WEST RIVER TRAIL:
BRATTLEBORO-SOUTH LONDONDERRY, VERMONT
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: July 16, 2020
Length: West River Trail (Brattleboro Section); 3.5 miles.
West River Trail (Townshend Section); 2.1 miles
West River Trail (Jamaica Section); 2 miles developed/1 mile rough w/steep climb to Ball Mt Dam
West River Trail (Ball Mt Dam Section); 0.5 miles
West River Trail (South Londonderry Section); 5 miles
Difficulty: West River Trail (Brattleboro Section); Easy. Flat hard packed dirt & gravel rail trail.
West River Trail (Townshend Section); Easy. Flat old paved road.
West River Trail (Jamaica Section); Easy. Flat hard packed dirt & gravel rail trail.
West River Trail (Ball Mt Dam Section); Moderate. Paved road-hard packed dirt & gravel trail. Hilly.
West River Trail (South Londonderry Section); Easy. Flat hard packed dirt & grass rail trail.
For the Brattleboro Section (Lower Section); From I-91 take exit 3 to the Rotary and travel 1.4 miles south on Routes 5 & 9. Turn right on Spring Tree Rd just before the West River. Take your first left between the buildings and follow the paved road to the dirt road alongside the river. This will bring you to the trailhead and a small parking area on your right.
For the Townshend Section (Upper South Section); From I-91 take exit 2 to Route 9 and turn left (east). Turn left at Route 30 and follow north to Townshend. Just past town will be a parking lot overlooking the Townshend Dam. The trailhead begins at the northern end of the parking lot but contains stairs. If biking, continue north on Route 30 for 2 miles and turn left down old Route 30 (now an access road for the dam). This will bring you to a paved parking lot and the trailhead.
For the Jamaica Section (Upper Middle Section); See directions above. Continue north on Route 30 to East Jamaica. Continue north on Routes 30 & 100 to Jamaica. Turn right on Depot St and cross a one lane bridge. Turn right into JAMAICA STATE PARK [Parking Fee] and follow to the parking lot. To check out the Ball Mt Dam section, continue north on Route 30. Turn right on Ball Mt Lane. Follow to a small parking lot on your left just before the dam. To check out the turbine tower continue straight to the end of the road.
For the South Londonderry Section (Upper Northern Section); See directions above. Continue north on Routes 30 & 100 to Rawsonville. Turn right on Route 100 and continue north to S Londonderry. Just before the river crossing turn right on W River St passing by the old South Londonderry Depot. Follow W River St 0.8 miles to its end for the West River Street parking area.
The West River Trail partially follows the rail bed of the old West River Railroad, which was built in 1879 and traveled from Brattleboro to South Londonderry Depot. However, not long after the railroad opened, people began to call it “36 miles of trouble.” Its’ narrow gauge and winding route led to undependable, if not dangerous, service. The Upper Section of trail is partially developed (with gaps) from Townshend to South Londonderry. I describe the individual sections. The Lower Section currently has one developed section running from Brattleboro to Dummerston. For more information visit; WEST RIVER TRAIL .
Starting from the Spring Tree Road parking lot (Brattleboro section); Map board located here. The trail utilizes the dirt road from here and heads north. After 0.6 miles you'll travel underneath I-91. Observation Platform located here. The gravel trail then travels between a ridge and the West River along a narrow corridor. Pass by a wooden mile marker at 1 mile. These mile markers are placed every 0.5 mile. You now travel through the Riverstone Preserve. The trail becomes hard packed dirt as it pulls away from the river for 0.5 miles. Around here you can access the hiking trail and boardwalk for the Riverstone Preserve that leads to the river. (See Map Below). This Preserve wasn't here when I last visited. Cross a small wooden bridge at 2.6 miles over a stream. The trail narrows to single track and opens up as it follows a power line. Nice clear views of the river. Pass a gate and come to the 3.5 mile post where the trail currently ends next to Rice Farm Road. Pullout Parking available.
Starting from the old Route 30 parking lot (Townshend section); Map board located here. Travel south past the gate along the old paved road. This open trail travels alongside wetlands before briefly coming alongside the West River. You then travel through the woods before rejoining the river at 1 mile. We spotted a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree along the way. At about 1.5 miles you cross over the linked logs (used to protect the dam from debris). This is a low point and probably floods in the Spring. The trail alongside the river ends after 1.9 miles with views of the Townshend Dam. Head left up a slight hill and you'll come to a clearing just below the dam. A set of stairs to your left head up to the Townshend Dam parking lot and end of the trail after 2.1 miles.
Starting from Jamaica State Park (Jamaica section); Restrooms & picnic tables located here. Head north through the parking lot to a gate where the trail begins. Travel past the playground along the flat, hard packed dirt & gravel rail trail. The trail follows alongside the West River through a coniferous forest with steep rock ridges along your right (Little Ball Mt). Extremely scenic. Informational signs dot the trail, providing trail mileage as well [West River RR-1879]. Picnic table dot the trail, as well as, plenty of swimming holes. At 1.9 miles you'll pass a hiking trail up to Hamilton Falls. A wooden bridge crosses over Cobb Brook at 2 miles. This is the end of the developed section of trail. If you continue the narrow trail is hard packed dirt with rock and tree root issues and hills. But, at 2.4 miles your rewarded with a view of Ball Mt Dam above you along with its spillway tunnel next to Ball Mt. The trail continues as a switchback up to the top of the dam. Didn't attempt that. See; West River Trail (Ball Mt Dam Section) below.
Starting from Ball Mt Dam; You'll find a sign board located here. Head past the gate down hill along a paved road. This takes you underneath the turbine tower (Be sure to check it out afterwards) to a gravel road through an open area. This road then takes you to the top of the dam at 0.4 miles. This is the highest earthen dam in New England. Here you'll find the switchback trail that leads down the side of the dam to Jamaica Park. Head right to travel across the top of the dam to the spillway.
Starting from the West River Street parking area (South Londonderry Section); The trail briefly starts out narrow & rough until you pass a yellow gate and come to the old rail bed. Continue south through the woods along the wide, hard packed dirt & grass rail trail. The West River follows along your left. Some roots & rocks. After 1.3 miles you follow a ridgeline with better views of the river. After 1.8 miles you come to the Winhall Brook Campground. Map board. No bridge over Winhall Brook so you have to detour through the campground. Head right along the paved road. Slight upgrade. Picnic tables/pavilions/restrooms. Winhall River along your left. After 2.5 miles turn left across the bridge to the south side of the river. Head left (both roads converge) back down to the rail bed at 3.3 miles. Map board. This section is a bit smoother as it continues south alongside the West River. More grassy surface whenever you leave the woods. Trail narrows after 5 miles. The trail continues as a footpath. This was as far as I traveled.
Note; Continue straight along the single-track path and bear left. This brings you to a high overlook of the river down below. Bench. You can still see the old Pratt Road Bridge abutments. A trail leads down to the river if you wish to cool off.
CLICK HERE FOR UPPER SECTION
CLICK HER FOR LOWER SECTION
CLICK HERE FOR JAMAICA SP MAP
CLICK HERE FOR RIVERSTONE PRESERVE MAP
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