Wetland grasses reflected in the water (photo by Webmaster)
Wetland grasses reflected in the water (photo by Webmaster)

Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond
via Cohos Trail Loop

Destinations:  Cherry Pond (1120'), Little Cherry Pond (1095')
Trails:  Presidential Range Rail Trail, Waumbek Link, Shore Path, New Hampshire Central Railroad, Little Cherry Pond Trail, Rampart Path, Colonel Whipple Trail, Cohos Trail, Whipple Road, Meadows Road
Region:  NH - Central East  
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
Location:  Jefferson, NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Ponds, wetlands, views, bird watching, loop hike
Distance:  9.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  250 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 3:39   Typical: 4:45  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 6:45   Typical: 7:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  10/12/2009 (Monday)  
Last Updated:  01/05/2011  
Weather:  4055 degrees, sunny
Author:  Webmaster

Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range, taken from the Tudor Richards viewing platform
(photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range, taken from the Tudor Richards viewing platform (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike to the 100-acre Cherry Pond and the 25-acre Little Cherry Pond. These areas are popular for their bird watching appeal and for the stunning views of the Presidential, Pliny, Crescent, and Dartmouth mountain ranges as well as Cherry Mountain. En route are beautiful wetlands and various views of the same mountains that are seen from Cherry Pond.

Snowmobile bridge over Stanley Slide Brook on the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Snowmobile bridge over Stanley Slide Brook on the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
The loop is completed by mostly a combination of the Cohos Trail (which runs concurrently with other trails) and some road walking. If you wish to avoid the 2-mile road walk, you can spot cars instead of doing the entire loop, although most of the road walk is very scenic and certainly no hardship to complete.

To Cherry Pond:
  • Start at the Presidential Range Rail Trail on Route 115A. Make sure you begin by walking in a westerly direction, as the rail trail leaves from both sides of the road. You want to start across the street from a house and next to a plastic fence.
  • Walk on level terrain for 0.6 mile, which will bring you to a snowmobile bridge over Stanley Slide Brook. Just 0.05 mile (half a tenth) before the bridge, the Cohos Trail, called Slide Brook Trail in this area, comes in from the left.
  • After enjoying the views of the brook and wetlands from the bridge, continue walking on what is now the combined Presidential Range Rail Trail and Cohos Trail.
  • After 0.7 mile, you will reach the start of a long open area of wetlands on the left with views of the Presidentials and Cherry Mountain above them.
  • Continue walking and 0.5 mile later, you will reach the start of another open wetlands area, this time offering views to both sides, including the Pliny range to the right.
  • Hike for another 0.6 mile, which will bring you to the Tudor Richards viewing platform.
  • Turn right and walk to the end of the deck where there are fabulous views of Cherry Pond and the surrounding mountains.

Cherry Pond, the Presidentials, and the Dartmouth Range (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond, the Presidentials, and the Dartmouth Range (photo by Webmaster)

