Presidential Range Rail Trail

New Hampshire

Presidential Range Rail Trail Facts

States: New Hampshire
Counties: Coos
Length: 18 miles
Trail end points: Airport Road (Whitefield) and Devens Street (Berlin)
Trail surfaces: Ballast, Grass, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6333486
Trail activities: ATV, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Snowmobiling, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Presidential Range Rail Trail Description

This 18-mile Presidential Range Trail runs between Cherry Pond, a great bird-watching venue, and Berlin. The trail skirts the Presidential Range along the edge of the White Mountain National Forest and passes through Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge as it follows portions of the Israel and Moose rivers. Its surface is predominately gravel. 

You can see remnants from the old railroad days, including a plant where water was bottled for transport to the cities. The rail-trail is built along a line once used by the Boston & Maine Railroad to haul lumber and paper between Whitefield and Berlin, the latter of which, perfectly situated on the Androscoggin River in a heavily forested region, became a thriving mill town. 

These and other charming small towns along the trail offer lodging, restaurants, and other needed amenities. Although travelers will have to go a short distance on-road to reach these communities from the trail, the roads are wide and the traffic volume is low.

Gorham, in particular, which blossomed as a railroad town in the mid-1800s, exudes warmth and a quaint New England beauty. A block from the town’s Main Street sits a refurbished railway station dating back to 1907 that houses the Gorham Railroad Museum.

Near Cherry Pond you enter marshland with bridges carrying you over the wetter trail sections. Wildlife watching is good here—look for moose!—and the pond has an observation deck that makes for a nice picnic spot. From the pond you can carry on along the trail to the White Mountain Regional Airport.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking options from west to east:

  • Whitefield: Park off Airport Road, where there is a signed trailhead.
  • Jefferson: Park at the junction of Route 115A (Meadows Road) and the rail-trail.
  • Randolph: Park at the Appalachian Trailhead lot along Route 2, one mile west of town.
  • Gorham: Park at the paved trailhead along Route 2, a half mile west of the junction of Routes 2 and 16.



Presidential Range Rail Trail Reviews

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.

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.

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.

Accordion

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 :)

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!

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.

(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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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