KEENE TRAILS:

KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:       June 1, 2014

Length:                 Appel Way & Jonathan Daniels Trails; 2 miles

                              Ashuelot Rail Trail; 21.2 miles (0.5 mile on-road connection to Ashuelot River Park)

                              Downtown Cheshire Trail; 0.6 miles. Cheshire Rail Trail North; 13.5 miles. Total combined; 14.1 miles

                              Keene Industrial Heritage Trail; 1.7 miles (includes 0.3 mile on-road connection from Ashuelot River Park)

                              Cheshire Rail Trail South; 18.5 miles (0.9 mile on-road connection to Keene Industrial Heritage Trail)                        

Difficulty:             Appel Way Trail; Easy. Paved trail, but with a few hills.

                               Jonathan Daniels Trail; Easy. Flat stone-dust trail.

                               Ashuelot Rail Trail; Northern section: Easy. Flat, paved & stone-dust rail trail. Southern section: Moderate. Flat, hard packed dirt, grass & gravel rail trail.

                               Downtown Cheshire Trail; Easy. Flat, paved rail trail.

                               Cheshire Rail Trail North; Easy. Mostly flat, stone-dust & hard packed dirt rail trail.

                               Keene Industrial Heritage Trail; Easy. Paved, mostly flat rail trail.

                              Cheshire Rail Trail South; Moderate. Hard packed dirt, grass & gravel rail trail.

Directions:

From I-91 take exit 3 to Route 9 east to Keene. Route 9 then heads north through Keene. Take the West St exit.

To start from Ashuelot River Park (Access to all Trails); Turn right (east) on West St. Just after crossing over the Ashuelot River you'll come to a traffic light at Island St. Turn left into the shopping plaza and park on the left next to Ashuelot River Park. All four trails may be accessed from here. 

To start from Wheelock Park (Appel Way/Jonathan Daniels Trails); Turn left (west) on West St. Bear right up Park Ave. Just past the intersection with Arch St will be the entrance to the park. When the road splits bear right and travel past the pool and tennis courts and park next to the Camping road entrance. The trail starts just down this road on the right. 

To start from the Center at Keene Plaza (Ashuelot Rail Trail); Turn right (east) on West St and travel 0.7 miles to School St and turn right. Follow School St to Emerald St and turn right. Turn right into the Center at Keene plaza. The trail begins to your left on the opposite side of Emerald St.

To start from the Northfield Road parking lot (Ashuelot Rail Trail southern end); Take exit 1 off I-91to Route 5 north. Continue straight on Route 119, crossing over the Connecticut River into NH. Turn right after 6.7 miles along Route 63 south. After 2 miles you'll come to the parking lot on your right. The trail is across the road.

The Keene Trails consist of four intersecting trails all connecting in the center of Keene. The Cheshire Rail Trail is broken into three segments as it travel east-west through Keene; the Keene Industrial Heritage Trail, Downtown Cheshire Trail and Cheshire Rail Trail North. The Ashuelot Rail Trail enters Keene from the south, while the combined Appel Way Trail & Jonathan Daniels Trail enter from the north. All four trails intersect at the Ashuelot River Park in Keene. The Cheshire Rail Trail runs along the former bed of the Cheshire Railroad which ran from Winchendon, MA to Bellows Falls, VT. The Cheshire Railroad was merged into the Fitchburg in 1890, becoming the Cheshire Branch. Passenger service ended in 1958, and the line was abandoned in sections. The Ashuelot Rail Trail follows the rail bed of the former Ashuelot Railroad, which operated from 1851 to 1983 between Keene and Hinsdale. For more information see; KEENE TRAILS .

Directions for all 4 interconnecting trails start from Ashuelot River Park. The trails start by the arch to Ashuelot River Park, next to West Street. 

    Heading North along the Jonathan Daniels Trail & Appel Way Trail; Travel through Ashuelot River Park, where you'll find benches, a pavilion and gardens, along the wide stone-dust Jonathan Daniels Trail

Note; A pedestrian bridge on your left leads over the river to a promenade overlooking a dam.

You exit the park and travel alongside the river along a narrow trail. Bear left at the Y and travel through the woods. After a mile you'll come to the paved Appel Way Trail

Note; Heading right the trail brings you up a small hill to Court St.

