Presidential Rail Trail

New Hampshire

28 Reviews

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Presidential Rail Trail Facts

States: New Hampshire
Counties: Coos
Length: 19.2 miles
Trail end points: 289 Airport Rd at Pondicherry Nature Reserve (Whitefield) and 100 Lancaster Road (Gorham)
Trail surfaces: Cinder, Crushed Stone, Dirt, Grass, Gravel, Sand
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6333486

Presidential Rail Trail Description


Skirting the northern edge of the White Mountains’ Presidential Range, the Presidential Rail Trail offers over 19 miles of stunning views of mountain peaks and their surrounding nature. Some portions of the trail are more rugged and grassy, and trailheads are basic. Those comfortable biking or hiking will enjoy the stunning scenery on the route between the mountainside New Hampshire towns of Whitefield and Gorham. Lucky trail users may spot resident wildlife including moose, black bears, wild turkeys, beavers and otters. 

About the Route 

The Presidential Rail Trail’s western endpoint is at 289 Airport Rd at Pondicherry Nature Reserve (Whitefield). From the Airport Rd endpoint, the trail takes off in a northeastern direction, on gentle terrain, sloping slightly upward. Around Waumbeck Junction, about 1.5 miles into the trail, connections to several hiking trails branch off from the rail-trail, including a connection to boardwalk trail around Cherry Pond. After passing Cherry Pond, the trail curves back southeast before soon resetting its course to continue in a generally due east direction. After trekking 4 miles east from the western endpoint, the trail crosses State Road 115A, and passes a basic trailhead with parking. The trail continues east, running a course just south of SR 11B and the Israel River.  

From the SR 115A trailhead, the trail continues for 6.6 miles through a mix of forests and clearings that skirt past stretches of residences. The trail crosses a fork of the Israel River, 1 mile west of the Castle Trailhead, on a bridge whose original trusses were hand-carved from granite blocks by Italian craftsmen hired by the Boston and Maine Railroad. The Castle Trailhead in Bowman, the trail’s midpoint, has few amenities other than parking, though it also serves as the start of the Castle Trail, a hiking trail to the summit of Mt. Jefferson. 

After continuing for 3 miles east, the trail crosses a historic pony truss bridge over Snyder Brook. The route then passes by a parking lot in Randolph near the Appalachia trailhead (not to be confused with the Appalachian Trail), just a few feet from US 2, and then begins the downhill slope toward Gorham. Bikers will find an especially fun ride in this portion, as the trail smooths out and slopes gently downward, with more stunning views of the mountain range. Several bridges here cross over the Moose River, the first one 2.3 miles after Snyder Brook. After the last Moose River crossing, the trail approaches Gorham for the remaining 1.7 miles, intersecting other trails that are mostly for snowmobile use. 

The eastern endpoint of the trail is located in Gorham, at 100 Lancaster Road (Gorham), which is home to the the Gorham Historical Society and Railroad Museum and Moose Brook State Park, a great place for camping, picnicking, and fishing. 


The Presidential Rail Trail is part of the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail which spans 83 miles between Woodsville, New Hampshire, and Bethel, Maine. Several connections are also available to hiking trails in and around the White Mountains. Check local listings. 

Trail History 

The Presidential Rail Trail follows the former rail corridor of the Concord and Montreal Railroad’s Berlin Branch. By 1895, the Concord and Montreal Railroad became part of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The line served the lumber trade and a passengers bound for Springfield, MA and northeastern cities further south. Passenger service ended by the early 1960s. The route became a rail-trail in the 1990s.

In 2020, a project to repair the Israel River Bridge, which carries the trail in Randolph, involved lifting the 65,000-pound bridge off the stone supports with a crane. The stone abutments, which were hand carved from granite by Italian artisans in the late 1800s. A month later, once the original supports were fortified, the bridge was lifted back into place. 

Parking and Trail Access

Presidential Rail Trail runs between 289 Airport Rd at Pondicherry Nature Reserve (Whitefield) and 100 Lancaster Road (Gorham), with parking available at both endpoints. 

