Biking the Presidential Rail Trail
Bike the Presidential Rail Trail in the White Mountain National Forest for views of Mt. Washington and sightings of native New Hampshire wildlife. Pedal past fields of flowers while keeping an eye out for grazing deer, beaver dams, and flocks of turkeys. Gliding on two wheels through the forest’s diverse habitats is one of the best things to do in the White Mountains.
As part of the NH State Parks network, the Presidential Rail Trail passes through a variety of natural environments. Along the wooded route there are bogs, pastures, ponds, and rivers. Cyclists share the path with hikers, equestrians, and the occasional moose. Our article on biking the Presidential Rail Trail contains all the information you need for a safe outing.
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WHAT IS THE PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL
The Presidential Rail Trail (aka the Presidential Recreation Rail Trail) is a multi-use public trail that was created out of a former railroad track. Like most rail trails, the Presidential Rail Trail is gently sloping and suitable for a variety of activities. Trail surfaces are a mix of gravel, crushed stone, and grass.
When there is not snow on the ground (roughly April through Oct/Nov) the trail is open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. ATVs are prohibited.
WHERE IS THE PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL
In Coos County, New Hampshire, the Presidential Rail Trail runs between Airport Road at Cherry Pond Trail in Whitefield (1.4-miles west of SR 115); and US 2/Lancaster between High Street and Lilac Lane in Gorham.
The rail trail traverses the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. It crosses over the Israel and Moose Rivers and parallels the White Mountain National Forest presidential mountain range including Mt. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Clay.
HOW LONG IS THE PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL
The Presidential Rail Trail is 18 miles from one end to the other. However, trail surfaces vary along the route influencing the types of activities suitable for use.
Beginning at the Whitefield – Airport Road trailhead, the gravel trail is approximately 8-10-feet wide and suitable for family biking trips (two-wheel bikes, electric bikes, and baby bike trailers). A few miles into the trail, the surface of the road turns a bit rougher with grass growing down the median of the trail.
At around 3.4-miles into the trail, the road narrows to a path (2-3-feet wide). The narrower trail remains flat and gently sloping, but becomes more suitable for mountain biking than family recreational biking. The path remains grown-in until the Gorham Trailhead.
PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL PARKING, RESTROOMS, AND FEES
At the Whitefield – Airport Road trailhead there is a large, free parking lot and porta-potties. In the summer, there are also small parking lots available at the crossing of Route 115A and in Gorham. There is no entry charge to use the trail system.
PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL MAP
Helmet: The trial has uneven surfaces, pot holes, and loose rock. A helmet is recommended.
Young Riders: Children should be able to demonstrate control over their bikes (shifting and brakes) and the self-restraint necessary to be safety-conscious of others.
Weather: North Country weather is unpredictable. Layer clothing, have rain gear available, and be prepared for ruts, mud, puddles, downed trees, and changing conditions. With wet weather there will be mud. With cloudy weather, views of the presidential range may be obstructed.
Wildlife: Be alert for critters crossing the trails.
Cell Phone: Bring a cell phone, but be aware service is sketchy so always let someone know where you are going. Take a picture of the trail map by the entry before beginning your ride.
BIKING THE PRESIDENTIAL RAIL TRAIL
Beginning at the Airport Road trailhead, stop to study the Presidential Rail Trail map by the entry gate. Notice the bike tools at a stand by the trailhead. The first 1.5 miles of the trail is a gentle downhill slope through the forest.
At the bottom of the hill, veer slightly to the right. In a short distance you will come to a wooden walkway that leads to a scenic overlook. The vista from the viewing platform takes in Cherry Pond and the Presidential Mountain range.
Pedaling on, over the next mile the trail leaves the forest and meanders past a series of fields and bogs. Wild flowers line the gravel path, and at irregular intervals there are wooden benches to sit upon. Look for beaver dams in the bogs and deer in the fields. In the distance there are mountain ranges on both sides of the trail. There are a few spots along this flat stretch where there are great views of the Presidential Range (on the left).
Along the ride you will cross several small bridges and streams. Eventually, the trail crosses Route 115A. After crossing the road, the trail narrows so groups will need to ride single-file. The route passes through a residential area and the trail becomes grassier and less well-groomed.
At around the 6-mile point the trail crosses Route 115. Turn around here for a 12-mile round trip. Or, continue to another 12 miles to Gorham. Along the way, the trail turns progressively less rail trail, and more mountain bike.
Safe trails and happy pedaling, Laura and Randy
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