Monday, May 5, 2008

Biking the Rockingham Rail Trail

We took full advantage of this gorgeous spring day to take out our bikes. (Paying bills and laundry can always wait, can't they?) Our destination was the Rockingham Rail Trail, beginning near Lake Massabesic in Manchester. The terrain here was a little challenging for us, but the payoff was some great scenery.

At 25 miles, this trail is the state's longest rail trail. It runs east of Manchester, all the way to the town of Newfields, which is about 12 miles from the coast.

It's described as a gravel trail. To be honest, we've never biked anything that wasn't paved, so we didn't know what to expect. The answer is "a little of everything." There was mud, lots of small rocks (we're not talking "pea-sized" gravel here) and some ruts left behind by ATVs. But then, there were sections of hard-packed dirt that were just fine. I wouldn't recommend taking a regular street bike on this trail. Our hybrids (street bikes with heftier tires) did very well, even if we struggled a little from our inexperience and being out of shape.

As you start out, you're following the shoreline of Lake Massabesic. Along the way, there are marshlands, ponds, and a small waterfall. It's times like these when I wish I could identify more birds.
We didn't ride the entire route by a long shot. The mid-way point is Raymond, NH and after that, you bike alongside the Lamprey River. I understand the last two miles to Newfields is a jaunt through meadows and woods. Our starting (and return) point at Lake Massabesic was a good one. We enjoyed lunch at a picnic table facing the lake after our bike ride. Next time, maybe we'll bring our kayaks!
What you need to know before you go: Posted signs say that ATVs and other motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail; But one source said they are allowed and the evidence seems to suggest that you will find them here. If that's the case, then I would avoid weekends. In addition to hikers and bicyclists, equestrians are also permitted on the trail.
Directions: To reach the trail's western start in Manchester, take exit 1 off Route 101 East; then head south on Route 28, proceed around a rotary, and turn left into the parking lot at Lake Massabesic. There's plenty of parking. To access the trail from Candia, take Route 27; go south on Langford Road and take a right onto Depot Road.
Facilities: There are two non-flush public toilets, one is handicap accessible. Aside from bathroom facilities, you'll find benches lining the shorefront of the lake and one lone picnic table.


A New England Life said...

Hey, I know where this trail is in Newfields! My husband just mentioned it a few months back because he had seen it and wondered where it went, so he Google Earth'd it. So great to read a post about the trail!

DDeuce said...

Hey Lucie!! I was randomly searching for info on this trail for a group run this Thursday, and your blog was on the first page of results. I guess the internet isn't as big as it seems ;-) Great write-up on the trail - can't wait to get out there this summer.


Anonymous said...

How about an end to end out and back for a total of 50 miles?...I'm thinking of doing it (on foot) for my 50th B-Day...50 miles at 50 and feeling nifty...I figure this trail has plenty of places to bail out if need be and at least 3 Dunkin Donut stops that I know of! I'll let you know how it goes!