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Crossing through wooded areas and featuring magnificent wetland vistas, the Rockingham Recreational Rail Trail (Fremont Branch) offers an 18.3-mile trail adventure from Epping to Windham. The northern section of this route has a dirt surface, but it is generally usable and enjoyable for mountain biking and hiking. In winter snowmobiling is permitted on this stretch. The longer southern section, from State Route 107 in Fremont to Windham, has a loose sand surface difficult for any type of bike and is only suited for hiking. ATVs and motorbikes also use this section in spring, summer, and fall.
Starting in Epping, the trail’s endpoint intersects the Rockingham Recreational Rail Trail (Portsmouth Branch), at Main Street; here, you can take the 28-mile trail east to Newfields or west to Manchester. Traveling south on the Fremont Branch from the Epping trailhead, you’ll immediately cross underneath SR 101 via a narrow but passable tunnel. The trail then continues through a delightful wooded section and passes by some farms.
The route alternates between wooded areas and large wetland clearings, with ample opportunities for viewing wildlife and colorful summer wildflower displays. Continuing south, you’ll enter the town of Fremont in about 4.5 miles.
A clearly marked trailhead in Fremont includes a parking area right after you cross SR 107. Bicycle use is not recommended after this point. The remaining 12 miles between Fremont and Windham are open to and actively used by ATVs and motorbikes. Use caution while walking along this section of trail.
This segment offers a delightful setting for hikers as it makes its way south below high tree canopies and bisects wetlands and ponds. In Sandown, you will pass an old railroad car and a former railroad station that offer a glimpse into the corridor’s past. The trail then enters Derry through forested areas and ends in Windham about 1.3 miles after you pass SR 28.
The Rockingham Recreational Rail Trail (Fremont Branch) makes a seamless junction with the Windham Rail Trail near the latter trail’s northern terminus by the Windham Depot, where parking is available. The Windham Depot also connects to the Derry Rail Trail about 0.2 mile farther northwest. Note that both of these trails are paved, and while they do accommodate snowmobiling in winter, ATV use is not permitted on either trail.
To reach the Epping trailhead from I-93, take Exit 7 onto SR 101 toward Portsmouth. Head east 19 miles, and take Exit 7 for SR 125 toward Epping/Kingston. Turn left (north) onto SR 125, and go 0.4 mile. Turn left onto Main St., and then turn left into the parking lot; look for spaces immediately to your right.
To reach the Fremont trailhead from I-93, take Exit 7 onto SR 101 toward Portsmouth. Head east 14.6 miles, and take Exit 5 for SR 107. Turn left (south) onto SR 107/Freetown Road, go 0.8 mile, and then turn left to continue on SR 107 S/Main St. for 3.5 miles. Turn right into the trailhead parking lot, which is across from Jackie Bernier Dr.
To reach parking near the southern endpoint on Island Pond Road from I-93, take Exit 4 for SR 102 toward Derry/Londonderry. Head northeast onto SR 102/Nashua Road (signs for Derry), and go 0.9 mile. Turn right onto Fordway, go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto South Ave. After 0.5 mile, turn right onto Birch St., and go 0.6 mile. Turn left onto Rockingham Road, and go 0.7 mile. Continue straight onto Island Pond Road for 2.3 miles. Look for a small parking area on your right.
To reach the trailhead at Windham Depot from I-93 N, take Exit 3 onto SR 111 W toward Windham. Head west 1.6 miles, and turn right onto N. Lowell Road. Go 2.6 miles, and turn right onto Depot Road. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right into the depot parking lot. Parking is prohibited at Windham Depot from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.
To reach the trailhead at Windham Depot from I-93 S, take Exit 4 onto SE 102 toward Derry/Londonderry. Turn left (east) onto SR 102/Nashua Road (signs for Derry), and go 0.9 mile. Turn right onto Fordway, go 0.5 mile, and then continue onto Fordway Extension for 0.9 mile. Turn left onto Bowers Road, and go 0.6 mile. Turn right onto Windham Road, and go 1.3 miles. Continue onto N. Lowell Road 0.2 mile, and then turn left onto Depot Road. Turn right into the depot parking lot after 0.2 mile. Again, note that parking is prohibited at Windham Depot from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.
This trail has a massive potential – a viable trail from Manchester to Portsmouth through some interesting scenery and wildlife.
We parked at Sandown, hoping to walk a few miles one afternoon, and were bitterly disappointed. The trail consisted of a churned up, impassable surface, for either walking or biking and neglected artifacts. It was also a haven for ATVs.
The first thing we saw were a couple of ATV’s driven by kids who were out for a good time with absolutely no regard for other trail users. Apparently the ATVs are credited with keeping the trail clear in winter. One wonders for whom – certainly not for walkers or bikers. The usual trail rules seem to be completely inverted - give way to ATVs or risk being mown down.
This, unfortunately, is not the first trail in NH where we have seen this happen.
New Hampshire is unfortunately known for neglecting its rail trails. The trails there have great potential, with great scenery and abundant wildlife, but most are falling into decay.
In short, if you want a decent passable trail, go elsewhere.
Fun trail. Point to point 24miles. Stay on trail if u have an all terrain vehicle. Nice views.
Scenery is nice throughout this forest walk, but the road, especially on the southern side of the trail, is quite soft and uneven which could be challenging to some walkers or joggers. if forced to choose, I would recommend the Rockingham Portsmouth Branch trail over the Fremont, but the Fremont Branch is certainly worth giving a shot as well.
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