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The Winnipesaukee River Trail runs along a rail line that previously connected the paper industry between Franklin and Tilton. Nicknamed the Paper City, Franklin saw the industry boom from the 1900s until the Great Depression. Historical remnants can still be found along the 5-mile trail. The flat path consists of a mixture of asphalt and crushed stone that hikers, bikers, and even four-legged friends can appreciate.
Before hitting the trail at Trestle View Park in Franklin, located on Central Street, enjoy some local restaurants and shops. The park also provides access to the Winnipesaukee River if you want to bring your kayak. From here, the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail is just a 1.4-mile bike ride away, heading west on Central and South Main Streets.
The western trailhead at Trestle View Park is hard to miss, as it’s marked by a 15-foot-tall, black steel mill wheel. The Winnipesaukee River provides a welcoming call to trail users with the soothing sound of flowing water along the route. About 0.5 mile in, you will pass the Sulphite Bridge, also called the Upside Down Covered Bridge, to your left. The bridge—which previously allowed trains to cross the river on top of its structure, instead of through the center—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last remaining bridge of its kind in the country. A fire in 1980 burned the interior of the bridge, which closed to traffic in 1973.
About 0.25 mile farther down the trail, you can see remnants of the paper mill on the far side of the river. Some sections of the path veer away from the river, but trail users can still experience the sights and sounds of birds, wildflowers, peaceful ponds, and perhaps even a beaver or two.
You approach the town of Tilton about 3 miles into the trail. Be cautious when entering this more urban area, as crosswalks are not clearly defined. Downtown Tilton offers local shops and restaurants, great places for a short break.
A wide sidewalk on the north side of East Main Street connects this newer trail section. Continue onto East Main Street 0.5 mile until you reach the Tilton Police Station trailhead to your right. Again, caution should be used when crossing the road here, as there is no designated crosswalk. This trailhead welcomes you with a beautiful wildflower garden and trestle bridge.
The remaining 0.9 mile runs along the rail line away from the road. Crossing under the I-93 overpass signifies that you are nearing the trail’s end at Tilton Road. Even though this endpoint does not have any signage, it would be an ideal pickup or drop-off location. Alternatively, you can turn around to begin the return journey and enjoy a well-deserved treat back in Franklin.
To reach the western trailhead at Trestle View Park in Franklin from I-93, take Exit 20 for US 3/SR 11/SR 132 (toward SR 140/Tilton/Laconia if coming from the south, or toward E. Main St. if coming from the north). Turn right onto US 3 S/SR 11 W/Laconia Road, and go 4.2 miles, following signs for Tilton/Franklin. Keep an eye out for the 15-foot black steel mill wheel to your right, which signals your arrival at the park. The parking entrance will be to your right after passing the mill wheel and a small park sign.
To reach the eastern endpoint in Tilton from I-93 N, take Exit 20 and head straight onto SR 140/Tilton Road. From I-93 S, take Exit 20, and turn left onto US 3 N/SR 11 E. In 0.25 mile turn left onto SR 140/Tilton Road. In 400 feet, after passing an industrial road to your right, the eastern endpoint appears, emerging from its path through several parking lots.
To reach the Tilton Police Station trailhead from I-93, take Exit 20 for US 3/SR 11/NH 132 (toward SR 140/Tilton/Laconia if coming from the south, or toward E. Main St. if coming from the north). Turn right onto US 3 S/SR 11 W/SR 132 S/E. Main St. for about 1 mile. The police station will be on your right, with a dirt parking lot located across the street. Look for the wildflowers and boulders in the parking lot.
Trail through Tilton isn't easy to follow. You best start at the train depot (Merrimack Valley RailRoad) where there is a great assortment of cabooses. Behind the cabooses is a parking lot and a park. At the far end of the playing fields you can pick up the trail and head toward Franklin.
The second of trail on the other side of town is very industrial, crosses under an under construction highway bridge, and then is an overgrown path between a McDonalds and Burger Kind. Not very scenic there. If you want to do this segment, use the trail head and parking lot at ~ 178 E Main St.
The first portion of the trail was scenic and very enjoyable. The half of the trail that cut through the town was difficult to follow due to poor trail labeling.
This is a great bike trail but it needs to be patrolled by the police. For several years there was a registered sex offender who spent most of the day at the picnic table at the trail head in Franklin. Very creepy and intimidating for women using the trail.
It was a nice trail to walk with my dog. WE found a place to park along the main road, with a sign and sort of entrance onto the railtrail. We walked a couple miles past some ponds and along the river. I liked the old bridges and reminders of the railroad along the way. There were not many signs and I had driven along most of it and turned around before I figured out where to park and where it was located. After a few trips past I saw where I could have parked in Franklin.
Overgrown, spent 1mile on a VERY Main Street... Not ideal with kids (we had them in tow). Poor parking & signage- we parked at the days inn because there were tons of signs says "parking for mcdonalds customers only". Had we not stopped at the intersection in town to check the map we would have had NO IDEA the trail took a hard left and went off through road through a park. .... But there was NO WAY I was riding with my kids on the busy, busy Main Street! So bummed about this trail... Avoid it at all costs....
This trail was amazing to walk during the fall foliage season. It's a pretty even walk the whole way. With the river rushing alongside, the remains of all the old mill buildings, the old Upside-Down Covered Bridge...
I only wish it was here when I still lived here.
Started from Franklin and rode to the end near the Tilton McDonalds. The first part was fantastic to look down on the rushing river. Crossed the bridge in Tilton to eat lunch in the park along the river. After that, not comfortable riding along the main drag to pick up the eastern end of the trail,(sign about 1/2 mi. down on right, and we felt the bumps and lack of scenery made it not worth the road ride for the extra 2 miles of trail.
Great running trail if you start in Franklin and complete the uphill work initially. Once I arrived in Tilton past the cabooses, I lost the trail. It must follow sidewalks on the north side of Main St.
Is there any parking at the end of the trail at Rt 140 in Tilton, NH? New McDonald?
I have yet to find the trail anyplace else - and parking.
Could someone from the area please e-mail me as I find no contact information for this trail on the website.
This is in response to the "If its not broke" review. Sorry to hear the paved section is causing you pains. Unfortunately, paving was necessary on the section you mentioned because the section kept washing away with every heavy rain. It was costing a lot of money to repair the section over-and-over, and paving was determined to be the best way to prevent further damage. We hope you can continue to enjoy the non-paved sections of the trail!
Why was the Trestle View Trail head PAVED?? I am heart sick about this. I am middle age and a working fool . The peace that the trial gave me was a way to rejuvenate. The Paved surface is hard on my feet and knees and causes back spasms. A new parking lot and foot bridge over the river would have been an improvment.
I know there are others that agree.
I hope there is not more blacktop in the future on this beautiful, natural resource.
With sadness, Bonnie Laughy
Growing up, I have such fond memories of riding my bicycle on a river trail. Thouth the Winni Trail was not the one, I do remember learning to skip stones on the river that paralleled the trail. There were conveient pull out areas where the views were fantastic.
The Winni Trail reminds me so much of that trail.
New Hampshire in these tough economic times has one strong resource that is sustainable, and that industry is tourism. You have done a great job in improving on that industry, by focusing on our history and great vistas that exist in our state and specifically in the lakes region.
"Although this is a great trail for walking, bike riding, running and cross country skiing; I would never try to in-line skate on it."
I have enjoyed walking this trail and my favorite trail sections are alongside the Winni River. Im looking forward to the completion of phase II where it connects to the Lake Winnisqaum Scenice Trail (Belmont) and from there connecting to the W.O.W. trail (Laconia).
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