Sawyer River Trail

New Hampshire

Sawyer River Trail Facts

States: New Hampshire
Counties: Carroll
Length: 7.5 miles
Trail end points: US 302/Crawford Notch Road and Kancamagus Hwy/SR 112 (White Mountain National Forest)
Trail surfaces: Ballast, Dirt, Grass, Sand
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016517
Trail activities: Mountain Biking, Snowmobiling, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Sawyer River Trail Description

The Sawyer River Trail offers a memorable 7.5-mile journey through a pristine mountain valley. Following the old Sawyer River Railroad logging line, the trail is popular with mountain bikers, and hikers for its combination of challenging single-track and dirt road sections. Snowmobiles and cross-country skiers use the trail in winter.

There are a number of ways to attack the trail. The southern half of the corridor, off the Kancamagus Highway (SR 112) is single-track. The northern half, near US 302, shares the corridor with Sawyer River Road, a dirt road that closes in winter but is open to traffic in summer. At its junction with US 302, Sawyer River Road ascends steadily at a manageable grade for 4 miles, following the Sawyer River. On your left at the start, watch for the abandoned sawmill village of Livermore, once-thriving hub of the Sawyer River Railroad. The single-track section of the trail begins shortly after the Forest Service gate at the end of Sawyer River Road.

If you're looking for a shorter, less-challenging trip, you can drive to this point of the trail and park in the nearby parking area. Beyond the gate, turn left at the fork and follow signs toward Meadow Brook. The trailhead will be on the right, around the bend. The trail mostly sticks to the old railroad grade, detouring only to bypass sections flooded by beaver dams. While a generally flat grade affords hikers an easy walk through this stunning valley, the trail still provides cyclists some technical challenges. Watch for old train ties still in place, bridge supports for wooden railroad bridges and other hints to the corridor's past.

Approaching the trail's end, you must cross the Swift River. There is no bridge, but boulders in the usually shallow river facilitate crossing. Use caution, particularly in the spring or after heavy rains, since high water can make the crossing difficult and dangerous. This is a great spot for lunch, however, and one of the best swimming holes around. Beyond the river, you'll soon reach the trailhead at Kancamagus Highway.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the northern trailhead, take Interstate 93 to Exit 35 and follow US Route 3 north to its junction with US Route 302. Take US 302 east through Crawford Notch. Sawyer River Road is on the right about 3 miles before the town of Bartlett. If you reach the Fourth Iron Tent site, on your left, you've just missed the turn for Sawyer River Road. Park by the gate along US 302 or at pullouts farther up Sawyer River Road.

To reach the southern trailhead, take Interstate 93 to the exit in Lincoln and follow SR 112 (Kancamagus Highway) east to the trailhead. The trailhead is on the left (north) side of the road, about 16 miles from Lincoln town center. Begin looking for the turnoff about 0.8 mile after you pass Lily Pond.

Sawyer River Trail Reviews

I finally had a chance to x-ctry the SRT over the first weekend in Feb. For some reason this trail had never registered with me - and I have hiked, mountain biked, and skiied many trails in the Mount Washington Valley. My wife and I were looking for a good workout ( but nothing quite as taxing as breaking trail up the Wildcat Valley over to Circuit to Black Mountrain a few weekend previous...) - the trail gradually ascends on what appears to have been the old railine. The locomotives that were used for logging in the area must have been very powerful - the grade was much steeper than conventional railines. The only drawback were very the agressive snowmobilers (one of the prices one pays for skiiing trails such as these - I will say I am generally happy to share a trail with a snowmobile for they provide a good surface for the most part) - we have skiied up the Bear Notch road a few times and for some reason the snowmobilers on those trails are far more courteous to x-ctry skiers. Our goal was to ski to the southern terminus, the Kankumungas, which was listed at 7.5 miles. We must have covered around 6.5 miles before turning around - as always, the ski down ( I am guessing we climbed.... 800 vertical feet?) made the long climb worthwhile. I was disapointed when we reached the parking lot when I realized we never came across the abandoned town of Livermore. We intend to mountain bike camp the trail this summer. I do highly recommend the trail for all levels of x-counry skiers , though if the conditions are icy/crusty, I would grade the trail for intermediates.

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