on the trail page.
Park on Rt 23, Mason Rd.- dirt lot on the left. It is a half mi to trailhead on Morse Rd. The orange barrier is about 100 yards in from the road on the left, so if the leaves have not yet fallen, it may be difficult to see, but it should be rather obvious that the trail is there. A very short section also goes further south towards Townsend.
10.4 miles to the Mason Village depot. Average grade 2.8% going northbound. Therefore, you are going up hill, but you hardly notice. The road surface of crushed gravel, as a base, is very flat. With each crossing of a motor vehicle roadway, there are barriers and signs to warn you.
The trail is in excellent shape with some water across the trail, probably collecting in depressions caused by ATVs. This occurs beyond Pratt Pond at the top of the hook, but not so difficult that one cannot get around them. It was probably more obvious due to severe rain over the past 48 hrs.
Nice vistas and scenery along the way. At approximately 4 miles from the trailhead, there is a granite quarry loop on the left. I did not take it, so can offer no report.
At the end of the trail (9 miles), you will encounter a barricade that marks the intersection with Rt. 31. You should walk down to the highway and then you can ride on Rt 31 (take a left) to reach Old Wilton Road on your right. There is a bridge to cross. It is one more mile to the old depot in the center of town. Be careful on Rt. 31. Large trucks go very fast.
This trail is historically significant in that Henry David Thoreau, on September 6, 1852, rode this line (Peterboro’ & Shirley Railroad) from Ayer (Groton Junction at the time) [after riding the Fitchburg line from Concord to Ayer]. Reaching Mason Village (Greenville), he walked to Peterborough, stayed the night and continued on to the summit of Grand Monadnock, on foot. Later in the day, he descended to Troy, NH, and returned the same day to Concord, via the Cheshire RR, and, at Fitchburg, the Fitchburg RR.
After finding the southern "end" of this at Mason Rd, and deciding that parking was dodgy, I traveled north a couple of miles to Depot Rd and parked there. Riding north, I encountered trail conditions that ranged from wide, fire-road-type hard pack dirt to 1-foot narrow single path to soft sand to rocky, drainage-deficited cuts through rock to grassy flatland. Much was overgrown in that inimitable, New Hampshire, "let's just leave it alone" way. Watch for ticks and so forth. Very quiet - a couple of horseback riders with whom I exchanged pleasantries and one jogger. Passed a quarry trail that might be interesting next time.
Nearing the northern end, at a bridge abutment at Rte 31, I then rode into Greenville looking for the rest of the trail. An obscure trail near Wilson Road led me down to the Sowhegan River and an intersection with the last nothern leg, only about a mile long. Got water in Greenville (a quiet town to say the least), turned around and bumped my way back. Note: the trail doesn't really end at Mason Rd in the south - it looks like it goes on into MA, though I had already done 21 miles and was finished for the day.
Good exercise and pleasant forests - nothing much exciting.
Rode the trail north from its southern terminus, and back again. Trailhead is right where the description said, but it is not well marked. A few parking spaces available, but that should be plenty given how little use this trail gets by bicyclers. Surface is dirt-cinder the entire way. Very bumpy for the first five miles - definite mountain bike terrain. Would not try a hybrid on this trail. In deep woods most of the way with a couple of beautiful pond views. Crosses several very quiet country roads. Saw no other bikes; two polite pedestrians with dogs, and two people on ATVs who were on the trail illegally and refused to yield the right-of-way. Also saw a couple of deer and a great blue heron. Second half of the tail was much smoother, but still not hybrid territory. Grade was a very gentle uphill all the way (downhill all the way back). I'm a 64 year old geezer in good shape and I averaged 9mph on the northbound route, 11mph on the way back. I turned around at the 10 mile point (where the trail crosses Adams Hill Road) as it got very muddy and essentially unpassable at that point. If you'r dong the trail southbound first, I'd recommend starting here - parking is available.
I've ridden from Pratt Pond in north Mason down over the Mass border several times. This is probably my least favorite rail trail in southern/middle NH. It's almost all downhill on the way to Mass, which means you'll be riding uphill most of the way back. And going back on roads instead will mean even more hill climbs. One saving grace on this trail is a beautiful old granite quarry in Mason. Heading south, look for a large stone entrance to a trail on the right. Follow that several hundred yards in to see the quarry. The trail had quite a bit of long grass and weeds on it, the close I got to MA. I was sure I'd get a case of poison ivy, but I came through OK.
We started on the Greenville, NH end and had trouble finding the trailhead. We ended up starting at the gate on Adams Hill Rd. Heading back towards Greenville the trail ends at Rte 31 (in lots of mud), so I'm not sure why the map here shows it starting closer to town. Anyway, we had a great ride through the woods, 3 miles in to Pratt Pond in Wilton. Other than the power lines, it was peaceful and gorgeous. I would not recommend a road bike, but for a hybrid or mountain bike it's great. The pond was a great place to take a break before heading back. I'm definitely going back!
