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Visitors to the Sugar River Trail (also known as the Sugar River Recreational Rail Trail) can be forgiven if they lose track of which side of the river they’re traveling. The 9.5-mile trail crosses its namesake river seven times—twice on covered bridges—between Newport and the outskirts of Claremont. The trail meets the Bobby Woodman Trail, which completes the run into Claremont.
The route follows a railroad corridor built in the 1870s by the Sugar River Railroad for the Concord and Claremont Railway. The Boston and Maine Railroad acquired this electric railway in 1887 and renamed it the Claremont Branch. In the first decade of the 1900s, the railroad rebuilt many of the river crossings as covered bridges; two remained after the railroad stopped using the railbed between Newport and Claremont in 1977.
The Sugar River Trail is one of only a few state trails that allow ATV use, as well as trail bikes (a type of off-highway recreational vehicle), after the snows melt; mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers also use the trail year-round (snowshoeing and dogsledding are also permitted). Wildlife is abundant in the secluded woodlands; watch for deer, rabbits, beavers, raccoons, wild turkeys, and even the occasional moose around the next bend.
The trail takes a circuitous route between the historic mill towns of Newport and Claremont as it follows the Sugar River valley. Beginning in Newport, you’ll find the town has several historical buildings and a Main Street that looks like a movie set for the 1800s, with brick storefronts, clock towers on public buildings, and church steeples. The trailhead on Belknap Avenue is only a few blocks from downtown.
Passing through forest for 2.5 miles, the trail crosses three trestles in quick succession. In another 3 miles, you’ll arrive at the first covered bridge, known as Pier Bridge for its central pier. The second covered bridge, Wright’s Bridge, appears 1.2 miles after you pass through Chandler.
The Boston and Maine Railroad built these in 1907 and 1906, respectively, as replacement spans. These are two of eight surviving railroad covered bridges in the United States. Unlike covered bridges on New England roadways, these are much narrower and taller, with 21 feet of vertical clearance. While covered bridges sheltered pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons in historic times, the railroads covered their wooden bridges to protect the trusses from the ravages of weather.
The trail passes through woods and then meets up with SR 11/SR 103 before reaching a junction with the Bobby Woodman Trail on the outskirts of Claremont. The Bobby Woodman Trail heads 2.3 miles into downtown Claremont. You’ll find many opportunities for food and services along the way.
To reach the Newport trailhead from I-89, take Exit 9 onto SR 103 W toward Newport. Turn right (west), go 19.1 miles, and make a slight left to join SR 11 W. Go 3.2 miles into Newport, and take the second right off the traffic circle onto N. Main St./SR 10. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Belknap Ave.; then go 0.2 mile, and look for the trailhead parking on the right at Newport Recreation Department.
To reach the trailhead on the outskirts of Claremont from I-89, take Exit 12 onto SR 11 W toward Sunapee. Head west 7.6 miles, and bear right to join SR 103. Go 3.2 miles into Newport, and take the fourth right off the traffic circle onto N. Main St./SR 11/SR 103. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto SR 11/SR 103/Elm St.; then go 0.2 mile, and veer left to stay on SR 11/SR 103. Go 6.9 miles, and look for trailhead parking on the left.
My husband and I biked this trail in October and it was great! The trail itself has some soft, sandy spots which make it a bit difficult but we did fine with our mountain bikes. Most of the trail is hard-packed. The scenery is absolutely beautiful! We saw only 1 ATV vehicle, a few other cyclists, and a few walkers. Biking along the river, passing through the covered bridges, and enjoying the fall foliage made this a great day trip for us.