Parking is also available: 

  • 790 Meadows Road (Jefferson)
  • 1095 Presidential Hwy (Randolph)
  • 104 Dolly Copp Rd Rd, (Randolph)

These are approximate addresses and there are numerous parking options along this route. See TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions. 

Presidential Rail Trail Reviews

Start in Gotham better the better half of the trail

I've done this whole trail and there are two distinctive parts. The western part has many long stretches with a narrow strip of dirt surrounded by grass. It's also not smooth riding.
The eastern part in Gotham has much better parking and the trail itself is a much more comfortable ride. Also, if you leave from Gotham there are some good eateries to go to after.

Great rail-trail ride

The trail surface varies over the 20 mile length. Never gets too rough, but it gets close to overgrown in a few areas. There are a few nice wetland areas and some good views. Mostly just a nice trail for a bike ride.

West End Access

If you’re going North on 93, don’t go all the way to Exit 40, Route 115. Instead get off at Route 3 East and follow it to Henzel Road as directed. (Note: There is no sign for Henzel Road.) You’ll save about 30 minutes of drive time but miss the quaint village of Bethlehem.
The trail itself is lovely but a little rocky for this 70 year.

Awesome flat ride with gorgeous views of the Presidential Range

Started from Pondicherry and went east to Randolph and back. Had no trouble with my old hybrid bike on the various surfaces of this section.


Lovely trail

Started at Jimtown Rd parking lot in Gorham and biked west on the trail for 4 miles until we reached the beaver pond and then turned around. This section of the trail was wide and in fairly good condition. There were a few areas with gravelly or sandy surface but the three of us did fine on a hybrid, a standard kids bike and a touring bike with wide tires. Grade was steady uphill of 1-2% from parking lot to beaver pond. We biked under tree canopy along a large stream without mountain views for most of this section. There were lovely views of the Presidential range at the pond clearing. Lots of gnats but bugs fine once biking. Overall this was not as easy a ride as the average rail to trail given grade and loose material on the surface.

Great trail

This is a great trail, and best for those with fat tire bikes, if doing the entire length. Riding from Whitefield to Gorham , the terrain started with gravel, then became varied, which included some short sections of single track. Throughout the ride, we encountered gravel, cinder, and a couple of patches with sand. The views of the Presidential Range along the trail were great. Be sure to stop at the Cherry Pond Observation Deck!

Rough for the first 8 miles...

I started at the western trailhead. The surface for the first four miles is large diameter crushed stone. The same stone used in the trailhead parking lot. It's not the kind of crushed stone you put on a multi use recreation trail. The next four miles was basically rough single track. I rode my gravel bike based on the (lackluster) description above. I jumped off at 8 miles and returned to my car on back roads. The crushed stone listed on the surface description is very misleading. This would be fine with a mountain bike. Front suspension would be best.

Great trail - some construction - lots of horse flies!

We started on the eastern end. About a mile in there is some construction with heavy machinery and a very rough trail. Other than that, the trail is in good condition. For about a mile, the views are stupendous but most of the trail is in a forest canopy. There is a beautiful pond with lots of marshland.

The BIG issue is the bugs. The horseflies are terrible. In the hour and a half we were out we each got bit a dozen times and swatted away hundreds. I'm not sure if this is all the time or seasonal, or just this section of the trail, but it'll keep us from this segment.

Next time we'll go to the mid-point and try from there.

Well maintained and so pretty

Last July, I reported that the bridges were a pretty sketchy to go over with horses. I am so happy to report that the bridge's planks have been replaced. I've ridden several days lately and each time the gentlemen brush-hogging were so polite turning off their motors so they wouldn't spook the horses. All the bikes and hikers I have met are so sweet and friendly. I just love to ride my horses on this trail. Thank you to whomever is responsible for maintaining the P R/T!

