Located in the central portion of New Hampshire along Route 4A near the town of Wilmont, the Gardner Memorial Wayside Park provides a popular scenic picnic spot with nearby outdoor activities. It is part of the 6,675 Gile State Forest and was established as a memorial to Walter C. Gardner, II. The park sits alongside a scenic brook that was once the location of a mill in the 1800′s. It is open year round and there are no fees for entry or use of the picnic area. The amenities included in the park are bathrooms, picnic tables and a parking lot.
Although the Gardner Memorial Wayside Park is relatively small in size, it provides a convenient spot for enjoying activities in the surrounding State forest. Hiking, skiing, unsupervised swimming, biking, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching opportunities can be found within very short distances from the wayside. An easy half-mile trail leads from the park to Butterfield Pond and the nearby 100 acre Kolelomook Pond. Numerous access points to the extensive hiking and skiing trails that meander throughout area can be found both within walking distance of the park and along Route 4A.
Forest Lake State Park can be found off Route 116 in Dalton, New Hampshire. The office of the park can be reached at 603-837-9150 . Created in 1935, Forest Lake is one of the original ten state parks in New Hampshire, a number that has grown to 65 state parks since that time. The park features a 200 foot beach on Forest Lake. Activities that are available at the park include boating, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking and swimming. The park is open from about the middle of June until Labor Day.
Camping is not offered in the park, however many other activities are. Horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, and just enjoying nature are very popular at the Forest Lake State Park. Most visitors come to the park to use the beach and picnic areas and to enjoy nature. Due to the atmosphere and family friendly ways of the park, pet owners are asked not to bring pets with them into the park. Camping is available in nearby Burns Lake Campground just three miles away or in Apple Hill Campground just five miles away. If you want to travel a bit further, Snowy Mountain Campground is about six miles from Forest Lake State Park or Mountain Lake Campground is seven miles away.
Cardigan State Park is a great location for mountain hiking in the northeast. It covers an area of 5,655 acres. Most visitors who come to the park are attracted by the amount of hiking trails, each varying in length and difficulty. Views of Mount Monadnock, Pleasant Mountain, The Camel’s Hump and the White Mountains can be enjoyed from the 3,121-foot granite summit in the park. Pets are allowed in the park. There are no camp sites located on the property of the park, but within just a few miles there is a campground called Baker River Campground, which features several sites and services. Since this state park’s geography is not flat and very rocky, camping is just not possible. Visitors to the park come for nature walks, hiking and photography. There are several picnic areas available in the park for visitors to use, although there are no drinking water pumps. Cardigan State Park is open all year. No garbage or containers should be left behind at the park; there is not a garbage pickup schedule. This park is strictly pack-in, pack-out. While the land retains its beauty year-round, the winter months are very cold and snow is often seen then. The best months to visit are in the spring, summer and early fall. When planning a visit from out of state, keep in mind that the month of August is usually very wet here. The weather is humid and warm, with rain almost every day.
Since the early 1800s, Mount Cardigan, the granite summit in Cardigan State Park, has been a popular destination for relaxation and exercise. The park has a very dated history, which took off in the late 1860s when a road for buggies was built to the granite summit. At the time, the total cost of building the road was only $200. An expansive forest fire hit the area in 1855, which is the reason why the enormous granite monstrosity has no trees on it. In an effort to prevent further future destruction of the park, a wooden lookout tower was constructed in the early 1900s and later replaced with a steel structure in the 1920s. In 1918, the park officially became the Mount Cardigan State Reservation, after the purchase of 700 acres of land. The trails that exist today were built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Friends of Mount Cardigan and the Cardigan Highlanders are two civilian groups that continue to keep up and preserve the beauty and integrity of this park.
New Hampshire’s Bear Brook State Park includes over 10,000 acres of heavily forested land interspersed with marshes, bogs, ponds, and summit views. To reach these and other attractions, the park contains forty miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and more. One can find a secluded place for picnic or reserve a spot in the over 100-site campground for a longer stay.