We started on the Newport end at the trail crossing on Oak Street and headed west, feeling that we'd see the most starting here and figuring if we still had ambition on the return, we would do the last portion into Newport at Belknap Ave. The surface varied in hardness, but until we were returning from the Claremont end, slightly uphill most of the way back, we didn't have to walk our bikes. Neither of us are hard-core riders and my wife did the whole ride on a single speed, traditional coaster brake bike, while I've got an inexpensive "mountain" bike, but it is nothing special either. On the return trip, being somewhat tired we did walk a few stretches, but not for any appreciable distance. We saw only two ATV's, both moving at a reasonable speed and both very considerate of our presence. We also encountered several walkers, an older couple and a young family or two, but that was about it. Probably daytime on a midweek day is a good time to do this one if you want relative solitude. The covered bridges alone are worth the trip but the entire experience was enjoyable for us. There is a mix of deep woods, and field or river's edge open areas. When we got back to our starting point, it was late enough and we were tired enough not to do the last portion into Newport, but (aside from no more covered bridges) it looks like we'll come back sometime to finish that last portion. The river is beautiful, we didn't see much wildlife, but the birds provided us with much enjoyment along the way . Some ravens were harassing a hawk at one point, and that was interesting to watch and listen to. Overall, our experience was very favorable and the reviews I had read which made me apprehensive were not fulfilled in our case, although at other times of day or week, or following different weather conditions I can see where anything other reviewers said could easily have been the case. I would say it was a ride well worth the effort.
would be a great trail if closed to motel vehicles. they chew up Sandy stretches making it unusable by bicycles end to end. a lot of money was spent on bridges which are beautiful but not trail surfaces. a real shame ,this could be one great trail.
My wife and two kids (7 and 10) and I started on the Newport end of the trail, on a Sunday afternoon. First impression was good, nice hard packed soil and beautiful scenery. Then we encountered our first group of ATVs, 3 of them came speeding up from behind us. A closer look at the trail signs showed that they were allowed on the trail. About 1/3 mile into the ride, the surface turned to a soft sand that was difficult to ride on. Then another group of ATVs came from ahead of us, doing a good 30mph. Next a cop on an ATV came around the corner from ahead of us doing about 40mph. The soft sand was too much to deal with so we turned around. Another 4 ATVs passed us. We rode about 3/4 of a mile before turning around. Really a wasted trip and this trail really shouldn't be called a bike or walking trail as it is mainly used by motorized vehicles and doesn't seem safe to have children riding on bicycles.
Nice trail but could not get through in Kelly Village post are not 50 inches apart.
This is a scenic trail that follows the Sugar River from Newport NH to just east of Claremont, NH. If you start from the Claremont end, the trail head is a couple of miles east of the city center, on Route 103/Route 11, just west of the pint that the highway changes from two lanes to four lanes. There's a gravel drive on the south side of the highway that leads to a good-sized parking area, but it's not well marked.
The trail is open to motorized recreational vehicles, and they churn up the surface to the point that it's soft and not good for bucycles unless you have a trail bike with wide tires. Don't try it with a hybrid bike or a road bike. If you want to bucycle, consider following Sugar River Rd. and Chandler's Mill Rd., which closrly patallel the rail trail.
The trail goes through two tall, handsome covered bridges that cross the Sugar River. Both bridges are easily accessible by walking a short distance from Chandler's Mill Rd.
Amazingly serene. Few wet areas but quite comfortable run and bile trail. Truly beautiful.
This is a very scenic trail, but it is maintained primarily for dirt motorcycles and ATVs, not for bicycles. If you have 38 mm or larger tires and you don't mind getting bogged down in soft, silty fill every now and then the trail can certainly be done with bicycles.
Many stretches are fine, but just as you are starting to really enjoy this scenic trail you will come to a soft stretch that have been filled with silty river-bottom sand. Your bicycle tires will start to bog down and if you don't maintain a good speed you will lose your steering and have to stop and walk your bike - very frustrating.
I made a special trip up from Massachusetts to see this trail because I had heard wonderful things about it. I started at the Claremont, NH trailhead and followed the trail all the way to its terminus at Newport, NH. Some folks have complained about the ATVs, but on my trip, a weekday outing, I did not see all that many ATVs and the ones I did see were extremely courteous.