115/115B to Cherry Pond

We rode this stretch last fall. Beautiful ride. The trail is well maintained and we only saw a couple of people. My only complaint is that we had to pick a non-traditional place to park (intersection of 115/115B off the side of the road) because most of the public parking areas are not large enough or set up well enough to bring in and turn around a huge horse trailer, especially during the busy times. I would love to be able to ride from the Bowman but need to be sure that we can get turned around and not get blocked in. We may try that this summer. :)

Great scenery on a rough trail

Having ridden over 120 Rail-Trails in 16 states, I can say with confidence that this is NOT a well maintained trail. We started our ride at the parking lot just west of Gorham on the,"Smooths out" section of the trail. It was nowhere near smooth. The first bridge we crossed had broken out boards on one side and a hole in the decking. The falling leaves hid some of the large stones that dotted the two single tracks that were much of the trail. We rode beyond the high point of the trail but turned around after 10 miles. This was some of the roughest 20 miles of rail-trail that I've ridden and I've ridden over 4,000 miles this year.

wonderful cycling

We biked the rail trail starting in Conway and going about halfway down and back. Next day we drove to lower parking area and biked up to where we had ended previous day then back. This trail is a gem, hopefully the trail club will be able to keep the cycling/walking/horseback section separate from ATV section. It has beautiful scenery, quiet, easy access parking areas. Get out there and see what you are missing!

Beautiful ride, suitable for all levels of riders

This is a beautiful, well maintained trail with a variety of scenery to take in, including a wildlife refuge, Presidential Mt range, rivers, bogs, meadows and beaver dams. We started at the parking lot off of Airport Rd in Whitefield and rode 22 miles, round trip, to the Bowman parking lot and back. 3 hours with a lunch stop and numerous breaks to take in the scenery. Gravel, grass and hard dirt surfaces, all mowed. Few people and all super friendly and helpful! Our next outing will be the Bowman to Gorham section!

Magical ride

We rode from Bowman in Randolph down to Gorham on a gorgeous day. The trail is just stunningly beautiful--quiet and forested with the Moose River running alongside for much of the way and spectacular views of the mountains from spots where the trail passes through meadows. We stopped for a picnic and a cold swim in the Moose River east of the Dolly Copp. The trail is in great shape; it is a treasure!

Careful on the bridges - some broken/rotten boards

This is a great trail! I have been riding horses on this trail for about 5 years, sometimes from the Gorham parking area others off the Dolly Copp road. The past few years I have parked off of Dolly Copp Rd. The ATV folks are very nice at the Gorham parking area, but it can get very crowded!

This week it was quiet, so we started from the Gorham side. But I was disappointed and scared on the bridges over Moose Brook (Gorham Side) many boards are rotten and broken, very unsafe for horses and others. I would love to help fix these, as this trail is a gem !


Walking, bike riding, this trail can't be beat. In the summer it is completely non motorized, something we are working hard to maintain. It is not paved so ride knowing this & bring the right bike.

Views are great - however trail surface is deteriorating

I rode this trail from The Gorham parking lot on route 2 up to Jefferson Notch Road on July 15, 2017. I have cycled this trail several times over the years, and for a while it looked like the trail was getting better, but now I'm thinking it's being deteriorate.

On this mid-July day, some areas had grass 2-3 feet high, ballast rock as been put down in a couple of areas to build the trail back up for snowmobiles (good when the ballast is under the snow, not good when it's a cycling surface). I had two ticks on my legs from the tall grass btw.

There are some beautiful areas on this trail however, the Pondicherry end is also very nice (I've done that section several times in the past). I rode on a hybrid with 26"x1.75" tires, it was fine, but a narrow tire would be very uncomfortable on this trail.

Very Disappointing

We followed the Traillink directions and parked at the lot off of Airport Rd, in Whitefield and rode our mountain bikes east. (If you start at Airport Rd, you can add 2 miles to the 18 that Traillink states as the length of the trail.) The trail is completely unmaintained. We rode through knee high and then waist high grass for many miles with nothing but ruts through the grass to guide us. The trail surface leaves a lot to be desired, and in some places, with the high grass and large basket ball sized rocks in the middle of the trail, is dangerous. Between the lot at Airport Rd and Bowman, we encountered two large trees that had fallen across the trail and we were forced to haul our bikes across them one at a time. In one spot, you actually cycle through someones back yard, within feet of their home. In others you encounter deep sand that will stop you cold. All in all, I would not recommend this trail to any but the hardiest souls with a good mountain bike. It is not a family friendly trail nor is it for hybirds or other bikes. The views are nice, but this trail does not live up to the hype it gets, which might be why we did not see another person the entire length of the trail.

