10 great family-friendly bike trails in NH
Recreation paths and rail trails throughout the Granite State make family bike rides easy and safe
Taking a bike ride together is a fun way to promote getting fit as a family. Looking for a safe place to finally take the training wheels off your cycling plans? Pedal the summer away at one of these 10 kid-friendly (and bicycle-friendly) trails and recreation paths.
1. Rockingham Rail Trail
Rail trails are reclaimed sections of railroad track that have been turned into multi-use recreation paths for public use. Bicyclists love rail trails because they are free of car traffic and provide miles of uninterrupted room to ride. There are more than 20 rail trail systems in New Hampshire, including the Rockingham Rail Trail, stretching more than 25 miles from the Elliot Hospital in Manchester to the old rail depot building in Newfields. For the most part, the wide and even trail is packed gravel and dirt. Experienced cyclists can complete the trail round-trip in one day. Family cyclists will want to explore the trail in smaller sections. This is easy to accomplish thanks to other access points to the trail at such stops as Massabesic Lake and Candia. For more information about accessing the trail in Manchester, go to www.manchestermoves.org. For a map and more information about the Newfields section of the trail, go to www.nhstateparks.org and search for “recreational rail trails.”
2. Mine Falls Park
With its scenic terrain winding along the Nashua River as it passes through fields and forests, Nashua’s Mine Falls Park may be one of the most popular —and prettiest — spots in the Merrimack Valley for riding bikes. Easy access to the trail system can be found at Lincoln Park at the end of Coliseum Avenue (there’s also plenty of parking). For more information and a map, go to www.nashuanh.gov/491/Mine-Falls-Park.
3. Great Glen Trails
In the summer the smooth, flat rolling carriage roads that criss-cross Great Glen Trails in Gorham become a pedaling paradise for all ages. The ski-turned-bike resort makes taking to its carriage trail system easy by providing bike and helmet rentals on-site. Are your kids ready for something a little more adventurous? Check out Great Glen’s “pump track” terrain park for dirt bikes and more extreme mountain biking. Go to greatglentrails.com for more information.
4. Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail
One of New Hampshire’s crown jewels for outdoor recreation, the Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail is nine miles of jaw-dropping pedaling as it takes you past the state park’s most spectacular sites, including Echo Lake (where many cyclists stop to take a dip), the Old Man of the Mountain site, the Basin (another swimming hole), and the Flume Gorge. The trail is perfect for beginners and can be accessed from multiple parking lots, making it easier to customize the length of your trek. For a map, go to www.nhstateparks.org and search for “recreational rail trails.”
5. Goffstown Rail Trail
For another off-road cycling option in the Manchester area, look no further than the Goffstown Rail Trail, a 5.5-mile stretch of packed dirt and gravel that follows the former Boston & Maine railroad tracks from the Piscataquog River near the Main Street bridge in Goffstown village, through Grasmere and the county complex, to the Manchester city line near Sarette Field in Pinardville. One of the easiest points of access for the trail is at Goffstown Parks and Recreation Center. There’s plenty of parking available, too. For more information, go to www.goffstownrailtrail.org.
6. Odiorne State Park
Most families know Odiorne State Park in Rye as the home of the Seacoast Science Center. What’s not well known is that the state park also offers some of the best bike trails on the Seacoast. A paved recreational path is available, plus an extensive network of gravel and partially paved trails that wind through the trees and along the salt marsh for a total of about three miles. Pack a lunch and enjoy a post-ride picnic in the park’s day use area along the shore. For more information, go to www.nhstateparks.org.
7. Northern Rail Trail
Spanning Grafton and Merrimack counties, the Northern Rail Trail clocks in as the longest rail trail in New Hampshire at more than 60 miles. The surface of cinder ballast and stone dust is well-suited for easy mountain biking. One particularly lovely stretch leaves from the trail’s access point in downtown Lebanon and follows the Mascoma River, crossing it seven times in just the first few miles. For more information and a map, go to northernrailtrail.org.
8. Silk Farm Road Bike Path
At a paved 1.3 miles in length, the Silk Farm Road Bike Path in Concord is an ideal place for a young cyclist’s first real bike ride. Parking and access to the trail can be found just past the entrance to the McLane/Silk Farm Audubon Center on Silk Farm Road. The path crosses a footbridge before reaching its end at a gate. Another unpaved trail system leaves from this same gate, but be aware that parts of this other trail system are prohibited to bike riders without permission. For a map, go to concordnh.gov.
9. Derry Rail Trail
The paved Derry Rail Trail travels along the railroad bed of the old Manchester and Lawrence Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad, and is part of a larger series of rail trails that will eventually reach all the way to Lawrence, Mass. The Derry Rail Trail can be accessed at Hood Park. For more information, go to derryrailtrail.org.
10. Lincoln Woods/Wilderness Trail
The Lincoln Woods Trail cuts through the Pemigewasset Wilderness as it follows the path of one of the last logging railroads operating in the White Mountains. (The Lincoln Railroad supported logging in the region until the 1940s.) The broad, nearly flat trail of packed dirt and gravel starts at the Lincoln Woods parking area on the Kancamagus Highway and follows the Pemigewasset River for approximately three miles. Leave enough time to explore riverbanks, stop for a picnic — and rest your legs — before the trip back. For more information, go to visitwhitemountains.com.
Jacqueline Tourville is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives on the Seacoast.