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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.
The trail definitely has some potential if there was more participation from landowners, some of whom appear to be quite hostile to the idea. It appears that the trail did or attempted to cross through private land on the Townsend section northward towards a connection with the Jamaica section but you soon run into a labyrinth of blocked trail and more No Trespassing and Posted signs than I have ever seen in one spot anywhere in my life. They did dissuade me that day and I turned around which is most unfortunate. Laws being what they are in Vermont, there is nothing illegal about this of course. In many states, including Texas surprisingly there is a law against closing off a certain amount of shoreline areas to passersby and swimmers etc. in order to promote this activity which is ultimately beneficial to all, locals and visitors alike.
Tried biking from Brattleboro but major construction going on and will be for some time
I commute to work by bicycle, a few days a week. I feel lucky to have a alternative route if I don't feel like using route 30. Thank you TrailLink
This was a really pretty, fairly level trail,7 miles round trip, a great option for riders and horses who are are not looking for a lot of hill work. The construction area under the I-91 bridge was a bit harrowing, I think that would be the only challenge for novice riders or spooky horses. ( also, one 10 - 15 foot wooden bridge over a stream in the woods) About 1/2 mile north of the big bridge are some small side paths through the woods to the river; one of them leads to a fairly level spot to reach the water. I parked my 2-horse trailer in the Marina restaurant parking lot, but if you follow the start of the trail past the kayak launch, there is a trail-specific area with enough room for a trailer. Some parts of the trail have a a gravel base and might be hard on some barefoot horses; mine is moderately rugged and was OK.
The middle section north of Townshend Dam has several new sections including a floating boardwalk across beaver ponds. The southern section has received a lot of drainage and surface work and is much improved from the Marina Restaurant north. HOWEVER, during 2014-2015, the beginning section where it passes under Interstate 91 will be occasionally closed as the bridge is replaced. When that happens, use the trailhead at Fox Farm Road.
"Started exploring this trail from the south at Townshend Dam off Rt.30. This trail is a mix of footpath and rail trail. You have to descend via some great stone steps at the dam to the old Rt. 30 which I assume is the old RR, but can not get to East Jamaica on Mt. bikes. The first half is a tared road and they are putting in a bridge as I write this to cross a small stream and follow the old RR North to East Jamaica. We next went to Ball Mt. Dam on the advice of a worker on the bridge because you have to pay to access the trail from Jamaica State Park. also it is down hill from the dam to the park. Just before the dam is a parking area and it is tared down under the spill way. the Rail trail starts on the east side of the dam and is marked footpath and the switch backs down the dam are sharp and should be walked unless you are in control descending. For about the next 1/2 mile you descend on a very rocky trail and should walk if you are like me unsure of your skill. It then flattens out and is really great riding all the way to Jamaica State Park. I road south from here for about 1/2 mile and the trail started to deteriorate as a previous biker said and turned around. Next we returned to Ball Mt. Dam and looked for the trail and found it thru a small opening in a guard rail at the parking area. After about 200 ft. of single track it opened up and looked like good riding. we found the first blazing here with small signs. they are a violet color and it is blazed up to where you return to the rail trail in about 2 miles. Trail conditions are hiking quality only and I walked my bike thru although my companion who is a better rider than me road a lot of it except the short steep uphills. I would advise you to skip this and go to Winhall camp ground and bike both south and north along the river to do this section. The trail has a lot of potential and is very scenic and is very remote. If it was finish all the way to Brattleboro it would be a great off road alternative to Rt. 30 & 100. "
"I first tried to access the trail in South Londonderry fron West River Road. When I passed the old junkyard I came upon piles of trash on both sides of the road and a ""keep out"" sign on the road. I felt like I was on tobacco road so I turned around and left.
I next tried the Winhall campground but it was closed for the season (it was Oct. 20th) and there didn't appear to be any place to park. I next tried Jamaica State Park and it too was closed. Across the street was what looked like a continuation of the rail trail. It would be nice if there was some sort of sign.
I rode down this trail and it was beautiful for about a mile except for the trees across the trail. After about a mile it turned into a tangle of underbrush so I turned around. When I got back there were a lot of cars parked around the entrance to the State park so I decided it must be OK to go into the park.
The two miles of trail in the park is the most scenic rail trail I've ever seen. The rail trail ends at a dam but there is a trail that continues up the side of the dam. My partner on the ride was not up to pushing her bike up a 300 foot dam so we turned back.
I would have liked to do more of the trail but it's hard to get to and when you do find something that looks like a trail there's no trail signs or markers to give you the warm feeling that you're not going to get shot for trespassing. "
Great rail bed trail. Easy grade. Kids all enjoyed the ride & views. Bring fishing gear or a picnic lunch. There are many foot trails off the main trail for the adventurous.
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