Trail of the Month: February 2003
Ashuelot Rail Trail, New Hampshire
Nestled in the hills and valleys of southwestern New Hampshire, the Ashuelot Rail-Trail stretches for 23 miles as it runs along the scenic Ashuelot River and through picturesque New Hampshire farmland. This is a true multi-use trail as both motorized and non-motorized users such as snowmobilers, cross country skiers, equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers take to the unimproved trail surface.
The trail's southern endpoint is near the rural town of Hinsdale, just south of Pisgah State Park. From Hinsdale, the trail heads east through the small town of Winchester before turning north and heading toward the city of Keene. At the southern end, the trail runs along Route 63 for a mile or so as it passes farms on either side of its right-of-way. Trail users need to use caution, as the terrain can be soggy and rough on this section.
One mile from the start of the trail is the Hinsdale Station, a far reaching and accurate private restoration of a Boston & Maine Railroad station in New England. A Green Mountain Railroad boxcar and an old New Haven Railroad caboose on the property lend more railroad history to this section of the trail. The location of the Hinsdale Station is somewhat unique as it overlooks the valley below. Most railroad stations aren't situated with spectacular views like this one.
For the next few miles, the trail runs along a ridge and provides some panoramic views of the Ashuelot River. Near the four-mile mark, the trail passes the Ashuelot Covered Bridge, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Here also are the Sheridan House, an historic building restored by the Winchester Historical Society, and the run down Ashuelot station.
At mile seven the trail crosses a small road where directions to Winchester offer the opportunity to explore this charming town and stop for a bite to eat.
From Winchester, the trail heads north through the town of Swanzey and on toward Keene. In Keene, the Ashuelot Rail-Trail will be part of the Roundhouse-T, a 0.64-mile, paved bicycle and pedestrian path that will link the central core of Keene to the Downtown Cheshire Branch Trail and the Keene Industrial Heritage Trail. Once completed, the Roundhouse-T will provide an alternative transportation connection for bicyclists and pedestrians in both an east-west and a north-south direction through the city. The local non profit group, Pathways for Keene, Inc., supports the development of the Roundhouse-T, in addition to the construction and use of community supported alternative transportation routes throughout the city.
Passengers and freight traveled the Ashuelot route by rail from the mid-1800s to 1984 when dwindling traffic on the line necessitated its abandonment. In 1995, New Hampshire purchased the corridor using ISTEA funds.