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Exploring Pillsbury State Park, NH

By Dan Mathers

Pillsbury State Park is often overlooked amid the Granite State’s collection of impressive state parks. That’s good news for those who love this park. The lack of crowds combined with the park’s many scenic ponds, waterfront campsites, and hiking trails make Pillsbury one of the best destinations for outdoor adventure in southern New Hampshire.

 

Pillsbury State Park features many waterside campsites.

This 5,500-acre park spans the towns of Washington and Goshen. Heavily wooded, it has a distinct wilderness feel to it, and visitors often encounter moose, loons, and other creatures. The park features roughly 40 campsites, most of them on or near the shores of its many ponds. Some sites are remote, reachable only on foot or by water.

Kayaking on May Pond at Pillsbury State Park.

Pillsbury is a beloved destination among paddlers. You can either bring your own craft or rent canoes and kayaks at the park office. While the park is home to 10 small ponds, a chain of its four largest ponds offers the best flatwater paddling in the area. The westernmost is Butterfield Pond, which is fed through a dam along Route 31. From Butterfield, you can follow a narrow channel lined by towering pines to May Pond, which features several small, rocky islands. 

Enjoying the view on one of Pillsbury's many ponds.

From the eastern end of May Pond, a short portage along a dirt road brings you to Mill Pond, the smallest in the chain of four ponds. Mill is often covered with aquatic vegetation during the summer, which can make paddling a challenge, but it’s also a popular spot for viewing wildlife. To reach North Pond, the most remote of the four ponds, paddlers can either portage north from Mill Pond, or portage from May Pond along a dirt road. North Pond features a densely wooded shoreline and offers views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

When you’re done paddling, you can enjoy hiking and mountain biking along the network of trails that wind throughout the park. Pillsbury is an important link in the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a 51-mile hiking trail that connects Mount Monadnock with Mount Sunapee. 

Hiking trails wind through Pillsbury State Park.

One of the most popular hiking destinations in the park is Lucia’s Lookout, a 2,493-foot peak with impressive views. To get there, take the Five Summers Trail straight to the Lookout, or the Bear Pond Trail to the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and up to the Lookout.