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Escape Hatch: Exploring Pisgah State Park

By Dan Mathers

In a state renowned for its impressive public lands, it’s hard to believe New Hampshire’s largest state park is often overlooked. Pisgah State Park, tucked into New Hampshire’s southwest corner, includes more than 13,300 acres with roughly 60 miles of trails, and comprises the towns of Winchester, Chesterfield and Hinsdale.

 

A granite bench on the Davis Hill Trail affords hikers with a spot to rest and take in the west-facing view into Vermont. Courtesy Friends of Pisgah

The diverse trails spiderwebbing the park wind through large swaths of forest, over high ridges with scenic vistas, and around ponds and wetlands teeming with wildlife. Yet, despite its size and wealth of natural beauty, Pisgah remains remarkably uncrowded, thanks in large part to its ultra-popular neighbor: Monadnock State Park.

Beavers are just one of many creatures you can expect to see on a visit to Pisgah. Photo courtesy Friends of Pisgah

For those who love Pisgah, not having to share the park with hordes of other hikers suits them just fine.

“That’s what’s great about it,” says John Kondos, a council member with the Friends of Pisgah. “If you don’t like crowds, there are many low-use trails. There’s a good variety.”

Founded in 1987, the Friends of Pisgah is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to caring for the park. Over the years, the group’s hundreds of volunteers have helped build the park’s visitor center, rebuild bridges, maintain trails and much more.

Broad Brook Trail is one of many scenic trails that crisscross the park. Photo courtesy Friends of Pisgah

I’ve climbed Monadnock many times. Being less than two hours from my home near Boston makes it my go-to mountain when I want to scratch that hiking itch, but don’t have the time to travel to bigger peaks.

It’s also the first real mountain I introduced my kids to. We started off climbing the Red Spot Trail, a much more gradual climb than the popular White Dot Trail. The Red Spot crosses bubbling streams and ascends through woodlands before reaching Monadnock’s ridgeline and up to the summit.

Pisgah State Park sits in the southwest corner of New Hampshire.

Kondos says that with more than a half dozen trailhead parking areas, plus smaller trailheads around the park, Pisgah visitors are often dispersed. That helps hikers experience a degree of solitude that can be hard to find at many other major parks in the region.

While Pisgah lacks a big mountain peak like nearby Monadnock, it does offer wonderful views. The 1.6-mile Hubbard Hill Trail ascends 1,381-foot Hubbard Hill, where you can take in beautiful views to the west. The 3.1-mile Pisgah Ridge Trail is a more challenging hike along Pisgah Ridge that rewards with spectacular views of Vermont and Monadnock.

The Kilburn Loop Trail is a popular 4.9-mile hike that passes scenic Kilburn Pond, several marshes and bogs, winds through a hemlock forest. The 5.4-mile Reservoir Trail is a major route through the park. It’s an old woods road that intersects with many other trails, allowing hikers to create a variety of different circuits.

There’s no camping allowed in the park, but visitors can enjoy other activities such as mountain biking, fishing, snowmobiling, and paddling (although many of the park’s ponds require a challenging portage from the parking areas).

For more info on Pisgah State Park, including trail maps, visit the park website.