This is not a rail trail in the traditional sense. I mapped out a bike route that used this trail and would have been better off going around. The surface is a mix of gravel, dirt and rocks, not suitable for a road bike at all. I only rode a portion of it before getting off and finding another way.
Based on the signs, it seems designed for snowmobiles, and I'm sure would be a very good snowmobile trail if the gates were opened. And if there were snow. As for the comments about horses marking up the trail, at this point I don't know how you could tell since it's so overgrown and chopped up.
I parked at a playground on Turnpike Rd. in Townsend, MA. It was about 4 miles...mostly uphill...along Barker Hill Rd. to the Mason Railroad trailhead on Morse Rd. in Mason, NH. I rode the Mason Railroad Trail from Morse Rd. to Adams Hill Rd. in Greenville, somewhere around 8 or 9 miles. Google maps indicates the trail ends here, but the railbed does continue, although it had water and did not look good for biking. TrailLink indicates that the trail continues to a road, stops, then picks up somewhere in the woods for a short distance.
The railroad trail is a constant incline (if heading north), several hundred feet over the distance. The early uphill ride to get to the trail, the gravel/cinder/dirt surface (ballast), and the incline led to an extremely tiring ride for me. As you get near the end at Adams Hill Rd., there's some water on the trail to negotiate, and overall the trail is not as smooth as it was for most of its distance. There are one or two sandy spots. At Adams Hill Rd. I took very quiet back roads on my return, but this area of New Hampshire is somewhat hilly, so there were more hills to climb, until nearing the end when it was all downhill with lots of turns--I think my brakes were smoking!
The trail is very quiet. I saw one other cyclist (heading north to south, probably a good idea) and several hikers near the Adams Hill Rd. side. Two people flew by me on dirt bikes. And, as someone else pointed out, there had been a horse on the trail, and there were pockmarks for a while.
For scenery this trail is largely in the woods, running next to old stone walls a lot of the way. There are two beautiful ponds. It's a very quiet and pleasant woodsy ride, although it'll take some effort.
I find that if one goes north on Rt. 123 out of Townsend Ma., and continues to the turnoff for Greenville NH on the right and continues to the Depot Rd and turn right and go downhill, past the Town Garage on the right, up the hill and where the 1st. house is, will see where the trail crosses the road. Park here on the right, which has more room, well out of the way of the gate. You can choose to go North or South from this parking area. If you go north, you will see on your left the granite pile of rocks left over from it's quarry days. A short side trip into here will yeild the quarry and some of the pieces of granite that didn't make the cut. Great trail for x-country skiing, shared w/snowsleds in good snow conditions.
This trail is very secluded. Very much into the back woods for the entire trail. Trail was smooth except for the bone jarring, teeth chattering, pocks left behind by horseback riders. I was able to bike 8.9 miles from Mason to Greenville. At that point the trail was covered with trees and looks like it has not seen any maintenance. There was a few muddy spots but still very passable. Also there was a large pine tree at about mile 2.5 that fell across the trail but I was able to pick up my bike and found a hole to get to the other side. If you want solitude this is the trail. Oh, and watch out for the moose.
In the other direction as like a previous post there are still rail road tracks in place at about .15 miles towards Townsend.
I was recently on this trail in November 2009. I started out at about 9:00 am. Eventually as you head towards Townsend, MA you run into railroad tracks that still exist to this day, but by bike you must stop at this point and turn around. I hiked this trail the on another day as well and went all the way on the tracks to Massachusetts to the end of the line which was a great adventure. I had fun riding my bike, but found it difficult to navigate on this trail. For me I had more fun hiking on this trail, it was easier to do, and there was a lot of antique railroad artifacts that I found along the way, while I enjoyed the experience!
Best Railroad Film Of All Time
"The Station Agent"-(2003)*
P.S. Happy Biking & Happy Riding!
I found this very difficult to get to. After talking to the locals who had no idea of what I was talking about, I finally found it. It was off a sand road and there was no parking. I'm not sure what part of the trail I ended up on. It was a good nature walk but there was so much pineneedles and leaves that it was more challenging on a bike because you didn't know what was underneath. I encountered many rocks and roots that could not be seen. Overall I liked the trail.
"But it's my own fault- not the trail's. The directions are a bit misleading. Turn right (north) at Rts123/124 in West Townsend. There is no ""veering"" - it's a right turn. 1.3 miles up, bear right, staying on Rt123, for another mile. The ""gravel parking lot on the left"" is a turnout large enough to hold three or four cars. The trail itself is rugged, but very passable, for the 13km that I rode. I don't know where TrailLink came up with 6 miles for the trail length. I went 13km (8.1 miles) and didn't see anything to indicate that I'd come to the end of something. There are a few sandy and soft spots, an on-grade bridge and about a 30 foot drop to another bridge. There's one very large sinkhole in the middle of the trail about 11 or 12km north of the start. It was an invigorating ride, perhaps a bit more than I'd bargained for. I'll go back."
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