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The Winnipesaukee River Trail runs along a rail line that previously connected the paper industry between Franklin and Tilton. Nicknamed the Paper City, Franklin saw the industry boom from the 1900s until the Great Depression. Historical remnants can still be found along the 5-mile trail. The flat path consists of a mixture of asphalt and crushed stone that hikers, bikers, and even four-legged friends can appreciate.
Before hitting the trail at Trestle View Park in Franklin, located on Central Street, enjoy some local restaurants and shops. The park also provides access to the Winnipesaukee River if you want to bring your kayak. From here, the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail is just a 1.4-mile bike ride away, heading west on Central and South Main Streets.
The western trailhead at Trestle View Park is hard to miss, as it’s marked by a 15-foot-tall, black steel mill wheel. The Winnipesaukee River provides a welcoming call to trail users with the soothing sound of flowing water along the route. About 0.5 mile in, you will pass the Sulphite Bridge, also called the Upside Down Covered Bridge, to your left. The bridge—which previously allowed trains to cross the river on top of its structure, instead of through the center—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last remaining bridge of its kind in the country. A fire in 1980 burned the interior of the bridge, which closed to traffic in 1973.
About 0.25 mile farther down the trail, you can see remnants of the paper mill on the far side of the river. Some sections of the path veer away from the river, but trail users can still experience the sights and sounds of birds, wildflowers, peaceful ponds, and perhaps even a beaver or two.
You approach the town of Tilton about 3 miles into the trail. Be cautious when entering this more urban area, as crosswalks are not clearly defined. Downtown Tilton offers local shops and restaurants, great places for a short break.
A wide sidewalk on the north side of East Main Street connects this newer trail section. Continue onto East Main Street 0.5 mile until you reach the Tilton Police Station trailhead to your right. Again, caution should be used when crossing the road here, as there is no designated crosswalk. This trailhead welcomes you with a beautiful wildflower garden and trestle bridge.
The remaining 0.9 mile runs along the rail line away from the road. Crossing under the I-93 overpass signifies that you are nearing the trail’s end at Tilton Road. Even though this endpoint does not have any signage, it would be an ideal pickup or drop-off location. Alternatively, you can turn around to begin the return journey and enjoy a well-deserved treat back in Franklin.
To reach the western trailhead at Trestle View Park in Franklin from I-93, take Exit 20 for US 3/SR 11/SR 132 (toward SR 140/Tilton/Laconia if coming from the south, or toward E. Main St. if coming from the north). Turn right onto US 3 S/SR 11 W/Laconia Road, and go 4.2 miles, following signs for Tilton/Franklin. Keep an eye out for the 15-foot black steel mill wheel to your right, which signals your arrival at the park. The parking entrance will be to your right after passing the mill wheel and a small park sign.
To reach the eastern endpoint in Tilton from I-93 N, take Exit 20 and head straight onto SR 140/Tilton Road. From I-93 S, take Exit 20, and turn left onto US 3 N/SR 11 E. In 0.25 mile turn left onto SR 140/Tilton Road. In 400 feet, after passing an industrial road to your right, the eastern endpoint appears, emerging from its path through several parking lots.
To reach the Tilton Police Station trailhead from I-93, take Exit 20 for US 3/SR 11/NH 132 (toward SR 140/Tilton/Laconia if coming from the south, or toward E. Main St. if coming from the north). Turn right onto US 3 S/SR 11 W/SR 132 S/E. Main St. for about 1 mile. The police station will be on your right, with a dirt parking lot located across the street. Look for the wildflowers and boulders in the parking lot.
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