This trail is great and pretty serene up near Jefferson. So many great views of the mountains and wildlife. You can get some beautiful pictures and quiet time on this trail. If needing a place to stay check out Applebrook B&B :)

Great trail! Distance longer than stated though.

We took the mountain bikes out and started at the Airport Road end in Whitefield. Cherry Pond came up in no time and it was a beautiful sight. Then carried on towards Gorham. The Meadows area about a mile after the pond is spectacular for photos of the Whites. The trail is a very slight upgrade then for a number of miles until Bowman.

At Bowman, the bike computer had us having covered 10 miles. A sign there indicated that Gorham was another 10 miles further. We had time constraints and turned around a couple of miles later. Gorham to Berlin would likely have been another 5 miles so the trail is probably closer to 25 miles than the 18 published here. Google Maps comes out at about 25 by road also and that path pretty much parallels the trail.

Nevertheless it was a great find! We are part time residents in the area and wish we had found it earlier. We plan to play there in the winter with XC skis and snowshoes too!

What a treat!

We took the link from near the Whitefield airport to the Jefferson entrance and loved the beautiful scenery and enjoyed the birds and wildlife. It skirts the wild life sanctuary and then goes along a pond. Awesome! We plan to do the rest of the trail when we have time. I am so glad we found this trail on the TrailLink website.

Beautiful Section

(late June 2015) We rode the trail from Gorham west to Randolph. The trail is, except for the first mile, completely isolated from roads. Going westward it ascends at a steady but gentle grade following a large whitewater brook and rises to a bog area at the foot of Mt Madison. At one point there is a small waterfall next to the trail, and there were lots of wildflowers. The surface was mostly moderately rough gravel, with a few sandy patches, but navigable with street/touring bikes. It was a bit more difficult than expected to find the trail start from the parking lot west of Gorham, where we were confused by a different signed bike trail which crosses the main road.

Late Summer Ride

My wife and I rode the Presidential Rail Trail up and back from Gorham, NH to the Pondicherry Nature Refuge this weekend (West). The trail is well maintained and has a solid base for most of the way. From Gorham to Rt. 115 the trail is in better shape with a good cinder base. The trail passes an old water plant from the early days of the railroad where spring water was bottled and moved to cities for sale. You can still see part of the old building and find broken bottles lying around. There are few good swimming holes along the trail also. After the trail crosses Jefferson Notch Road it begins to deteriorate with larger rocks for the base and high weeds. There is still a definite bike trail but plan on getting whipped with high weeds and some brush. There is much to see along this section with beaver ponds and marsh land. The views back to the Presidentials is also very nice. You do ride close to some homes but most are camps or second homes. As you near Rt. 115 the barking dogs you hear are sled dogs in the large barnyard of the house next to the trail. After crossing Rt 115 the trail deteriorates further with vared bases and much higher weeds and brush. There is also a section of about 150 ft. of large ballast stone that you need to be careful crossing. Putting up with this is well worth it though as you near the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge. You begin to see it on your left with a vast marshland and the many small bridges on the trail. The pay-off is the huge Cherry Pond and adjacent marsh leading to and around the pond. There is an observation deck that is well worth stopping and having a snack or lunch. We turned back here but the trail continues on to the White Mountain Airport and parking for the trail. The trail does get better from here with a gravel base but I am not sure how far that continues.
I would highly recommend this trail ride. For a nice ride and best trail conditions begin in Gorham and ride to Jefferson Notch Road. There is plenty to see on this section and can be ridden on a mt. bike or hybrid. From Jefferson Notch west riding a hybrid might be difficult due to the changing trail conditions. Some mantainence on the trail for bikes would be nice, even mowing would help. It is definitely maintained for snowmobiling and much of the new or repaired base is obviously for snowmobiles as it is large rock which would be covered with snow in the winter. Still, all in all a great rail trail for riding in summer or especially during the fall colors.