Cherry Pond Shoreline Paths and Little Cherry Pond:
  • Retrace your steps from the platform. Rather than returning all the way back to the rail turn, turn right as soon as you come off the platform onto a narrow trail where a sign indicates, "Waumbek Link Rail Trail".
  • Walk for about 0.1 on the narrow trail which will bring you to an opening at Waumbek Junction where Pondicherry Rail Trail comes in from the left and there is a large sign for Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.
  • Turn right and walk for 0.1 mile, crossing Johns River on a railroad bridge en route. After crossing Johns River you will be on the active New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks. Stay to the right edge of the tracks.
  • Turn right onto Shore Path – note that the trail sign is down low to the right of the tracks. Shore Path is part of the long-distance Cohos Trail.
  • Wetlands along the
    Presidential Range Rail Trail
    (photo by Webmaster)
    Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
  • Follow Shore Path / Cohos Trail for 0.1 mile along the edge of Cherry Pond. When you reach the shore at a T-junction, first take a short detour to the right for more shoreline views. Then retrace your steps and continue straight through the junction in order to explore the rest of Shore Path / Cohos Trail.
  • At the end of Shore Path / Cohos Trail you will be back at the active New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks, a bit farther along from where you left it. At this point will be wide-open views of Cherry Pond and the mountains beyond it.
  • From Shore Path / Cohos Trail, turn right onto the tracks and walk for about 0.1 mile, staying to the right.
  • Once again, you are going to turn right onto a footpath – this one is called Rampart Path and like Shore Path, the trail sign (signed "Rampart Path / Colonel Whipple Trail / CT") will be low on the right. Rampart Path is also part of the Cohos Trail.
  • Follow Rampart Path for a bit less than 0.1 mile to enjoy more shore views, then turn left onto a brief connector trail where Rampart Path / Cohos Trail continues straight (no sign at this junction). We will backtrack to this point later on to continue on the Cohos Trail.
  • At the end of the connector path, you will be back at the railroad tracks, now directly across from the start of Little Cherry Pond Trail. Cross the tracks and head down this next footpath.
  • Little Cherry Pond Trail makes sort of a loop (with a spur on each end) leading to Little Cherry Pond.
  • Go 0.2 mile to the upper trail split, then bear right (even though the small arrow sign is pointing left).
  • After 0.3 mile you will reach the lower loop junction.
  • Turn right and follow the path for 0.1 mile where it ends at the shore of Little Cherry Pond at a small viewing platform with a bench.
  • After enjoying the pond, retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the lower loop split and now keep straight (at an arrow pointing left) in order to return via the other leg of the loop.
  • After 0.4 mile you will be back to the upper loop junction.
  • Turn right and walk 0.2 mile to return to the New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks.
  • Cross the tracks and enter the unsigned trail on the opposite side. This is the brief connector trail to Rampart Path that we were on earlier. You will quickly reach the shoreline.
  • Now turn left to finish exploring the Rampart Path portion of the Cohos Trail.
  • Meander along the shoreline with several viewpoints of both pond and mountains for another 0.3 mile.

Cherry Pond and fall foliage, taken from Shore Path (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and fall foliage, taken from Shore Path (photo by Webmaster)

Return via Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail and a Road Walk:
  • Where the path turns left away from the water, Rampart Path ends and Colonel Whipple Trail begins. Both trails are part of the Cohos Trail.
  • After 0.1 mile on Colonel Whipple Trail, you will reach a T-junction, were you can see the left-hand route shortly leads back to the tracks (farther up from where you left them). Turn right to stay on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail which we will follow all the way to Whipple Road. This segment of trail is marked by occasional yellow paint blazes. Look both on trees and rocks for blazes.
  • Hike for 1.4 miles, first over flat woodsy terrain, and then on an open trail heading gently uphill which will bring you to a junction on the right.
  • There's no sign at this junction, but you should keep going straight to stay on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail.
  • Hike for another 1.1 miles. Eventually the grade will change from uphill to downhill. Upon meeting a gravel driveway (that soon changes to grass), keep going straight which will bring you to the end of the trail.
  • Once you reach the trailhead at the gravel Whipple Road, turn right and walk on the level road for 0.7 mile, which will bring you to its junction with Meadows Road (Route 115A).
  • Go straight onto the paved Meadows Road (Route 115A). Follow Route 115A, which is mostly flat, for 1.3 miles which will return you to the Presidential Range Rail Trailhead where you started.

Bog bridge on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Bog bridge on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Presidential Range Rail Trailhead on Rt. 115A (1130') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Bridge over Stanley Slide Brook (1125') 0.6 0.6 0:13 0:13
Start of first wetlands (1140') 0.7 1.3 0:16 0:29
Start of second wetlands (1130') 0.5 1.8 0:11 0:40
Tudor Richards viewing platform at Cherry Pond (1120') 0.6 2.4 0:13 0:53
Waumbek Junction (1130') 0.1 2.5 0:03 0:56
Start of Shore Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 2.6 0:03 0:59
End of Shore Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 2.7 0:04 1:04
Start of Rampart Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 2.8 0:03 1:07
Jct. Active Railroad / Little Cherry Pond Trail (1120') 0.1 2.9 0:03 1:10
Upper Little Cherry Pond loop split 0.2 3.1 0:05 1:15
Lower Little Cherry Pond loop split (via northern leg) 0.3 3.4 0:07 1:22
Little Cherry Pond (1095') 0.1 3.5 0:03 1:25
Lower Little Cherry Pond loop split 0.1 3.6 0:04 1:29
Upper Little Cherry Pond loop split (via southern leg) 0.4 4.0 0:09 1:38
Jct. Active Railroad / Little Cherry Pond Trail (1120') 0.2 4.2 0:05 1:43
Jct. Rampart Path / Colonel Whipple Trail (1125') 0.3 4.5 0:10 1:53
Jct. Colonel Whipple Trail / Rail Spur (1135') 0.1 4.6 0:03 1:56
Jct. Colonel Whipple Trail / unmarked trail 1.4 6.0 0:35 2:31
Colonel Whipple Trailhead on Whipple Rd. (1090') 1.1 7.1 0:26 2:57
Jct. Whipple Rd. / Meadows Rd. (Rt. 115A) (1085') 0.7 7.8 0:15 3:12
Presidential Range Rail Trailhead on Rt. 115A (1130') 1.3 9.1 0:27 3:39

