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The West River Railroad, which once followed its namesake river for 36 miles, began passenger service in the late 1800s as a way to trim the two-day voyage between Brattleboro and South Londonderry to a brisk 2 hours. Plagued with difficulties from the start, the narrow line often succumbed to downed trees, falling rocks, and flooding. The line steadily lost passengers, and the railroad officially discontinued use on it in 1936, after years of attempts to keep it active.
The same challenges that inevitably doomed the West River Railroad make it an exciting location for a trail. Hikers will be rewarded with spectacular views and challenging but manageable hills. Cyclists will enjoy several miles of open dirt trail; however, note that the two northern open sections of trail contain challenging terrain and are not entirely passable to even the most seasoned of mountain bikers.
The trail is currently divided into three sections; however, the Friends of the West River Trail intend to eventually complete the missing 18 miles to fully complete the 36-mile trail.
South Londonderry to Jamaica Segment: 10.5 miles
Starting from the north at the South Londonderry trailhead on West River Street, you may wish to journey 0.5 mile north to an old train depot that now serves as a historical museum and rentable office space. Inside, you’ll find exhibits and old photographs memorializing the area’s railroad past.
Heading south, the wide rail-trail follows the West River through dense forest. Keep in mind that while the trail is well maintained, you may come across an odd root or puddle, so take care. After about 2 miles, the trail winds through the Winhall Brook Campground on lightly used paved streets. Restrooms and water fountains, as well as the welcoming smell of nearby campfires, are available throughout the campground.
After passing Winhall Brook Campground, the trail continues for approximately 2.5 miles until the rail-trail dead-ends. The West River Trail continues south into the mountainside, but it is only passable on foot for the next 3 miles; cyclists should not attempt to walk their bikes through this section, as the trail gets very narrow and crosses waterfalls and rocky sections on its way to the Ball Mountain Dam. The bicycle-friendly portion of rail-trail re-emerges approximately 0.5 mile past the Ball Mountain Dam and continues another 3 miles to the Jamaica State Park trailhead.
Townshend Segment: 2.3 miles
A completed section of trail in Townshend, which begins at VT 30 and Ritchie’s Road and ends 3 miles later at the Townshend Dam, is advisable only for experienced hikers. This section is incomplete, may be flooded during spring, and is not entirely passable by bicycle.
Dummerston to Brattleboro Segment: 3.3 miles
The southern section in Dummerston, which begins at the Black Mountain trailhead, located on Rice Farm Road about 0.6 mile south of where it turns into Quarry Road, travels 3.5 miles along a picturesque portion of the West River to the Marina trailhead just north of Brattleboro, crossing underneath I-91 about 2.5 miles along the route. Note that after leaving the Black Mountain trailhead and heading south, the trail is on-road for about 0.4 mile.
Plans exist to complete the remaining 1.5 miles of trail to the Brattleboro Train Station, the original starting point for the West River Railroad.
To reach the northern trailhead in South Londonderry from the intersection of SR 30 and US 7 in Manchester, take Exit 4 off US 7 to SR 11 E/Depot St. Head east for 13.2 miles, and turn right onto SR100 at Londonderry. Go 2.8 miles and turn left onto W. River St. (before you turn left, SR 100 will turn right where it becomes Main St.). Go 0.5 mile, and look for parking where the street ends. Parking is also available at the old train depot in South Londonderry, located about 0.5 mile north of the trailhead on W. River St.
To get to the southern trailhead in Jamaica from the intersection of SR 30 and US 7 in Manchester, take Exit 4 off US 7 to SR 11 E/Depot St. Head east 4.8 miles, and turn right onto SR 30 S. Go 14 miles, and turn left onto Depot St. in Jamaica. Parking is available at the end of the road, about 0.6 mile ahead.
To get to the Black Mountain trailhead in Dummerston from I-91, take Exit 3 toward Brattleboro onto Chesterfield Road. In 0.1 mile at the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Putney Road. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right onto Black Mountain Road. Go 0.6 mile, and turn left to remain on Black Mountain Road. Go another 0.4 mile and turn left again to remain on Black Mountain Road. In 0.7 mile turn left onto Rice Farm Road. Go 0.4 mile, and turn left to stay on Rice Farm Road. In another 1.2 miles, look for parking on your right. From the trailhead on Rice Farm Road, a 0.5-mile on-road section heads south to the current access point.
To get to the southern trailhead in Brattleboro from I-91, take Exit 3 toward Brattleboro onto Chesterfield Road. In 0.1 mile at the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Putney Road. After 1.3 miles, take a sharp right onto Spring Tree Road. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right into the parking lot.
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