Head left over the river via a pedestrian bridge. The trail travels alongside the river and underneath Route 9 before looping back through a tunnel and up to Route 9. Travel alongside Route 9, over Route 12 and then back into the woods along a hilly section that brings you into Wheelock Park. You come to campground road and a small green road sign for Appel Way. Travel left and you'll come to the Wheelock Park parking lot after 1.8 miles. Picnic tables & pavilions are located here. The trail travels through the park out to Park Ave at 2 miles.

    Heading West along the Downtown Cheshire Trail & Cheshire Rail Trail; From Ashuelot River Park; Cross West St via the cross-lights and follow the paved sidewalk south along Island St 0.1 miles to the start of the paved Downtown Cheshire Trail on your right. This section of the trail travels behind residential and commercial properties and crosses the Ashuelot River via an old RR bridge. Cross Pearl St and come to the tiny Pearl St Park, where you'll find a map board, bench and garden. You'll come to Route 9 after 0.6 miles where the North Bridge takes you over this busy highway. 

Note; A Spur Trail right takes you north to West St.

The trail now consists of stone-dust. Cross West St, then Bradford Rd at 1.4 miles. Caution, Blind Curve. The trail now leaves the town behind traveling along a high berm between the Keene Country Club. After crossing an access road for the club you head into the deep woods and up a slight incline. Some off road parking is available when you come to Whitcom Mill Rd at 2.3 miles. Here the stone-dust ends and converts to a hard packed dirt trail. Future plans call for upgrading the trail to stone-dust all the way to Hurricane Rd. Under design as of Jan. 2014.

Note; At 2.6 miles a side trail leads to Stonewall Farm, which has nature trails-barns & a learning center.

You then travel through a cut, pass underneath a sign reading "Caution Horses on Trail", then along another high berm before crossing the Arch St tunnel at 2.9 miles. At 3.5 miles you must detour around a deep rock cut by heading left up a rough trail to Hurricane Road at 3.7 miles. The trail continues northwest to route 12 in Walpole (14 miles total), but this is as far as I traveled

Note; You may loop back to either Wheelock Park or Ashuelot River Park on-road from here. A low volume road (all downhill) and paved sidewalks make this detour acceptable for kids on bikes. Travel right downhill along Hurricane Rd (low traffic) until you finally level out next to Hastings Ave at 1.1 miles. Continue right along Hurricane Rd (a paved sidewalk is available along the left side) to Arch St and head left (another paved sidewalk). Cross over the Black Brook and past Wilson Pond and you'll travel past Keene's Alumni Fields and two stone arch's from 1872. Pass by Keene High School and a cross walk takes you over to a paved trail that leads to Park Ave at 2.2 miles. Heading right takes you back to West St, however, if you cross Park Ave and head left you'll come to the entrance for Wheelock Park. Follow the entrance road past a map board and continue straight when the road splits. Head past the pool and tennis courts and you'll come to the Wheelock Park parking lot at 2.4 miles. If you continue straight along campground road you'll come to the Appel Way Trail.

    Heading South along the Ashuelot Rail Trail; From Ashuelot River Park; Cross West St, then left over Island St via a set of cross-lights and follow the paved sidewalk east along West St to Gilbo Ave. Turn right and travel on-road along this low traffic road, checking out the old brick mills that are now part of the Colony Mill Marketplace. When you reach School St after 0.3 miles, turn right and travel along a wide sidewalk.

Note; The Keene Industrial Heritage Trail starts on the other side of School St.

At the end of School St turn right along Emerald St and you'll come to the Center at Keene Plaza parking area. A cross-walk over Emerald St brings you to the start of the Ashuelot Rail Trail [after 0.5 miles]. [Re-zeroing Mileage] Travel south along the paved Ashuelot Rail Trail, crossing over Winchester St. 

Note; ANDY'S CYCLE SHOP is on your left. 

Cross over the Ashuelot River via an old RR bridge and you'll come to an intersecting trail. 

Note; Left takes you past the Joyce Athletic Fields and into Keene State College.

The trail now heads out of town along a hard packed dirt surface and comes to Route 101 at 0.6 miles. Note; Future plans call for building a South Bridge over this busy road. Nothing approved as of June 2014.

CAUTION! THERE IS NO CROSS-LIGHT OVER THIS BUSY, HIGH SPEED ROAD. CROSS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The stone-dust trail continues south along a berm with the Keene State College soccer fields to your left and open fields right. At some point you cross into Swanzey, NH and cross another RR bridge over the Ash Swamp Brook at 1.5 miles. You now follow transmission lines left and woods right before passing underneath the transmission lines and heading into the woods. After 2.4 miles you cross Matthews Rd three times before crossing Sawyers Crossing Rd at 3 miles. 

