Category Archives: The Trail

What is the WOW Trail?

General Information

The WOW Trail is a multi-use rail trail in the City of Laconia enjoyed by bikers, walkers and runners of all ages. Built within the State of New Hampshire owned railroad right-of-way alongside the active tracks currently leased to the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, the trail currently spans from Elm Street in Lakeport to downtown Laconia and then on to the Belmont town line where it meets with Belmont’s Winnisquam Scenic Trail, creating nearly 4.5 miles of continuous trail between Lakeport and Belmont.    

The first phase of the WOW Trail, which opened in 2010, connects Lakeport and downtown Laconia. It offers access to the Laconia Public Library, views of Lake Opechee, and the Freighthouse Museum, where visitors can learn about the area’s railroad past and view historical artifacts.

The second phase of the WOW Trail opened in fall of 2016 and continues the trail from downtown Laconia’s train station, past Pitman’s Freight Room, and Laconia’s Bartlett Beach to the Belmont town line where it meets with Belmont’s Winnisquam Scenic Trail at Belmont’s Leslie Roberts Beach. This Belmont section winds through the woods and offers picturesque views of Lake Winnisquam. Together, Phases 1 & 2 of the WOW Trail and Belmont’s Winnisquam Scenic Trail offer users nearly 4.5 miles of continuous rail trail with wonderful opportunities to stop for a picnic, swim, or venture off the trail to shop and grab a snack or lunch at one of downtown Laconia’s many wonderful restaurants and shops along the way. 

First conceptualized as the Lakes Region, NH Bikeway System in 1982 by the Lakes Region Planning Commission and the City of Laconia, the WOW Trail, Belmont’s Winnisquam Scenic Trail, Tilton/Franklin’s Winnipesaukee River Trail, the Weirs Action Committee, and the Greater Meredith Program are partners in a renewed regional trail effort that will one day transform the State of New Hampshire owned rail road corridor in the Lakes Region into a spectacular, year round public recreation space for residents and visitors to enjoy—ultimately connecting Meredith, Weirs Beach, Lakeport, Downtown Laconia, Belmont, Tilton & Franklin with NH’s Northern Rail Trail. 

Parking & WOW Trail access: Convenient parking is found near the WOW Trail trailhead in Lakeport at the Lake Opechee Inn & Spa, downtown Laconia and Laconia’s Bartlett Beach.  Additional parking and trail access is available at the Belmont town Beach within the Leslie Roberts Recreation Area and a limited number of designated parking spaces are also available adjacent the Belmont trailhead near Osborne’s Agway, just shy of the Mosquito Bridge in Belmont.   


Map & Directions

We have created a map of the WOW Trail that shows parking areas, dining, lodging and other locations on or near the trail. The map is designed to print on 8.5×11 paper and you can print it in color or grayscale (B&W). There is also a cover document that is designed to be printed on the back side of the map.  The files are PDF.  

**Efforts are underway to revamp our trail map to incorporate the just-completed sections of WOW Trail Phase 2 and Phase 1 of Belmont’s Winni Scenic Trail. **

You can also obtain a generalized map of Phase One at:

The WOW Trail is open to non-motorized activity.  Electric wheelchairs are welcome.  In the warmer months the trail is open for walking, running, biking, and in-line skating. The trail will be open for  walking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, etc in winter.

Leashed pets are welcome but please pick up all pet waste!  Bags and receptacles are provided at three locations along the trail.

Directions: Route 3/11 to Route 106 North into downtown Laconia. The trail begins behind the train station in the RR corridor adjacent to Laconia Public Library. From there, the trail follows the RR corridor for .2 miles, then crosses and follows Messer Street to Bisson Avenue as a widened sidewalk. At Messer Street and Bisson Avenue the trail re-enters the RR corridor for .7 miles. Trail ends once it reaches Elm Street in Lakeport.

Parking & Trail Access: Convenient parking is found near the WOW Trail trailhead in Lakeport at the Lake Opechee Inn & Spa, behind the train station in downtown Laconia and at Laconia’s Bartlett Beach.  Additional parking and trail access is available at the Belmont town Beach within the Leslie Roberts Recreation Area and a limited number of designated parking spaces are also available adjacent the Belmont trailhead near Osborne’s Agway, just shy of the Mosquito Bridge in Belmont.   


