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Perfect Hikes in the Upper Valley

Jun 23, 2014 11:31PM ● By Victoria Pipas

Whether you’re a walker, speed walker, jogger, or mountain biker, the Upper Valley has more than enough wooded trails to enjoy endless miles of activity. Especially in summer, these parks, trails, and preserves offer cooling shade, restful quiet, and close contact with the beauty of Northern New England. When you have exhausted this list, browse the complete selection of Upper Valley trails at Trail Finder; I hope you’ll find this resource as useful as I did!

• French’s Ledges Trails, Plainfield, NH: The summit of French’s Ledges is too good to pass up, especially for such a short hike (approximately 1.2 miles). But that’s not to say you won’t feel the burn in your legs! This steep, zigzagging path works its way up the face of the ledge (although safely through the woods—not on the edge of a cliff), finishing at the rocky precipice. The summit offers a beautiful view of the village and surrounding mountains and is a perfect photo-op any time of year. To access the trail system, park at Plainfield Elementary School and follow the trail map at the edge of the woods. You can also access the Ledges from the end of Columbus Jordan Road. This will offer a slightly longer hike, with most of it as a descent.

• Northern Rail Trail, Lebanon to Concord, NH: This path, stretching from Lebanon all the way to Concord, is ideal for bikers looking for a low-key route. The trail is gravel/dirt and nearly completely flat and straight, and shaded by trees. Park at the CCBA in Lebanon and access the trail from the parking lot. The Rail Trail is great for new bikers who want a safe, traffic-free practice course, as well as for experienced bikers who want to go the distance. Runners, too, will enjoy a long run on the trail, completed by a cooling dip in Mascoma Lake (the trail hugs one side of the lake and even offers rope-swing access right off the path!).

• Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park, Woodstock, VT: This historical national park is “one of the oldest professionally managed woodlands in America.” Twenty miles of carriage roads weave across Mount Tom, providing hours of forest exploration for you and your family. On your route, be sure to circle the famous Pogue, a wildlife habitat and 14-acre pond in the park. The park is easily accessed from downtown Woodstock. Head north on Route 12 for about half a mile, then turn right onto River Road. The parking area is on the right. If you want to make a habit of hiking in the National Park, join a park ranger every Wednesday evening in June and July for a Wellness Walk. Park at Billings Farm and Museum and meet the ranger across Route 12 at the Carriage Barn Visitor Center for an hour-long walk.

• Farnum Hill Reserve, Lebanon, NH: In spite of having lived on Poverty Lane in Lebanon all my life, practically on the Farnum Reserve, I discovered this extensive system of trails and hiking ridges only last year. It is a trail-runner’s paradise—over 7 miles of wooded loops that travel up and around three main peaks. Conveniently, there are several access sites to the trails: 1 mile up Poverty Lane; 2 miles up Poverty Lane with a left onto Foliage View and a left onto Rolling Ridge; 3.5 miles up Poverty Lane; and 2 miles up Slayton Hill Road. These easy transitions from woods to road allow runners and walkers to blend their own medley of terrain and cover as much distance as desired. Even after having run in the reserve many times, I’m never bored or discouraged by familiar hills; I’ve never run the same course twice!

• Hypertherm Trails, Hanover, NH: This, too, is ideal terrain for nature-loving joggers. On this flatter route of about 4.25 miles of loops, you will find streams, meadows, and granite walls. Enjoy this small oasis as an escape from downtown or from a busy day at work. (Lucky you if you work at Hypertherm; a lunch break is a perfect opportunity to hit the trails!) To reach the trails, take Greensboro Road off Route 120. Hang a right at the intersection onto Great Hollow Road, and look for Hypertherm. Park in the uppermost parking lot of Hypertherm to access the trailhead.

What is your favorite hiking, walking, running, or biking trail system in the Upper Valley, and what makes it so special?

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