Three towns in a row

Recent walks and rides: Londonderry, Derry, and Windham. Each town has its own portion of New Hampshire rail trail on the old Manchester-Lawrence rail line. There are gaps, but the segments are being stitched together a bit at a time.

Windham Junction NH

These are paved trails. They’re like boulevards without cars. They’re high-traffic compared with most of their unpaved cousins, but they’re off-road and therefore safer than hoofing it down any local street. I just stayed to the right, passed with care when I needed to pass, and kept my speed down. (I never have trouble keeping my speed down.)


No sooner was the Londonderry trail extended to Harvey Road in 2019 than an informal parking lot took shape near the trailhead, doubling as an observation point for watching the planes at Manchester’s airport. I love that kind of efficiency.

On my most recent visit on a hot summer day, I was surprised by a gentle fragrance as Little Cohas Brook came into sight. I gave the credit to the blooming water lilies. Loosestrife was in bloom as well: lovely purple color on what I’m told is a highly invasive plant.

Little Cohas Brook, Londonderry rail trail NH
Along Little Cohas Brook, Londonderry rail trail. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

Busy as the trail can be, I had no sense of being crowded on my midweek visit. There was room for everyone. I even had a bench to myself for a bit of birdwatching.

bench along Londonderry rail trail NH
Benches are a bonus along rail trails.

I like seeing mile markers that have been restored or re-created. They keep me mindful of a trail’s history.

Mile marker, Londonderry Rail Trail NH
“L” for Lawrence MA, “M” for Manchester NH.

A decorative cairn made me smile at another peaceful resting spot along the trail.

Cairn along Londonderry rail trail NH
Positive thoughts along the way.

Four and a half paved miles extend from Harvey Road to the town line at NH Route 28. From the southern end, I could see across the road to a yet-undeveloped stretch of railbed in Derry. Its day will come.

Local trail group: Londonderry Trailways


I spent a good afternoon walking on Derry’s trail that links Hood Park with Windham Junction. That’s about 8 miles round trip, with refreshments available from businesses near each end. Parking is available at both ends.

Derry rail trail NH
Lest I forget about social distancing, someone painted a reminder.

Nothing but an embankment and a strip of trees separated me from I-93 on the southern part of the trail. Once the trail and highway diverged, the scenery changed to wetlands full of red-winged blackbirds. Proceeding north, I entered residential areas, then passed a ball field, and crossed busy NH Route 102 in the center of town.

Crossing 102 was easier than I expected. Traffic actually stopped for me as I entered the crosswalk. That is not something I take for granted in central business districts, even on a weekend.

My favorite part of the trail paid tribute to poet Robert Frost, who spent a few years teaching at nearby Pinkerton Academy. “The Road Not Taken” had been stenciled on the trail only a day or two before my walk. More artwork has since been added.

Robert Frost poem on Derry rail trail NH
Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a Derry Rail Trail highlight.

Local trail group: Derry Rail Trail


I confess to a special liking for the Windham rail trail. Annually – except during this COVID year – there’s a 5k race (3.1 miles) here that usually falls near my birthday. I consider the race a present to myself. Even on the hottest day, this is a cool and restful trail.

Boston and Maine caboose, Windham Junction, NH
This Boston and Maine RR caboose is now a Windham Junction landmark.

Windham Junction, with its restored depot and caboose, has a good-sized parking lot. That makes it a good starting point for a ride or walk north into Derry or south into Salem. My recent trip was just to enjoy the Windham trail itself.

Windham rail trail NH
Roulston Road crossing (no parking here).

The trail looked practically freshly-pressed. Recent maintenance work has improved the trail’s surface and drainage.

Windham rail trail NH
New pavement, new drainage work, trimmed shrubs: welcome to Windham’s rail trail.

Local trail group: Windham Rail Trail Alliance

Mark your calendar: October event to benefit New Boston rail trail

The New Boston Rail Trail has an event on October 5th: Walk-Run-Bike, New Boston to help raise money to complete the rail trail project to resurface all 4.795 miles of trail. The event includes a 1 mile Kid’s Fun Run, 4 or 8 mile Walk-A-Thon, 25 mile Bike-A-Thon and 5K Adult Obstacle Course. You can register at and check out the video about the rail trail on YouTube

Groton, MA on Nashua River Rail Trail

I headed south of the border into Massachusetts on the Nashua River Rail Trail for a walk through the Groton stretch. Of the four towns along the trail, Groton is where the history of the rail line is most evident. The town is also home to the most park-like section of the trail, situated within the J. Harry Rich State Forest.

The harsh shadows in the photos are from the full midday sun, cheerfully blazing away on a summer day.

The trail crosses over Rt. 119 in Groton on a nicely rehabbed bridge.

The trail crosses over Rt. 119 in Groton on a nicely rehabbed bridge.

There are three trailheads in Groton, with the most parking available off of Broadmeadow Street. Smaller unpaved lots are at Sand Hill Road and Common Street.

Local students painted the walls of the trail's underpass at Rt. 225 with scenes of area history.

Local students painted the walls of the trail’s underpass at Rt. 225 with scenes of area history.

There are no “facilities” along the way, so to speak, but near the trailhead at Broadmeadow Road are a couple of benches and an informational kiosk. The posted information and illustrations are worth a look.

The best-maintained and most informative kiosk along the NRRT.

The best-maintained and most informative kiosk along the NRRT.

Groton is one of those genteel places with strict zoning laws that keep commercial signs tiny. How am I supposed to find the nearest place to buy a large iced beverage? That kiosk near Broadmeadow has a bonus: a map of Main Street and the roads connecting it to the trail, with nearby businesses listed. That large iced beverage is only a short walk away.

Marker on Main Street in Groton, a short distance from the trail.

Marker on Main Street in Groton, a short distance from the trail.

Some of the old rail line’s granite mile markers are still in place, and they’re kept painted by area volunteers. “P” is for Portland, Maine, and “W” is for Worcester, Massachusetts – once upon a time, the two ends of a line of the Boston and Maine Railroad. Of the 120 or so miles of that old line, twelve miles now make up the Nashua River Rail Trail.

"P" is for Portland, Maine, 114 miles from Groton by way of the old Boston & Maine rail line.

“P” is for Portland, Maine, 114 miles from Groton by way of the old Boston & Maine rail line.

Crowning the day was an abundance of Queen Anne’s Lace all along the trail.

Queen Anne's Lace is at full strength in July.

Queen Anne’s Lace is at full strength in July.