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging


Beaver lodge on Stanley Slide Brook (photo by Webmaster)
Beaver lodge on Stanley Slide Brook (photo by Webmaster)

White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

Click for a full trail map (it will open in a new window).   

Trail map of hike route to Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond via Cohos Trail Loop (map by Webmaster)
Trail map of hike route to Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond via Cohos Trail Loop (map by Webmaster)
 




  Trail Guide   

My objective on this Columbus Day was to do an easy loop hike where I could enjoy fall foliage, water, and mountain views. In particular, I wanted to see the colored leaves while looking at the snow-covered Mounts Adams, Jefferson, and Washington of the Presidential Range. I decided to explore a wide area in and around the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge which encompasses Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond.

Beaver lodge at Cherry Pond
(photo by Webmaster)
Beaver lodge at Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
The hike far exceeded my objectives. Stunning scenery was almost non-stop. I'm sorry to say in the face of so many "big" views, I neglected to pay as much attention to all the wonderful plants and shrubs as I would have liked. This is a good trail to do year-round in order to absorb its many different flavors as the seasons change.

Waterproof hiking boots are recommended for this trek as several sections of trail are wet. Usually the water is not very deep so hiking boots are sufficient, but if you have a pair of those taller rubber boots, they would allow you even more freedom. You could then walk through anything you encounter instead of having to skirt around the deeper sections. It'd be good to carry a spare change of socks too, just in case (I didn't need mine but was glad I carried them anyway).

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

To Cherry Pond
Cherry Pond Shoreline Paths and Little Cherry Pond
Return via Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail and a Road Walk


Cherry Pond, beaver lodge, and the Presidentials, taken from Shore Path
(photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond, beaver lodge, and the Presidentials, taken from Shore Path (photo by Webmaster)

To Cherry Pond   

I started hiking from Route 115A in Jefferson, on the Presidential Range Rail Trail which used to be the Boston, Concord, and Montreal rail line, and before that, the White Mountains line. This trail is used by snowmobiles during the winter. The trail, all the way to Cherry Pond, is wide and almost entirely flat (the small elevation changes are imperceptible). The first 0.2 mile paralleled a minor road, screened by trees, that had barking dogs and rumbling lawnmowers. Don't be discouraged, because just after this point, it is quiet and peaceful, with nothing louder than rustling leaves or birdsong to break the silence.

It was a sunny, blue-sky day, with temperatures ranging from a comfortable 40–55 degrees. Soon a snowmobile bridge came into sight, and shortly before it, a footpath went off to the left. This footpath is the Slide Brook Trail, part of the Cohos Trail, and it leads out to Route 115, across from Owl's Head Trail, after crossing under the nearby power lines. Due to the busy work of beavers, this trail is currently closed with work on it (bog bridges) scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Stanley Slide Brook (photo by Webmaster)
Stanley Slide Brook (photo by Webmaster)

Continue straight past the side trail to the bridge that crosses Stanley Slide Brook... a stream with several name variations. The segment of trail that runs alongside it is called Slide Brook Trail; on maps, I've seen the waterway labeled as Stanley Brook; and on fishing and other websites, it's referred to as Stanley Slide Brook.

No matter the name, the views from the bridge are very interesting. To the south (upstream), beyond the power lines, the top part of Cherry Mountain is visible. The most prominent parts of the mountain are the sharp-pointed Owl's Head and the rounded Mount Martha. This mountain shows up again and again along this hike – this mediocre viewpoint of it is just a taste of what is to come later. Beneath the power lines is a rickety-looking bridge and in front of that the stream fills a wide area due to a beaver dam located directly below the snowmobile bridge. Beyond the power lines, the brook was narrow and babbling merrily along.

Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Looking downstream, I discovered a wide area of wetlands, a partial beaver dam, a beaver lodge, and views of the more westerly section of the Pliny Range. The Pliny Range is another wonderful landmark that will show itself repeatedly throughout this hike. Although both the trail and mountains were cloaked in colorful foliage, most of the trees in the wetlands vista were bare.

Continuing past the bridge, I spotted an old utility pole off the to the left. I noticed several more along my trek. I believe these were used in conjunction with a semaphore system for the old railroads. This was a signaling system which greatly improved the safety of railway traffic, preventing collisions. I'm not sure exactly how things worked but I think there was a sort of control box, and wires carried on these utility poles extended the function of the control boxes to many locations where a signal pole indicated the state of rail traffic by moving a mechanical arm at different angles, and/or by using lights of different colors (the light at first coming from oil lamps). Also, off to the left, were some orange metal stakes marking the boundary of the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.

Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Soon golden-colored tamaracks came into view. This is one of my favorite trees. It is also known as larch and is the only conifer to lose its needles every winter. Its needles, 1–2 inches long, burst out in tufts along the branches. Run your hand loosely over the branch and feel how soft the needles are. The needles are normally green but turn to wonderful shades of bright yellow, greenish yellow, and golden yellow in the autumn. It has small cones that grow along the branches.

The Presidential Range Rail Trail / Cohos Trail passes through a mixture of hardwoods and several types of conifers before reaching a long straight stretch with open wetlands to the left. There was a channel of water and a mass of cattails, ringed by green conifers. Cherry Mountain showed itself nicely above the trees. To the right of the trail is a memorial cross to David M. Gorgol who died in a snowmobiling accident in 2004, at the age of twenty.

Tamaracks along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Tamaracks along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)

The trail was wet in this section but it was only a couple inches deep so it was no big deal to make my way through it with waterproof hiking boots. [I hiked this again on 10/30/2010 and the Presidential Range Rail Trail section was perfectly dry due to two great bridges that were put in place in the problem areas.] About halfway through this segment was an open pool of water, conveniently located in front of some nice sitting boulders, made more amenable with a couple planks spanning them. I couldn't resist a short break here to enjoy the open water with Cherry Mountain rising above it. The snow-covered Presidentials were visible to the east-southeast (to the left of Cherry Mountain, but not immediately to the left).

As you walk along this open section, keep looking behind you to get views of the Presidentials – the vista improves as you move forward. Towards the end, you'll be able to see, left to right, Mount Madison (mostly obstructed by Adams), Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Clay, and Mount Washington. From this vantage, Mounts Adams and Jefferson are the most prominent peaks.

Cherry Pond and mountains west of Cherry Mountain (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and mountains west of Cherry Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

Snags appear more regularly and the trail soon reenters the woods – but only for about 0.2 mile – then you encounter another wetlands area. This one is open on both sides, although the growth is higher on the right side. The trail has wet sections here that are both longer and deeper than the prior wetland area. [I hiked this again on 10/30/2010 and the Presidential Range Rail Trail section was perfectly dry due to two great bridges that were put in place in the problem areas.] Mostly it's only about three inches deep, but there are sections where water rushes across in fairly deep, rushing streams. This is where tall rubber boots would be handy. I managed to leap across a deep channel but the footing was precarious – I might not have been so lucky if conditions were just a little bit different. For the first time on my hike, I encountered a person here. He was clearing the channels so that the beaver dams couldn't take over and completely flood the trail. There was a wide area of open water to the left of the trail.

When I initially encountered this section, it seemed not as spectacular as the first wetlands; but the views ended up being much more expansive. In addition to views of the Presidentials and Cherry Mountain, the Pliny Range could be seen off to the right. The visible portions of the Pliny Range consist of Mount Starr King, Mount Waumbek, and Pliny Mountain. There was another range to the left of the Plinys. And again, as you progress, keep looking behind you for better views of the snow-capped Presidential Range.

