This 23 mile section of the Northern Rail Trail runs through the scenic Mascona Valley of central New Hampshire. All along it's length, the trail runs near US Route 4 which leads to all trail access and parking. Route 4 is also a Statewide Bicycle Route that roughly parallels the rail-trail between Danbury and Lebanon.
The Northern Rail Trail is mostly flat with a well-maintained crushed stone and cinder surface. Starting in Lebanon and running to Kilton Pond, the trail passes through historic villages, past lakes and streams, and through long stretches of secluded forest. There are numerous crossings of the Mascoma River over several river bridges offering scenic views of the river.
From the southern terminus at Lebanon, it is an easy 4 mile pedal to beautiful 1,115-acre Lake Mascoma. The trail travels along 2 miles of direct lake frontage and utilizes a causeway at several points along the lake. Mascoma is also a great place for a swim and picnic during the summer. Look for beavers at work on the lake. In the fall, enjoy the reflections of Autumn colors in the surrounding countryside and ponds.
At the 6.4 mile mark the ride continues through the historic village of Enfield. Take the time to visit the Enfield Shaker Historic District (see notes below). From here the route heads east through Canaan and ends in the village of Grafton near the spectacular Ruggles mica mine.
Enfield Shaker Historic District:
Lying on the western bank of Lake Mascoma, the Shaker community of Enfield was established in 1793 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the society was founded in the late 18th century, many of its significant buildings were not constructed until the mid-19th century. These buildings have been heralded for their sophistication and the dynamic use of stone masonry techniques, specifically the use of granite, previously not found in early 19th-century New England architecture.
The largest Shaker residential building, the Great Stone Dwellinghouse, was built as part of the Church Family complex in 1837 and was the tallest domestic building north of Boston. Today, the Great Stone Dwelling functions as an inn and restaurant, providing the rare experience of sleeping in a Shaker dwelling. During the 20th century, many new buildings were erected, such as chapels, beach houses and chalets. Today, the Enfield Shaker Museum interprets this complex and multi-faceted site.
For more information: www.shakermuseum.org
Ruggles Mica Mine:
Mica was first discovered in 1803 in Grafton, New Hampshire by a man named Sam Ruggles who then developed one of the largest mining operations of its kind in the United States. In 1963 the Ruggles Mine was opened to the public. Take the time after your bike ride to explore the enormous caverns and tunnels with arched ceilings. Mineral collecting is also permitted at the mine. Over 150 minerals are found here including beryl, mica, amethyst, rose and smokey quartz and garnet.
Drive right to the top of Isinglass Mountain over an excellent access road and park on the summit plateau for panoramic views of the Cardigan, Kearsage and Ragged Mountains.
For more information: www.rugglesmine.com
The trail follows the railbed of the old Northern Railroad between Concord, New Hampshire and the railroad hub at White River Junction, Vermont. It was completed in 1847, with Daniel Webster giving the keynote speech in downtown Lebanon. Passenger service ended in 1965 with freight service ending by the early 1970s. Some historic remnants remain, including dams, mills, bridges and depots.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see New Hampshire Rail Trails
Bureau of Trails
Phone: (603) 271-3254