I'm a novice mountain biker with a 29er, and I found the sand that other reviewers talk about to be, yes, difficult in places, but generally speaking, I didn't think it was too bad. I did walk the bike a number of times, but rarely for more than a dozen paces, and the more used to the sandy patches I became, the easier they got, and the less I dismounted.
It's worth the effort because the trail is fantastic. You cross the river over and over, on the two covered railroad bridges (there are only seven of these left in the whole USA), and you also cross on several trestles and other bridges. There's always something interesting and beautiful coming up. The Newport end has a charming little town not far away. Claremont's end is more about strip malls, so I recommend starting from the Claremont end and having Newport as your reward. I was tired after my stop in Newport and I decided to ride back on Highway 11, which is a fast road, but with a nice wide shoulder. It saved a lot of time on the return trip and the hills were fun to ride down heading back west to Claremont. It's a nice option at the end of the day.
My trip was on 7/25/13, but I hear the trail is stunning during leaf season and I hope I can get back to it then.
Tried this trail this past week on a Saturday starting in Cleremont. It must have been family day for ATV's and motorized dirt bikes. Groups of 4-5 ATV's whizzing by. I must say they were generally courteous. Did about 5 miles much of which was in deep sand on a mountain bike. Steering and moving were extremely difficult in the sand. Scenic other wise with some great covered bridges. For bicycling the surface needs to be redone without sand. Otherwise great for ATV's
My wife and tried this trail in July - starting at the trailhead in Claremont. We each have a hybrid. We could not steer in the sand and had to turn around after one half mile. I am a fairly strong rider and was stuck a couple of times.
My wife and I bike the 1st 6 miles of the trail starting in Claremont. We both had hybrid bikes one with 35mm and 48mm. It had been raining in the past few days so the cinder and sand were packed down pretty well by the ATVs. The track can be more challenging with the 35 mm tires in drier conditions when sand is softer.
We started form this end so we were closer to the covered bridges. The grade is slightly uphill which makes the reverse trip easy.
Be sure to stop and take a photo at the covered bridges which are the highlight of the trip.
My wife, 2 year old, and myself enjoyed this trail a lot . Other than some Sandy areas it is a very easy ride for mountain bikes. The bridges are very cool to ride over and see the different types. We went on a 80° day, but with plenty of shade we did not get very hot. Had a tire blow out after first covered bridge, packed a spare so no problem. Along the way we met a lot of nice people. Both ATV and bicycling. All ATV ers were very considerate to allow us to move off to side of trail when passing by. Most stopped to ask us how the trail was and if we were enjoying ourselfs. My family will be coming here again.
A beautiful trail ruined by ATVers. Very dusty when dry and the ATVs fly by you with no trail etiquette. The trail is very soft in spots too. Not a good place to walk or ride a bike. A shame.
I can only recommend this trail to those Mt and Hybrid bikers who are prepared to deal with lots of soft sand. The reviews said the first 2 miles were soft sand torn up by the ATVs and Dirt Bikes, but about half of the rest of the trail was soft sand. The ATVs ignore private propeerty and love to make wheelies or what their efforts to tear up the trail are called. The stretches with firm surface were delightful and the views along the river wonderful. In the middle there is a section where the trail is very rocky for 100 yards or so and people ride on the dirt road along side the trail. The managers of this trail could learn from other trails how to improve signs at the trail heads, how to mark the mileage along the trail and how to solve the problem of soft sand tracks. The best signal for the end of the trail parking in Claremont is the sign for Old Newport Road. The small trail parking sign is easy to miss and the start of the trail in Newport is also not well marked. A contractor is re-constructing the RR covered bridges so it is good to walk thru those areas as long as the construction continues. The wonderful old mills in the town of Clarement are a sight to see after your bike trip. Youker 8/26/2010
Road the trail today and yes it does have some soft spots but with a cross-trail or mountain bike should be no problem. I averaged 8mph. Maybe late spring or early summer would be a better time to ride so as more moisture would be on the trail to keep it packed down. The shady places were harder packed than sunny spots. At one point you ride up to a parking lot and it appears as though the trail ends but if you keep going you will find that the trail drops down out of the parking lot and continues. If you follow the trail along side Washington St. you can also ride through part of the town and the trail picks up again. You will re-enter the woods and be able to ride to Pleasant St. It ends at Claremont building supplies. You can see some left over tracks if you cross the road and go into the parking lot of the building supply company. It is a multi-use trail and you will meet up with OHRV and dirt bilks. They were very courteous towards me by slowing down and not making dust. The trail follows the river for most of the trail. Plenty of places to stop and get wet if it is hot. Total length of the trail is 11.5 miles. Very scenic ride.