Presidental Range Rail Trail

Come on, folks, you are missing the best kept secret in NH. Start at the parking lot on Rt 2 in Gorham, and in 1/2 mile, you are on a remote rail bed along a river with views of Mt Madison and Mt Adams, the second highest peaks in the White Mtns. We did it again this past weekend with our horses. The footing is cinders and easy on Propel's bare feet. Theatric and Tektonic just love this ride, pulling us along at an extended trot or a lets-go-faster canter. About 3 miles along the rail bed, you come to the old foundation of the Mineral Spring. This is a concrete building in the woods 50 off the rail bed. Behind it about 100 yards is the spring. The spring is rocked up with an old building foundation around it. I wonder how the water ran into the building over by the tracks. The train must have stopped there and picked up spring water.
Then, another mile further out the rail bed, the trail runs through a swamp section, with beaver lodges on both sides. After the straight section through the swamp (the tracks are dry as a bone), the rail bed passes the Dolly Copp road, and then parallels Rt 2 for the next 5 miles, steadily climbing, according to my Garmin, about 600 feet, on a 1.1% grade. Rt 2 is way off to the side and you are still in a remote area. There are waterfalls next to the rail bed, and the bridges are re built to be safe for horses at a walk.
Anyway, this is a beautiful ride, or walk, or bike. Just cause it is northern NH, take the time to sample this gem.

thutchinson on Presidental Range Rail Trail

Another beautiful winter Saturday rding our horses in New Hampshire. We met our friends from Vermont and showed them a great ride on the Presidental Range Rail Trail in Whitefield NH. It was sunny and 15 degrees and, though that may not excite everyone, but this was a blast for us northerners. We only came upon one snowmachine and one hiker, and the trail needs some snow to cover bare spots. Washington and his presidental brothers were all bright and sharp and clear in their glory. Come join us, winter or summer.

Presidental Range Rail Trail Riding 1/23/10

We had a beautiful day on the west end of the trail. Kathy rode Theatric, I rode Tektonic, and I ponyed Luke. This means I held a lead rope and brought along another, riderless, horse. It was a blue sky day, and the mountains were perfectly clear and sharp. We started at the old Highlands station at the west end of the Valley Road (Jefferson), next to Rt 115, the Twin Mt road. There are some nice dog sledding folks (and 80 dogs!) living in the old station (not the dogs!) and the station is looking pretty good. As we got ready to ride at noon, the snowmachines were zooming by. We have pretty steady horses but there were a lot and they were moving right along. Well, we jumped up onto the rail trail and headed west. The plan was to go to the west end near Quebec Junction and the Biomass burning plant and return.

This is a beautiful section of trail. It goes past the old Meadows station and out to Pond-o-Cherry. This is the Silvio Conte Fish and Wildlife Area. The rail trail is remote and goes through the marshes and it is beautiful. The snowmachines were pretty constant and I bet we went by 100 byt he end of the 13 mile down and back. Snowmachine folks, you guys and girls were all polite and responsible. Thank You!! It is best if you slow down and talk to us and motor slowly past the horses. If you stop on the side of the trail and sit there quietly, the horses think you are going to jump up and scare them, so they are wary. If you keep moving, they are OK. Again, thanks for slowing down and talking to us.

