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The Monadnock Recreational Rail Trail is a great example of a repurposed rail route that provides safe commuting opportunities while also allowing trail users to escape into forest environments for some peace and respite.
Beginning next to the American Legion Post ball field on Webster Street in Jaffrey, the paved trail winds its way south where crosswalks provide access to the unofficial entry point after Stratton Road, which is complete with a Rails-to-Trails sign and information kiosk. From here, your route becomes more serene as the pavement ends near another public ball field. A pleasant sitting area with a bench by the Contoocook River is located just 0.2 mile from here. Note: The 1½ mi marker you see denotes the distance remaining until the Jaffrey–Rindge town line.
For the next 0.75 mile, you will skirt the west boundary of Children’s Woods (28 acres) and Carey Park (100 acres), both owned by the town of Jaffrey and preserved for the study and enjoyment of the region’s natural history. Blazed trails lead directly from the rail-trail.
Heading farther south takes you through the wetlands on the western edge of Contoocook Lake and over a large wooden bridge that offers beautiful sweeping views of the lake and its wildlife. If you are here in summer, you’ll enjoy the smell of pine trees and wildflowers. In spring be on the lookout for turtles hatching on the sandy banks; they may decide to scurry over to the other side of the marsh.
Rounding the bend to your right, you will pass from Jaffrey into Rindge, where the trail is known as the Rindge Rail Trail and the Jack Dupree Memorial Trail. Here, at County Road, you’ll find a public boat launch that offers plenty of parking and access to the lake. Shortly thereafter, you’ll enter the Contoocook Marsh Conservation Area, which offers a small trail loop and benches to enjoy the scenery and wildlife at the wetland’s edge.
From here to the southern endpoint, the trail becomes more challenging with a dirt and grass surface, and a hybrid or mountain bike is recommended. As you pass through West Rindge, the trail becomes much narrower; if you are on a bicycle, keep to the left, as narrow wooden ties still mark the old route.
The next 3.5 miles from State Route 119 offer a serene experience year-round; however, note that the 0.9-mile section between Perkins Road and Rand Road is relatively low-lying and particularly prone to flooding. A sign indicates that the trail is closed to all use in the muddy season. If flooding does occur, you may be forced to detour onto US 202, which provides wide shoulders but is very busy.
A simple granite pillar at the New Hampshire–Massachusetts border marks the trail’s official end. The route continues to Winchendon, though passage is only recommended in winter when snow packs the way.
To reach the northern trailhead from I-293, take the SR 114 exit toward Manchester/Bedford. Merge onto SR 101 W, and go 1 mile. Turn left to remain on SR 101 W, and go 17.6 miles. Turn left again to remain on SR 101 W, and go another 14.7 miles. Turn left onto Grove St., go 0.3 mile, and continue onto US 202 W/Jaffrey Road 5.7 miles. Turn left onto Webster St., and the trail will be on your right in a few hundred feet. Look for parking just farther down on the left across from Oak St.
Technically, one car is permitted to park at the three southernmost crossroad points for the trail at Woods Crossing Road, Rand Road, and Perkins Road; however, cars must not block the access gates, and there is no guarantee that space will be available. The best place to park in the trail’s southern half is just off US 202 in Rindge, about 0.2 mile north of Perkins Road. To reach the US 202 parking area from the intersection of SR 101 and US 202 in Peterborough, head south on US 202 W 6 miles, and in Jaffrey turn right onto Main St./SR 124. Immediately turn left to remain on US 202, and go another 4.6 miles. Look for parking on your left (just before the trail’s access point). The trail’s southern endpoint is located 2.7 miles south along the trail.
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