BCEDC Economic Impact of the WOW Trail Study

The WOW Trail Board of Directors commissioned the Belknap County Economic Development Council (BCEDC) to conduct an economic impact analysis of the WOW Trail to demonstrate the amount of new spending and jobs that this project can potentially generate for our local communities once it is fully built.

Use the links below to view PDF versions of the executive summary and the full report:

Lakes Region Planning Commission – Bicyling and Walking Plan

Drafts of the new Bicycle and Walking Plan for the Lakes Region is available on the Lakes Region Planning Commission web site. This 100+ page report provides valuable insights and recommendations on how to improve the Lakes Region for Bicycling and Walking. The report also features the WOW Trail – and one of the WOW Trail murals graces the front cover of the report.

This report, plan and supplement are highly recommended reading!

Original Feasibility Study

The WOW Board commissioned a Feasibility Study for the trail in 2003.  The study reviewed the entire proposed 9 miles of trail through Laconia and estimated the cost at 3 million dollars.  Read the original feasibility study by using this link.

Facts and Figures

  • The trail will be 9 miles long, spanning from the Belmont town line to Meredith town line.
  • The WOW Trail will have a total cost of nearly $10 Million.
  • The WOW Trail will be built in phases.
  • Phase 1 is complete!
  • Total Cost of Phase 1 exceeded $820,000.
  • Individual and corporate support of over $120,000 allowed us to qualify for $700,000 of grants and ARRA funding!
  • We are now fundraising for Phase 2 and for maintenance of our completed trail.
  • Your continued support has been and continues to be critical to securing grants and completing each phase. Thank you!

History of the WOW Trail

In 2002, Laconia’s Planning Director, Dawn Emerson, requested that each City Councilor submit three potential City projects for inclusion into the City’s updated Master Plan.  The Councilors submitted their preferred projects to her.  Dawn selected two projects from those lists to include in the Master Plan, one of which was a recreational path spanning the city along a railroad right of way, as proposed by City Councilor Fred Toll.  The path was quickly named the Winnisquam-Opechee-Winnipesaukee Trail, or WOW Trail.

In January 2003, Fred and Dawn called the first meeting of those interested in creating the WOW Trail.  The original members of this committee included Fred (President); Dawn (Secretary); Diane Hanley (Vice President); Phil Rowley, Laconia Director of Parks and Recreation; Bob Champlin, Superintendent of Laconia Schools; Captain Tim Cavanaugh, Laconia Police Department; Jeff Buchanan, President Southdown Recreation Association; Theresa Pinto Lamson of the Chamber of Commerce, Allan Beetle, Steven Smith, Dick Stuart, Kinney O’Rourke, and Peter Brunette.   The organizing committee was called the Laconia Trails with Rails Exploratory Committee, or LTREC.

This committee presented the concept of the WOW Trail to City Council on July 14th, 2003. LTREC would apply for non-profit status and the group would raise the funds necessary to construct the trail and pursue its construction.  The  City of Laconia would accept and maintain the trail afterwards as a city park.  LTREC asked the City Council for permission to move forward with applying for a federal grant for Phase 1 of the trail.  The Council voted unanimously to appropriate $40,000 in matching funds and act as municipal manager of the project if the federal grant was awarded.

On July 9th, 2004, LTREC won the federal grant for $328,000 to build Phase 1.  In May 2004, we held our first annual WOW Sweepstakes Ball which has since become our most  successful fundraising effort for the trail.  Sadly, in December 2005, Councilor Fred Toll unexpectedly passed away.  LTREC has continued in Fred’s honor to see the project to fruition.

In 2006, LTREC obtained 501(c)3 non-profit organization status and was awarded a second grant for $440,000 to build Phase 2.  Since that time, the Board of Directors updated the name of the organization from LTREC to WOW Trail.

The firm of H.E. Bergeron Engineers was selected and began design engineering for Phase 1 in 2007.  Phase 1 design was completed and approved by NH DOT and bids for construction contractors commenced June 2009.  Construction of Phase 1 was completed the Spring of 2010 with a grand opening ceremony May 15, 2010.

Between 2010 and Fall 2011, the Lakeport entrance to the trail has been beautified with plantings sponsored by the Opechee Garden Club & local businesses. In addition, Tim Jordan Associates designed and Belknap Landscape, Inc. installed pavers, benches and a stairway at the Lakeport entrance to the trail.

Today, the WOW Trail Board is working on final design and fundraising for the planned Phase 2 expansion of the trail in 2015.