Our horses have shoes with borium studs and snow popper pads to keep the snow out. They were fine. As you can see from the pictures, we had a beautiful ride. We plan to arrange a day for all our New England friends to get together and ride the trail.

by thutchinson on the Presidental Range Rail Trail on November 30, 2009

Kathy and I brought our horses over to the R2T yesterday, Sunday. We were going to do the west end of the R2T near the Whitefield airport, but there was 6" of snow on the other side of Gorham Hill, and we stayed on the east end. Instead, we finally braved it and went over the bridge over the Androscoggin River and on up the west side of the river to Berlin. The bridge looks like it is a mile long, and very high over the RR tracks, the main road, and the river. It is set up for snowmachines with a 'reinforced' center strip of new boards, with 5' high sides. We got off and walked Theatric and Tektonic over the bridge (really only 200 yards long!) and Kathy was more nervous than they were. Regardless, this bridge is not for the faint hearted horse or rider.
It is about 3 or 4 miles from the big bridge up to the end of the trail in Berlin. Except for the development and the main road always present on the other side of the river, it is very secluded and a nice ride. It is in great shape with very little ballast / stones, and you can move out on it.
I am not sure about parking at the Berlin end. The old RR grade is in good shape until you get past the treatment plant, and then it kind of ends. You have to go down the backside of the river towards the Treatment Plant, and the parking may be along the side of the dirt road. Maybe there is some parking up closer to town and civilization.
Folks, this R2T is a sleeper. It is in great shape (don't canter over the bridges!) and it is beautiful. In the 21 miles, you get the mountain views, the rivers, a tight secluded valley, the marshes, and some civilization at the east end. Be careful where you park your horse trailers. I would suggest the paved Trail Parking lot right on Rt 2 3/4 mile west of the lights in Gorham, or the NF parking next to Rt 2 and 1 mile west of Lowes Store in Randolph. At the west end, there are some large fields near the Whitefield Airport within 1/2 mile of the R2T kiosk (no big trailer parking at the kiosk). Ask permission. The west end is unique as it is a beautiful wild life marsh. A very nice ride any time of the year.

Presidental Range Rail to Trail

My wife and I have been to this R2T many times over the last 3 years on our horses. By section;

Berlin to Gorham
We have not been on this section cause we would have to go over the high bridge over the Andro with our horses and we need a pretty bombproof horse for that. But, we will check this out someday.

Gorham to Bowman
This section is probably the most beautiful section. We park our horse trailer on Rt 2 about 1/2 mile west of the light in town on the trail parking lot in between Rt 2 and the R2T. The R2T runs under Rt 2 and then alongside the Moose River in a secluded valley. Any roads are miles away and the R2T crosses the river many times on the old but redecked bridges. It is gravel, but in good shape and we see moutain bikes often. Beautiful ride and lots of views of the rver and the mountains. And these are the Whites, so you are looking up at the 5000 foot elevation north side of Madison and Adams. The best!! After you come back to the road, you go parralel to and about 50 to 200 yards south of Rt 2 in the woods but still on the R2T and the great surface. You pass the Appalachia parking lot where hikers start up onto Madison and Adams. This is steady uphill, though a slight grade, to Bowman.

Bowman to Whitefield
Bowman is the height of land. Here, you tip over and head downhill towards Whitefield. Again, it is fairly secluded, though alongside a back dirt and tar road. You cross the roads up to Cherry Mountain and to Jefferson Notch. At the bottom of the grade (remember, this is a RR grade, which is usually 2- 3 % max grade), you pass the home to 80 mushing dogs that will all join in their chorus. Cross the Twin Mtn road and you are back in the woods. We have only gone to the Jefferson Highlands Road, and not all the way to the Whitefield airport. the next section to the airport looks interesting alongside a bog and pond and wildlife preserve.

I highly reccommend this R2T for horses, bikes, skiing, whatever. The bridges are mostly rebuilt. A couple years ago, our horse Theatric stepped through a bad board and fortunately did not hurt himself. We e mailed the incident to the NHDOT, and they fixed it within 2 weeks. Great job!!! We are getting more involved with R2T and trails organizations so that these incidents can be avoided by proper construction. Don't get me wrong, the bridges are very safe on this section of trail, but we always walk over them with the horses. I have found that PT boards can be slightly brittle, plus they are planed so they are 1 5/8" thick instead of the full 2". We would reccommend that the decking be 2 or even 3" thick to handle any point loads.

Great trail. Thank you, whoever built it!!

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