Determined not to miss autumn this year (it goes by so quickly!) I went for a short drive to look at leaves, staying within fifteen minutes of my house. I was content just to drive until inspiration struck … and I parked in town and went for a walk.
The Bridge Falls Path – the former route of the Wolfeboro Railroad, born at the end of the Civil War – is one of this area’s best-kept secrets. It starts behind the old train depot in town (now the Chamber of Commerce) and travels for about a half mile along Back Bay to Wolfeboro Falls. It is short, scenic, and well-used … a great place to stretch your legs on your lunch hour, or just clear your head. Bicyclists, dog-walkers, photographers, casual visitors like me … they’re all here.
Vacationers have been escaping to Wolfeboro since passenger rail service began in 1872. By the early 1900s, seven train stations dotted the 12-mile corridor east to Sanbornville.
The path connects with the Cotton Valley Trail, which continues to follow the abandoned railbed of the Wolfeboro Railroad. This trail travels across three lakes via causeways, several trestles, and winds through the woods and fields of the Cotton Valley – past historic rail stations and beach access. Here the rails are still in place; the trail itself is alongside the tracks and at times even runs between the rails.
Walking this trail on an autumn day is nothing less than stunning … I came mainly to cross the 1200-foot-long Crescent Lake causeway. With water on both sides and clear blue sky above – to say nothing of the gorgeous fall foliage – it was begging to be photographed.
Here and there I found access down to the water … little more than a steep path, but rewarding for the more intimate views. In fact, one spot seemed so perfect I made a note to come back next July – secluded and cool, it was the perfect getaway from summer heat and humidity! Although I’m guessing I am not the first one to think of this …
The Cotton Valley Trail continues past an old resort and on through the woods; it ends in Sanbornville, once the headquarters of B&M Northern Division that ran between 1870 and 1986. Though I didn’t go nearly this far, it would be a wonderful place to explore.
If you come to Wolfeboro, by all means see Lake Winnipesaukee. But if you’re looking for another jewel in the crown that tops the Lakes Region, consider the Bridge Falls Path/Cotton Valley Trail. Here history, scenery and a little sense of exploration all come together to make an afternoon walk something pretty special.