The trail guide mentions the sandy condition of the first part of the trail but not the fact that it has become 6-8 inches deep as the result of Heavy atv use. We gave up after the first 2 miles as at least 10 atv's and the dust that came with them drove us from the trail. The trail is so soft in places it's like riding in sand dunes. Nice location but not good for biking.
"We biked on this trail on October 5, 2003. It is one of the most scenic bike paths we have been on, but at the same time one of the worst riding paths we have ever been on. It is too soft in so many place to ride a bike on. It is used very heavily by ATVs and I'm sure they loosen up the path even more. We won't go here again until there is great improvement."
"This trail was beautiful, riding along the Sugar River. The conditions made it more difficult. It was very sandy in parts. The change from a harder surface to loose sand which continued especially from Newport to Kellyville made for a good workout."
"I have jogged about half of the trail, beginning at the Claremont end (from Chestnut Street), several times, whenever I visit my parents who live in Claremont. The trail surface is mostly packed cinders, good for biking or hiking or running, and there are some nice views of the river. I hated to have to turn around and head back, and I hope that the next time I'm there (Thanksgiving Day) I'll have time to run the entire length, just so I can see it all. I'm sorry for all the people who live near this trail and never experience it, but then again I like having it all to myself."
"I just did this trail from Newport to Claremont and back yesterday. It is as the description says very nice. I used my mountain bike on this trail, and the only slight drawback is the first 2 miles out of Newport heading west can be sandy in spots... enough that a couple of times by front wheel dug in enough to have to stop and restart. The rail surface does get better as you countinue on to Claremont.
The two great jewels on this trail as has been described are the two covered bridges... they are majestic, a lot longer than I expected and the height of these two bridges to accomadate locomotives, etc. is also majestic, and a lot different from your normal covered bridge.
Dogs! Coming from Newport, about 1 mile into the ride you will come to a road crossing with a repair garage on the left just after crossing the road.... there seems to be 3 dogs that hang out at that garage that like to give a bark and a somewhat lame chase... it was enough to just give them a loud ""HEY!"" to kind of ward them off... they came after me but really didn't seem to mean business.
The other ""dogs"" are two dogs in a yard that you will encounter at the point the rail trail runs on a road just above the river for about 1/2 mile. These 2 dogs are in a yard, but sure seems like if the gate was left open you could be in for a ""tour de france"" run! I just mention them so they won't startle you a whole lot.
Lastly, the trail runs downhill from Newport to Claremont, and the 1-1/2 miles in Newport (with the dogs too) are the least impressive, if you want an easy ride back and the most scenic part of the ride, I would start in Claremont... best place to park I think is the K-Mart parking lot on Route 103 about 2 miles east of downtown Claremont... ride your Bike east on 103 for about 1/2 mile (you might see some old RR ties right off the orad) until you see an orange gate on the right, this is a good place to jump on the trail.
Just a note, that this trail is open to ATV's and Motor bikes, I saw two ATV's on the trail and they were very polite and courteous, and one kid on a motorcycle who for some reason thinks it's the coolest thing in the world to pass someone on a dirt path going as fast and making as much noise as possible... some people lack common courtesey
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