Bear Brook State Park is located in the southeast region of New Hampshire with its entrance on Rt. 28 and minutes from both I-93 and I-95, the park is just west of Portsmouth and the seashore or east of Concord and Manchester. The park provides almost anything for the outdoor enthusiast or family with young children. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the depression, Bear Brook State Park remains in use as originally designed. Within the park, mostly housed in historic buildings, is a museum complex that includes the New Hampshire Antique Snowmobile Museum, the Richard Diehl CCC Museum, natural displays, and more.
A “shelter” located near the day-use area and adjacent to a ball field, barbecue pits, and horseshoe area is available, by reservation, for special occasions such as family reunions, office outings, or even a wedding. Fires are limited to designated areas. Pets, if leashed, are welcome in the campground and on trails but not in the day-use area. Most attractions are accessible to all but some trails might present a challenge to the handicapped.
Starting from the toll both and parking in the day-use area or a few smaller parking areas within the park, one can find the trail or recreation area to match their interests whether they include hiking, fishing, boating, biking, bird watching, fall foliage, or snowmobiling. There are 26 trails to choose from and the descriptions below are just a selection.
• One-Mile Trail is an easy trail that serves as the main artery to the more popular and challenging trails such as Bear Brook Trail and Catamount Trail.
• Bear Brook Trail, the Bear Brook State Park namesake trail, follows Bear Brook and provides a well-shaded path that remains relatively cool even in summer, perhaps more so, with the background sound of running water and the sight of an occasional brook trout. It is a beautiful trail of moderate difficulty and leads to Archery Pond.
• Archery Pond provides river trout for only fly-fishing enthusiasts. For the family, a special pond is just across the path for children under twelve with no restrictions. A somewhat unusual but popular attraction is the archery ranges nearby the pond.
• Catamount Trail leading to Catamount peak provides, just before the peak, the hiker with perhaps the best open lookout in the park. The peak itself is an open outcrop of granite but is not above the tree line and the view can be obscured in summer but is a beautiful spot to enjoy the fall colors. Catamount is a steep trail and can be quite rocky at times depending on spring thaws and freezing movement. Located in the Catamount Pond parking lot is a workout trail with twenty different workout stations for a fun way to exercise in the woods. Catamount Pond has a beach and canoes or boats are available for rental.
• Bobcat Trail is an excellent trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. The trail passes through a stand of red pine begun as a tree plantation during the 1930’s by the CCC. The trail is narrow and of moderate difficulty.
• Lane Trail is great path that follows an old timber road. It is wide and has a smooth walking surface ideal for large groups. Traveling through two meadows and into a lowland forest near the Bear Brook parking area, this is a fun hike but has a few steep sections.
• Hall Mountain Trail is a wide trail providing access to the highest peak in the park at the top of Hall Mountain. The peak is an open, shrubby area interspersed with exposed granite outcrops. Primarily used by snowmobilers in the winter, it is a moderate to difficult excursion.
• Bear Brook State Park Campground is on Beaver Pond, five miles from the day-use area, and open for reservations from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. Beaver Pond has a beach and the pond is great for a canoe or kayaks.
If you are interested in a relaxing getaway in New Hampshire’s Lake District, consider a trip to Ahern State Park. Ahern State Park is a 128 acre park located in Laconia, New Hampshire. Laconia is home to one of the nation’s largest motorcycle rallies every year in June, and the area is a popular tourist destination.
The grounds of the Ahern State Park originally belonged to the New Hampshire School For Feebleminded Children, which opened in 1901. The facility was later renamed the Laconia State School and treated adults as well as children. This institution housed individuals who were considered by the state to be mentally incompetent. In 1942, the facility held over six hundred people, and by the 1970s there were over a thousand residents. In response to a federal lawsuit and strong criticism of its treatment practices, the facility shut its doors in 1991. In 1994, the land the facility owned was transferred to the state of New Hampshire and was given the name Governer’s Park. Its name was changed to Ahern State Park in 1998. The facilities buildings were used by the New Hampshire department of corrections, but were closed in 2009. These buildings are not within the official boundaries of the park, but are nearby. Access to the former prison is not permitted, and the area is closed off to the public.