The Wolfeboro-Sanbornville Rail Trail also known as the Cotton Valley Trail is a continuous 12 mile multi-use rails to trail stretching from the eastern shores of Lake Winnepesaukee at Wolfeboro, NH to a restored railroad turntable at Sanbornville, NH. Bicyclists of all ages and abilities will enjoy cycling this scenic trail situated in the center of the New Hampshire Lakes Region at the foothills of the White Mountains.
The rail-trail travels across three lakes via causeways, several trestles and winds through the woods and fields of the Cotton Valley. Historic rail stations, depots and public beach access will thrill kids and adults alike, providing an opportunity to have fun while learning a bit about the region's railroad heritage. Wildlife you may encounter along the trail include moose, deer, beaver, rabbits, fox and many species of birds.
The best place to begin your bike ride is at the restored Wolfeboro Train Depot which currently serves as the offices of The Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce. It is located just one block north of Main Street at 32 Central Avenue. There is ample parking and you can pick up a trail brochure before you start out. The trailhead begins behind the station as the well-maintained, wheel chair accessible, stone dust and gravel Russell C. Chase Bridge-Falls Path. It travels for about 0.6 miles along the route of the former Wolfeboro Railroad, first incorporated at the end of the Civil War on July 1, 1868. It's a short, but idyllic ride along the Back Bay to Wolfeboro Falls, a series of small cascading waterfalls which powered the Excelsior Mill that once produced shredded wood from raw lumber. A wooden deck bridge and park benches at the Falls offers a chance to rest and marvel at the remnants of this historic Mill Site. Parking is also available.
Soon the Russell C. Chase Bridge-Falls Path melds into The Cotton Valley Trail, which continues to follow the abandoned railbed of the Wolfeboro RR. for 12 miles from Wolfeboro to Sanbornville. The title to the track and right-of-way was purchased by the State of New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation. A mountain bike is recommended as there are several sections along this 12 mile stretch where a hybrid bike just won't cut it. A distinctive feature of this multi-use, rail trail is that the rails are still in place. The trail travels alongside the tracks and at times even runs between the rails. It is the only place in New England where old “Speeder” cars, antique railroad maintenance vehicles, are still allowed to operate for recreational purposes.
You'll notice this as you ride between the rails over the 1200-foot-long stone Crescent Lake causeway. Smith River parallels the causeway, connecting Crescent Lake with Lake Wentworth. A short distance later the 1,800 foot-long stone causeway crossing Lake Wentworth offers oustanding views of the lake set against a backdrop of clear blue sky, rolling hills and mountain ranges. Many verdant islands dot the central part of the lake. At four miles long and three miles wide, Lake Wentworth is seventh-largest lake in New Hampshire.
The Cotton Valley Trail then skirts the Allen 'A' Preserve, part of what once was the Allen 'A' Resort on Route 28 in Wolfeboro. Its a beautiful ride through woods and undeveloped wetland habitat. The 13 acre Preserve is owned by the Lake Wentworth Foundation. This stretch of the trail also provides a good opportunity for wildlife viewing.
At about 2.3 miles from the start of your ride you can visit Allen Albee Beach on the north shore of Lake Wentworth for a swim. After crossing Moose Point Road look for Albee Beach Road. Turn right on Albee Beach Road and ride for a short distance (about 0.3 miles) to the public beach. Parking is also available at the beach.
The trail ends at Turntable Park, a restored railroad turntable at Sanbornville. Sanbornville was once the headquarters of B & M Northern Division, that ran between 1870 and 1986. The tracks are still in place. There is Public Parking and a picnic table at the Sanbornville Turntable Park trailhead.
NOTE: There is an active railroad track of the New Hampshire North Coast Railroad behind the chain link fence along the east side of Turntable Park. DO NOT trespass on this active track. This intersection of the Wolfeboro Rail Road and the B&M Conway Branch is where freight is interchanged.
Look for the many historic railroad sites at Wolfeboro, Brookfield, Wakefield and Sanbornville, including stations, depots and trestles.
See our Bikes & Beaches feature article for more public beaches
The Wright Museum
(603) 569-1212 www.wrightmuseum.org
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails and biking in the Lakes Region see New Hampshire Rail Trails
Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (603) 569-2200 or 1-(800) 516-5324
CVRTC, Inc. (Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club)