Wetlands, tamaracks, evergreens, and Mounts Adams and Jefferson,
seen from the Tudor Richards viewing platform (photo by Webmaster)
Wetlands, tamaracks, evergreens, and Mounts Adams and Jefferson, seen from the Tudor Richards viewing platform (photo by Webmaster)

Beyond the wetlands area, I hiked by some more gorgeous golden tamaracks. There were some old rails and tracks just to the right of the trail. Soon, the Pliny Range, with Cherry Pond in front of it, came into view. The vista was very impressive. But keep going – only about 0.2 mile beyond the end of the second wetland section – and you will quickly arrive at the Tudor Richards viewing platform. There is a boulder with a plaque on it stating, "This viewing platform is dedicated to Tudor Richards whose vision helped create the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge." To the right of the rock, is the wonderful platform. Walk out on a long narrow deck to the end, which is wider and provides two benches. The views of Cherry Pond and the mountains are spectacular.

The sky was blue, the water was an even richer shade of blue, and the colorful Pliny Range stretched across the landscape. A beaver lodge nestled between the water and a beautiful field of golden grass. Looking to the right were good views of Mounts Adams and Jefferson, fronted by bands of grass, yellow-colored tamaracks, dark green conifers, and colorful foliage-clad hills. Towards the left were some floating islands, and brilliant orange-leaved trees on a nearby shore. A couple ducks were hanging out on the water. This is a comfortable and beautiful spot to spend a lot of time at; however, I still had a lot of miles to cover and scenery to absorb so I didn't stay too long.

Johns River, taken from the railroad bridge (photo by Webmaster)
Johns River, taken from the railroad bridge (photo by Webmaster)

Cherry Pond Shoreline Paths and Little Cherry Pond   

Leaving the platform, I took the very first right onto a narrow trail, rather than going back to the rail trail (although following the wide trail will take you to the same place). This Waumbek Link just gets you over to the other shore trails more quickly. Just to the right of the path are some old overgrown railroad tracks.

After just a couple minutes I arrived at an opening with a billboard-sized sign listing the various agents cooperating in the management of Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge. The sign seemed out of place in this setting but at least it was park-brown instead of highway-green. And I'm of course very grateful to all the great agencies that make Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge possible. To the left is where the Pondicherry Rail Trail comes in and to the right is a trail leading towards the active railroad tracks, which is how many of the smaller trails are accessed.

Cherry Pond and Cherry Mountain from the railroad tracks (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and Cherry Mountain from the railroad tracks (photo by Webmaster)

I turned right towards the active line and reached a bridge over Johns River. This river starts from Cherry Pond, flows through Little Cherry Pond, and then through the downtown area of Whitefield, before finally emptying out into the Connecticut River. Looking to the right from the bridge, the pretty waterway could be seen leaving Cherry Pond, and to the left was a wide wetlands area. Looking farther to the left I saw several train cars, presumably on a siding (an auxiliary rail for temporary train storage).

Continuing along, less than a minute later, I reached the start of Shore Path which is marked by a low sign at the trailhead, below the grade of the railroad. After a minute on this woodsy path, you will arrive at the shoreline of Cherry Pond. The main trail goes left, but first turn right. This dead-end section wraps around the land to bring you back to where there are nice views of Johns River. I could also just see the viewing platform from this area and I saw a heron, with its large wingspan, flying by.

Boulder split by a white pine near the end of Shore Path / Cohos Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
Boulder split by a white pine near the end of Shore Path / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)

I retraced my steps, then continued along Shore Path enjoying the many views of the pond and mountains. Near the end of the trail was a bench with a great vista of the pond. It was right next to a really big white pine tree that looked like it split the boulder that is now on either side of its trunk.

Shore Path ended at the active tracks, about 0.1 mile beyond the point where it started. From the tracks was a nice open vista of the pond and mountains. Pliny Range was to the left with the Presidentials straight ahead and Cherry Mountain to the right. The less prominent Crescent Range sits in between the Pliny and Presidential Ranges. Dartmouth Range consists of the lower mountains between the Presidentials and Cherry Mountain.

Active railroad tracks, the Pliny Range, and Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
Active railroad tracks, the Pliny Range, and Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)

Walk on the tracks just past the open view area, then turn right onto Rampart Path. Follow this shoreline trail for just 0.1 mile, then turn left to leave it and return to the railroad tracks. This puts you directly across from the trailhead for Little Cherry Pond Trail.

Cross the tracks where they are nicely blocked out for easy walking, and embark upon Little Cherry Pond Trail which is a loop route with a spur on either end. The path traversed woods that seemed to consist mostly of conifers; yet the many and varied-species leaves on the ground attested to the fact that the forest also contained a fair number of hardwoods. I saw a hairy woodpecker in this section and even managed to get a photo of it (dark, but pretty clear). There was lots of moss and other greenery close to the ground and in spite of the trees, the sun filtered down, nicely illuminating the woods.

Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster)

After five minutes I arrived at the upper junction where the trail splits into a loop. There is an arrow sign pointing left, but since that's the route I took last time I was here, I turned right to mix things up a bit. I immediately encountered a long string of nice bog bridges bordered by lush green grass. All of the bog bridges on the refuge trails, and most of the ones on the Cohos Trail section of this hike, were covered by chicken coop wire which provided very good footing even though the bridges seemed damp and were largely covered by leaves. Although they didn't seem at all slippery, I still proceeded cautiously just in case – it's no fun slipping off a bog bridge, especially if it results in a fall or a turned ankle. Creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) and trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) offered green accents alongside the path.

On this segment I met a cute little red squirrel that didn't seem to mind my presence. He was sitting on a thin little twig jutting out of a thick trunk. I got some (dark) photos of him too so I was able to later study him in detail. He had his hind toes hooked over the branch and just his front wrists draped over the front of the twig. His body seemed to be angled back a bit as if he was lounging in a comfortable armchair. I was surprised he looked so comfortable in what seemed like a not-very-secure position. I would have expected to see his front feet also clinging to the branch.

Red squirrel along Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Red squirrel along Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster)

After a minute or so, the squirrel moved down the trunk of the tree and I got another photo of him with his previously compact body, now stretched out. Both his front and back paws seemed to be just resting lightly on the tree, as if a magnet was holding him to the tree instead of his claws.

Moving along, descending gently downhill, I reached the lower junction of the loop and turned right. After 0.1 mile, first through woods, then over more bog bridges, I reached the small viewing platform and bench for Little Cherry Pond. Some of these bog bridges were just barely above water level. The front portion of the pond had totally open water and it seemed that this is the section that Johns River flows through. Towards the back of the pond the water appeared to be more stagnant and also had some plants growing through, or on, the water's surface. The pond was ringed by golden tamaracks and dark-green black spruce. Above the trees, I saw only sky – no mountains or hills.

Little Cherry Pond Trail (photos by Webmaster)
Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster) Little Cherry Pond Trail (photo by Webmaster)

The shoreline was densely vegetated with both trees and shrubs. One of the shrubs was Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), which is easily identified by looking at the underside of its leaves. The edges are curled under and while the top of the leaf is green, the bottom is sort of a beige color and appears to be a different texture. I could hear a sort of droning noise, presumably from the nearby biomass plant at the head of Pondicherry Rail Trail. It was most noticeable while sitting at Little Cherry Pond but I also heard it off-and-on while exploring the areas around Cherry Pond's shore.

I left the pond and quickly arrived back at the lower loop junction. A small arrow suggests that you turn left, but since that's the way I came from, I went straight in order to cover the other branch of the loop. This leg also took me through some beautiful mossy woods. As I progressed uphill, the path became more open and the hardwoods more dominant. I didn't know to look for it while there, but to the left (when heading uphill) there should be a very small loop trail that takes you past some glacial erratic boulders. Back at the upper loop junction, I turned right and quickly found myself back at the tracks.

Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)

Cross the tracks once again, onto the brief connector trail, to quickly arrive back at Rampart Path on the shore of Cherry Pond. Here I turned left to continue my exploration of Rampart Path / Cohos Trail. The route meandered along the edge of the land and every new turn seemed to show a different perspective of the pond, wetlands, and mountains. At one point I could see a few mountains to the right of Cherry Mountain, that had not yet made an appearance on this hike. Then later, I spotted the snow-covered Mount Monroe peaking up between a couple hills of the Dartmouth Range. A bit farther along, I saw more mountains even farther to Cherry Mountain's right. A few times, I spotted vehicles moving along Route 115 in front of Cherry Mountain. At my feet, wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), a low evergreen plant, was sporting red berries.

About 0.3 mile later, Rampart Path ends and Colonel Whipple Trail begins at the point where the route turns away from the pond. Both paths are part of the Cohos Trail. Although I had seen four other groups of people around Cherry Pond, the rest of the hike was completed without running into anyone else on the trail.

