Best Places for Bicycling in New Hampshire
Whether you use your bike for transportation or recreation (or both), there are rail trails, paved and gravel roads, challenging mountain terrain, scenic routes and more available in the 603.
A note from New Hampshire Magazine: Due to the ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, we trust you will exercise best judgement and avoid any busy trails, and that when biking, you’ll practice appropriate social distancing. There are a number of options listed here, plus see these resources for finding even more trails should your favorite spot become too crowded. Some of the following recommendations include restaurants, stores and other destinations that are temporarily closed. We hope you’ll use this guide in the present to find enjoyment outside, and to plan for the future when businesses reopen. Stay safe, and stay healthy!
New Hampshire has hundreds of miles of scenic roadways that are perfect for bicycling, everything from peaceful farmlands, rolling hills, challenging mountainous terrain and quaint historic villages. Maybe you consider your bike a transportation tool instead of a recreation device. Whether it’s biking for transportation, recreating, paved or gravel roads, rail trails, fat-biking, mountain-biking, or if you choose to add an electric-assist to your ride, there are plenty of options in the 603. Here are just a few of some best places for bicycling.
Central New Hampshire
In bustling downtown Lebanon, you can easily access the western terminus of the 57-mile gravel surface Northern Rail Trail. It runs all the way to Boscawen, and has spectacular views of Mascoma Lake, Webster Lake, Mt. Kearsage, Mt. Cardigan, a covered bridge and much more. Choose your mileage accordingly. If you’re up for some distance, the Danbury Country Store, 27 miles from Lebanon, makes a nice rest or lunch stop. You can easily shorten this trip by turning around whenever you want and enjoying lunch or dinner in downtown Lebanon.
For some super fun and flowy mountain- or fat-biking, try the artfully carved trails at Franklin Falls Dam Conservation area in, you guessed it, Franklin. It’s an enchanted forest of buff single track. Trails range from easy (Moose Gully, Rusty Bucket, Stump) to advanced (Rogue, Caddywhompus, Mighty Chicken).
From downtown Wolfboro, you can easily access the 12-mile Cotton Valley Rail Trail and ride to Wakefield and back for a roundtrip total of about 24 miles. It’s a scenic trail with amazing views of Crescent Lake and Lake Wentworth. After your ride, be sure to walk through downtown Wolfboro with its many restaurants, shops, parks and museums.
Western New Hampshire
If riding on paved roads through rolling hills and quintessential New England scenery is your thing, start from Francestown center and ride along Route 136 to Peterborough. Have lunch at Twelve Pine or any of the many other irresistible options, like the Peterborough Diner, Toadstool Bookshop, Baker’s Station or Harlow’s Pub, nearly all of which offer outdoor seating. About 22 miles roundtrip, and Peterborough is divine.
It doesn’t get much better than Keene. Bike trail options include the Cheshire Rail Trail, the Ashuelot Rail Trail and many more. Pick one and explore. Park in downtown Keene for a scenic out-and-back in just about any direction. Roll or stroll through the historic downtown area, being sure to seek out the “Magical History Tour” of evocative murals that grace 16 of the city’s downtown buildings. There are also six covered bridges within a 16-mile radius of downtown Keene. If you’re thirsty or hungry, there are many inviting watering holes, bakeries, cafés and restaurants. Keene rocks.
Eastern New Hampshire
Ah, the seacoast! You haven’t lived till you’ve ridden Route 1A along New Hampshire’s stunning seacoast. With a road or hybrid bike, head east on Route 111 in North Hampton, then north on Ocean Boulevard. Stop, rest, and enjoy the scenery at the entrance to Odiorne Point State Park, then turn around here for your approximately 22-mile out-and-back. You won’t regret it. It’s a flat trail, but be prepared for gusty ocean breezes that are not always a tailwind. The views cannot be beat. Note: Be aware that right now parking along Route 1A is prohibited.
Northern New Hampshire
There are 22 adventurous miles of options for mountain- or fat-biking in Littleton at Parker Mountain Trails. The trails are stupid-fun with views of the Presidential Range. If you’re undaunted by a little climbing, try pedaling all the way to “Linda’s Lookout” for a stunning mountaintop panorama. Après ride, Littleton’s Main Street, a Great American Main Street award-winner, along the scenic Ammonoosuc River, is a hub of restaurants, cafés, breweries and shops. It has a vibrancy that’s unmatched in the state.
A trip to the North Country’s Gorham for biking is well worth it. Stay for a few days and explore the gravelsurface, 18-mile Presidential Rail Trail. It is a section of the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail (xnhat.org). Start at the Presidential Rail Trail parking lot near Moose Brook State Park and head west toward Jefferson. Hit it in late June for jaw-dropping lupine blooms.
Mountain bikers of all abilities will swoon over the 22 miles of trails built and maintained by the Coös Cycling Club. Just go get some. Afterward, downtown Gorham has many food and beverage options like White Mountain Café, Libby’s Bistro and SAaLT Pub.
Cross New Hampshire
This rugged, 83-mile trail transects the northern part of the state, from the Maine border in Shelburne, New Hampshire, to the east, stretching west all the way to the Vermont border town of Woodsville, New Hampshire. It’s best done in sections, but if you’re a multiday bike packer, definitely put this one on your list. The website xnhat.org has all the info you need to complete this North Country gem.
Southern New Hampshire
With a hybrid, gravel or mountain bike, you can explore eclectic Goffstown with its beautiful 5.5-mile gravel-surface rail trail, the Goffstown Rail Trail. It has beautiful views of Glen Lake and the Piscataquog River. In Goffstown Village, the historic depot building is now home to Apotheca, a bike-friendly and inviting coffee, tea and flower shop. Head east on the rail trail to connect directly to Manchester’s paved rail trail system known as the Piscataquog Trail. Take the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge, which has a spectacular view of the Queen City, to access many downtown Manchester destinations. It’s about 16 miles roundtrip from Goffstown to downtown Manchester.
These organizations offer tons more information about bicycling. Check out their websites or Facebook pages, or better yet, support them with a donation or membership.
Granite State Wheelers
New Hampshire’s largest and most active recreation road and off-road bicycling club, offering weekday and weekend group rides, events and multiday trips. Membership gets you discounts at select bike shops and more.
New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition
A collaboration of rail trail organizers and users with lots of resources on New Hampshire’s rail trails, including a statewide listing and suggested rides, plus trail building updates.
Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s statewide biking and walking advocacy organization whose mission is to get people biking and walking more often. Efforts focus on statewide education, legislation, policies and infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking for transportation, recreation, and health and environmental benefits.
New England Mountain Bike Association
A community of mountain bikers committed to creating epic riding experiences, preserving open space and guiding the future of mountain biking in New England.
League of American Bicyclists
Nationwide bike advocacy organization, protecting the rights and promoting the safety of bicyclists since 1880. For more information on the Bicycle Friendly Community program, including how your community can apply, go to bikeleague.org/bfa.