The Northern Rail Trail is a Real New Hampshire Gem

Local autumn travel

By Ken Wells
“Ragged Mountain Trail,” which heads north out of the NW corner of the Proctor Academy fieldhouse parking lot.

What is your favorite New England season? For lots of us, it’s autumn — the fantastic hues of foliage, the bountiful garden harvests and apple picking, the bug-free, warm days and cool nights. There are so many great things about autumn, and most of them involve the outdoors.

Recently, I’ve had some pleasant conversations with my neighbors about their favorite outdoor activities and their favorite spots. We are so lucky that wonderful places surround us in every direction! In this article I’ll share four trips around my stomping grounds: two on foot, one by bike, and one by car.

Near my home in East Andover is a pleasant walk my wife and I do twice a week with a few neighbors. We started a couple years ago before the lonely days of the pandemic but have kept on doing it because it is so much fun! 

Every Monday and Wednesday at 10:30 AM, a handful of folks meet outside East Andover’s William A Batchelder Library (12 Chase Hill Road) for a safely distanced yet social stroll. We call it the “wobble walk” (WABL walk). 

Depending on the wishes of the group, we vary the route to appreciate what a beautiful place our corner of the Lakes Region is, with postcard views of Ragged Mountain, Mount Kearsarge, Webster Lake, Belknap Mountain, and the distant Whites, plus the Northern Rail Trail. Our 2 to 4.5 mile route always loops us back to where we parked at the WA Batchelder Library, after about an hour and a half.

For those who enjoy more solitude while hiking in the woods, I recommend the Ragged Mountain Trail, which heads north out of the northwest corner of the Proctor Academy fieldhouse parking lot. It is part of the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway, an impressive 75-mile loop that summits all three of those peaks but can be hiked nicely in shorter sections from one trailhead to another, or as an “out-and-back” to return to your car. 

Whichever way you choose to do it, I recommend hiking with a buddy, for safety. Explore the SRKG website ( to get trail maps, and please consider becoming a member of this group.

Whether walking or cycling, the Northern Rail Trail is a New Hampshire gem. At about 59 miles, the NRT is the longest rail trail in New Hampshire, offering walkers, cyclists, and snowmobilers a matchless trail that links villages from Lebanon to Concord. 

In my admittedly biased opinion, the section through Andover, with its luscious wetland and mountain vistas, its five iron railroad bridges and one wooden covered bridge, not to mention its historic Potter Place Station and nearby Emons Village Store, is the most interesting section of the entire Northern Rail Trail. From East Andover to Potter Place, it is roughly seven miles, a hill-free, one-hour bike ride. 

E-bike charging is available at the Highland Lake Inn in East Andover, and refreshments from JJ’s Market or Pizza Chef are close to the trail at the ballfield on Lawrence Street. Hardy cyclists may wish to continue another seven miles west to the Danbury Country Store and try their grilled reuben sandwich for lunch.

Finally, a short automobile drive that always pleases me is the loop down the Blackwater on Route 4 from Naughty Nellie’s Ice Cream, turning left onto Rte 127 at the Salisbury Corner Store.