Take the "Five Hikes Challenge"

Forest Society's best DIY destinations for hiking season

Dave Anderson | August 24, 2020
Hikers enjoying autumn view of Lake Winnipesaukee and Belknap Range from summit of Pine Mountain on Forest Society Morse Preserve

Hikers enjoy the view of Belknap Range and Lake Winnipesaukee from Forest Society Morse Preserve in Alton

Five HIkes Challenge logo graphic as a Facebook banner
Five Hikes Challenge

For those inclined to head out to hiking trails in the next two months, the best is yet to come.

September and October unquestionably offer the very best hiking conditions of the year: distant mountains in sharp relief under bright cobalt blue skies, lower humidity, few mosquitoes, no blackflies or deer flies, warm afternoons, cool mornings and evenings and spectacular autumn foliage colors.


fallen sugar maple leaves on forest floor. Photo Carrie Deegan
Fallen sugar maple leaves

This summer, NH State Parks and hiking trails on the White Mountain National Forest – including recreation parking lots were particularly busy as people sought to physically distance outdoors and enjoy family time with a sense of normalcy.  With either in-school and online classes resuming shortly and organized youth sports curtailed by the Corona virus, it is likely that college students and families will continue to visit popular hiking destinations.


Group of colorful hikers proceed along asandy trail beneath Silver Maples in the floodplain forest at the Concord NH Merrimack River floodplain forest
This summer we can

It’s been a double-edged summer. When the (pandemic) chips were down, residents and out-of-State visitors alike flocked to NH’s huge natural endowment of forests and mountain hiking trails and to Seacoast beaches or inland rivers and lakes for fishing, boating and swimming. People found healthy outdoor exercise and spiritual solace in natural settings.

The downside included unexpectedly large crowds concentrated at some areas forcing park managers to limit available parking spaces and institute reservation systems. Land managers and Chambers of Commerce have reminded visitors to behave, follow rules and to carry out trash or dog waste and practice courtesy while maintaining social distancing to avoid recreation areas being closed.


Sandy trail leads invitingly along the bank of the Merrimack River at the Concord Conservation Center's Merrimack River Floodplain
Merrrimack riverbank trail. Photo Kate Wilcox

The Forest Society owns more than 185 permanent Forest Reservations statewide in more than 100 communities statewide.

This includes popular destinations and quieter, less well-known properties with hiking trails. We’ve done our part as landowners by keeping this network of Forest Reservations and hiking trails open while reminding visitors to continue to “Hike Smart, Hike Local, Hike Safe.”  


A morning view of silver maples in floodplain forest of the upper Contoocook River along the Forest Society's McCabe Forest Reservation. Photo by Carrie Deegan
McCabe Forest, Contoocook River. Photo Carrie Deegan

The Autumn 2020 Five Hikes Challenge

Are you up to the challenge? 

New for 2020, the Forest Society is offering a special Do-It-Yourself hike series called the “Five Hikes Challenge” which runs from Saturday August 29 to Saturday October 31. Registrants will receive custom trail maps with driving directions and hiking tips and a special limited edition Forest Society logo with a mountain-themed print on a neck-gaiter or “buff” that doubles as a facemask.  The Five Hikes Challenge includes staff-picked, easier hiking trails leading to great views or quiet forest destinations located around the state. 


Visit the Forest Society website to pre-register and get started picking your hikes:


Those who register to complete any five hikes from the recommended twenty-six choices of Forest Society-owned destinations, can earn an colorful embroidered patch or colorful logo sticker by submitting selfie photos along with comments on your experiences we can share on social media

A preview of the 26 hike destination choices in the 2020 Five Hikes Challenge. Listed hike mileages below are ROUND TRIP

If you register for the challenge, you'll be mailed special printed trail maps for your selected hikes. Happy hiking!


Dame Forest (Sweet Trail), Durham. Easy 1.8 mile out-and-back hike with nice wetland views and hemlock forests

Champlin Forest, Rochester. Easy 2 mile hike, pine forest, fields, and wetlands

Creek Farm, Portsmouth. Easy 1.5 mile loop with shoreline views of Sagamore Creek, salt marsh, and historic summer home


Merrimack River Outdoor Education & Conservation Area, Concord. Easy 1.5 mile walk along Merrimack River, silver maple floodplain forest and wetland habitats

Monson Village, Hollis/Milford. Easy 2-3 mile walk, cultural history of abandonded colonial settlement, nice wetland and field views

Buxton-Simons Forest, Weare. Strenuous 3 mile round trip hike to nice views from Mount Wallingford, wetlands


Heald Tract, Greenville/Mason/Temple/Wilton. Easy 1.6 mile hike adjacent to wildlife pond, or moderately strenuous 4.0 mile loop with beaver pond, varied habitats

High Five Reservation, Deering. Easy 0.7 mile climb on woods road to spectacular panoramic views

McCabe Forest, Antrim. Easy 1.7 mile hike, partially along Contoocook River 

Madame Sherri Forest, Chesterfield. Moderately strenuous 2 mile loop to scenic Indian Pond and/or easy 0.2 mile hike to remnants of Madame Sherri’s “castle”

Hedgehog Mountain, Deering. Moderate 1.2 mile round trip climb to ledges on Hedgehog Ridge, views of Contoocook Valley

High Blue, Walpole. Moderate 2.4 mile hike to highest point in Walpole, beautiful fields, vernal pool, several viewpoints

Gap Mountain Reservation (North Trail), Jaffrey/Troy. Strenuous 2.4 mile round trip climb to rocky summit of Gap Mountain, great views of Mount Monadnock


Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest, Lempster, Moderate 1.2 mile climb to summit of Silver Mountain, panoramic views of nearby mountains

Langenau Forest, Wilmot, Moderate 2 mile loop through mixed forest types, beaver pond, streams, views of Mount Sunapee

Andrew Brook Forest, Newbury. Strenuous 3.8 mile round trip climb along Andrew Brook to beautiful Lake Solitude on the eastern slope of Mount Sunapee

Hay Reservation, Newbury. Moderately strenuous 2.4 mile round trip climb to summit of Sunset Hill, views of Lake Sunapee and old cellar holes


Morse Preserve, Alton. Moderate 1.7 mile hike to fantastic views of Lake Winnipesaukee and White Mountains

Moody Mountain, Wolfeboro. Easy 1.4 mile rolling trail through old field white pine, spruce, beech and red oak - once a former pastureland

Cockermouth Forest, Groton/Hebron. Strenuous 3.6 mile round trip climb on trails and woods roads to Bald Knob, great mountain views

Eagle Cliff Forest, Sandwich. Strenuous, steep 1.2 mile climb to overlook with fantastic views of Squam Lake

Cooper Cedar Woods, New Durham. Easy 0.7 mile walk, partially on boardwalks, through rare Atlantic Cedar Swamp habitat

Moose Mountains, Brookfield/Middleton. Moderately strenuous 2.5 mile round trip climb on trails and woods roads to summit of Phoebe’s Nable Mt, beautiful views, former farm fields

Weeks Woods, Gilford. Easy to moderate 2 mile hike on old logging roads and trails, fields, forests


David Dana Forest, Dalton. Moderately strenuous 1.5 mile hike to entrance of an abandoned gold mine

Bretzfelder Park, Bethlehem. Easy 0.5-2 mile hikes, interpretive nature trails and picnic area by wildlife pond


Hikers pointing to peaks of the eastern Belknap Range in Alton NH from the Forest Society Morse Preserve at the summit of Pine Mountain
Taking in autumn colors. Photo Kate Wilcox