Note; Heading right will quickly bring you to the Sawyers Crossing Covered Bridge over the Ashuelot River.

The trail continues south through West Swanzey & Winchester, then west to Hinsdale, but this is as far as I traveled. The stone-dust continues at least to the old RR bridge over the river at 3.3 miles (as of June 2014), but at some point before Pine St at 5 miles converts back to a hard packed dirt, grass and gravel trail. You'll travel through an open area then underneath Christian Hill Rd and across Homestead Ave at 5.5 miles. Travel through woodland and past fields before crossing Homestead Ave again at 6.9 miles. Use Caution crossing busy Route 10 at 8.2 miles. The trail roughly parallels Route 10 for a bit then crosses another old RR bridge over the river at 10 miles. Come to Old Spofford Rd at 12.2 miles and head left to pick up the trail again across Old Westport Rd. Cross Elm St, Ashuelot St then Route 119 at 13.8 miles. Use Caution crossing busy Route 119. After another old RR trestle bridge over the river you'll cross Back Ashuelot Rd at 14.5 miles. At 15.4 miles you'll pass by the old Ashuelot RR Station before crossing Back Ashuelot Rd again.

Note; To your right is the Ashuelot Covered Bridge.

The trail continues slowly rising above the river. I checked out part of this section and it had a nice gravel base with a long drop-off to the river below before crossing Depot St at 18.8 miles. Here you'll find the old Hinsdale RR Station along with a red caboose and several old rail cars. The station appears to have been converted into a residence? The trail heads back into the woods along the ridge before skirting alongside Northfield Rd at 20.1 miles. At 21.2 miles an opening in the trail to your right leads to the Northfield Road parking lot across the road.

Note; Across Northfield Rd is the start of the Fort Hill Branch Rail Trail .

    Heading East along the Keene Industrial Heritage Trail; From Ashuelot River Park; Cross West St, then left over Island St via a set of cross-lights and follow the paved sidewalk east along West St to Gilbo Ave. Turn right and travel on-road along this low traffic road, checking out the old brick mills that are now part of the Colony Mill Marketplace. Note; Plans call for extending the paved Cheshire Trail through the center at Keene and Colony Mill Marketplace in the future. When you reach School St after 0.3 miles use the cross-light to cross over to the start of the paved Keene Industrial Heritage Trail.

Note; The Ashuelot Rail Trail can be accessed down School St.

The trail travels alongside Gilbo Ave before passing a skate park and the old RR station (now housing a cafe) and coming to Main St in downtown Keene after 0.6 miles. Cafe's, shops & restaurants line this sheik downtown. Follow the cross-walk over Main St to a brick lined path and continue straight to the paved path. Here, you'll encounter your first of several informational plaques that line the trail. The trail travels alongside Railroad St, passing by the old 1897 CA JONES building before bearing right past a hotel. You cross Community Way where the trail then travels through an industrial area and over Beaver Brook via an old RR bridge at 1.1 miles. You then head out along woods and scrub and up to the Eastern Ave parking lot at 1.7 miles where the trail ends. The Cheshire Rail Trail is undeveloped past this point. 

Note; To reach the next section requires an on-road detour of 0.9 miles. Turn right and travel on-road along Eastern Ave to to Marlboro St. Head left to the end of Marlboro St continuing past the gate. This brings you down to Route 101. Use Caution crossing busy Route 101 and turn left to rejoin the Cheshire Rail Trail South.

Limited Parking is available along Route 101. A gravel trail leads up to the rail bed where the Cheshire Rail Trail South picks up.  I haven't checked out this section. [Check out TRAIL LINK for detailed reviews of this next section] The trail quickly crosses over the Stone Arch Bridge followed by a couple of road crossings. After  about a mile the trail roughly parallels Route 12. You'll travel underneath Route 12 in Troy and after crossing Water St you'll pass by the old Troy RR Depot at 7.9 miles. The trail then heads out of town and into the woods. Cross Rockwood Rd then travel past Rockwood Pond at 10 miles. Cross East Lake Rd at 13.1 miles and you'll pass by the Fitzwilliam RR Depot. Come to State Line Circle after 18.5 miles just off Route 12. Past here the old rail line entered Massachusetts. 

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