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Located in the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, the Presidential Rail Trail is a scenic and pleasant route, providing an alternative view of Mount Washington and the surrounding area. The mountain peaks provide the area with both its name—each peak is named after a different president—and its reputation for having some of the worst weather in the United States. The areas surrounding the peaks are a different story; weather off the peaks is pleasant in summer, and the trail provides stellar views of the range. The area is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including moose, black bears, wild turkeys, and other birds, as well as beavers and otters.
Starting at the western trailhead on Airport Road, the terrain is gentle, sloping slightly upward. Nearby is a hiking trail that leads 1.6 miles to Cherry Pond. Around Waumbeck Junction, about 1.5 miles into the trail, you’ll pass near the pond on your left. The trail then crosses several small brooks, starting with Stanley Slide Brook in 1.8 miles. The trail crosses SR 115A in 0.6 mile, then 0.1 mile after that is Mill Brook, and 0.2 mile after that is Red Brook.
The trail then passes through a sprawling residential area, where the terrain is slightly rough and grassy in places. The western half of the trail is less traveled and a bit rougher in spots.
In 6.6 miles you’ll come to the Castle trailhead, after crossing SR 115A. Continuing east the trail crosses a historic pony truss bridge over Snyder Brook, 3 miles after the Castle trailhead. The route passes by a parking lot in Randolph near the Appalachia trailhead (not to be confused with the Appalachian Trail), just a few feet from US 2, and then begins the downhill slope toward Gorham. This portion makes for an especially fun ride, as the trail smooths out and slopes gently downward, with more stunning views of the mountain range. Several bridges here cross over the Moose River, the first one 2.3 miles after Snyder Brook.
After the last Moose River crossing, the trail approaches Gorham for the remaining 1.7 miles, intersecting other trails that are mostly for snowmobile use. The eastern endpoint of the trail is located in Gorham, home of the Gorham Historical Society and Railroad Museum and Moose Brook State Park, a great place for camping, picnicking, and fishing. The Appalachian Trail is located just a few miles farther east, cutting a north-south path beside the Rattle River and over US 2 (go to appalachiantrail.org for more info).
The Presidential Rail Trail is also part of the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail, spanning 83 miles between Woodsville, New Hampshire, and Bethel, Maine.
Note: ATV use is not allowed in the segment between Pondicherry and Gorham (18 miles).
To reach the western trailhead in Whitefield from I-93, take Exit 40, and turn right (east) on US 302. In 11.1 miles turn left onto US 3. In 2 miles turn right onto SR 115 N. Go 4.4 miles, and turn left onto Hazen Road. In 0.5 mile, continue onto Airport Road. In 0.9 mile, an industrial road will appear on the left, with the western trailhead and parking lot on the right.
To reach the eastern endpoint in Gorham from I-93, take Exit 40, and turn right (east) on US 302. In 11.1 miles turn left onto US 3. In 2 miles turn right onto SR 115, and go 9.7 miles. Turn right onto US 2, go 11.6 miles, and a parking lot will appear to the left with signs for the Presidential Rail Trail. The trail begins on the north side of the lot.
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