Cherry Mill Brook and Cherry Mountain from Rt. 115A (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Mill Brook and Cherry Mountain from Rt. 115A (photo by Webmaster)

Return via Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail and a Road Walk   

I followed Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail all the way to Whipple Road in Jefferson. Just a few minutes after the trail veered away from Cherry Pond, I arrived a T-junction. Here a short spur to the left led back up to the active railroad tracks. I turned right to follow Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail which from this point on is marked by occasional yellow blazes. I even saw one little "CT" (Cohos Trail) sign.

I walked beneath some aspen trees that showed bright yellow leaves against the blue sky. The trail meandered through woods and wet areas with bog bridges and rocks assisting. This trail is not as well manicured as the others, but that's part of the fun of the fairly new long-distance Cohos Trail. I crossed a stream where the water was transparent yet appeared to be a reddish-rust color. [I hiked this again on 10/30/2010 and there was about a mile-long section here that was very flooded, requiring good balance and bushwhacking, yet still left most of my group with wet, muddy feet.]

Aspen trees on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Aspen trees on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)

About a half-mile from its start, Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail veered away from its parallel path with the tracks and dramatically changed character. It broke out into a wide trail with thick, young growth on both sides and began a long, gentle uphill climb. The trail was mostly grassy underfoot. In spots, raspberry bushes infringed on the trailway. Since I was wearing long pants and sleeves, it was no problem to make my way along the trail, in spite of the growth. Watch your footing here since the shrubs can obscure uneven ground and occasional old logs. There were several areas of mud and puddles, but with appropriate footwear, none of it is hard to get past.

About a mile into this young-woods section, there will be another trail that leaves to the right. Keep going straight. If you're watching for blazes, look both on rocks and trees. These thin-trunked trees don't work well for marking trails. As the route climbed higher, there were some obstructed views of Cherry Mountain, but nothing to compare to the earlier vistas.

Moose scat on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Moose scat on Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)

I happened upon some fresh-looking moose scat in the trail. And then later on I saw a bunch of moose prints – he was headed in the same direction I was, but I never ended up seeing him. The path leveled out some and where a stream went under the trail via a culvert, it appeared to be hemmed in by stone walls to the right. I wonder of this was an old millrace.

Soon after, I found myself heading downhill and came to an opening with partial views of the Pliny Range. Again, nothing compared to the vistas to be had earlier along this trek. About five minutes later, I reached another open area with a gravel road. The trail continues right down this road, which soon turns to grass. Another five minutes of hiking will bring you to the trailhead on Whipple Road.

I turned right and walked on this hardpacked, level, gravel road for 0.7 mile until reaching its end. The traffic was light but moved fast so don't be wandering out in the middle of the road. Near its end, the same sets of mountains that have visible during the trek, once more came into view.

The Pliny Range from Rt. 115A (photo by Webmaster)
The Pliny Range from Rt. 115A (photo by Webmaster)

Whipple Road ends at the paved Meadows Road which is also Route 115A. Keep walking straight ahead here past the large maroon-colored barn of the E&R Dairy. There are pretty views of both the mountains and a wide brook here. Walk on Route 115A South for 1.3 miles which will return you to the starting point of this hike.

The road starts out as mostly level, then goes up a small hill, curves right, and descends a small hill. En route you will pass a couple cemeteries, a train car, open fields, and views of the Plinys, the Presidentials, and Cherry Mountain. The traffic was light and there was room on the shoulder to walk. With its nearly constant views, this segment was quite enjoyable in spite of it not being a trail.

All in all, it was a great loop hike with fantastic scenery. Definitely a hike to be savored and repeated.

Locator map for Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
(map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Locator map for Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge (map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
 
Tamarack along the
Presidential Range Rail Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
Tamarack along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)


White pine along the
Presidential Range Rail Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
White pine along the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)


Milkweed at Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
Milkweed at Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)


Undersides of Labrador tea leaves (photo by Webmaster)
Undersides of Labrador tea leaves (photo by Webmaster)



Cherry Pond and mountains west of Cherry Mountain
(photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and mountains west of Cherry Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

Wintergreen with berries
(photo by Webmaster)
Wintergreen with berries (photo by Webmaster)



Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)



Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Colonel Whipple Trail / Cohos Trail (photo by Webmaster)
 


NH - Central East



  Driving Directions   

The starting point for this loop hike is at the Presidential Range Rail Trail on Route 115A in Jefferson, New Hampshire.

If you wish to avoid a two-mile road walk, you can make this into a point-to-point hike by spotting a car at the Colonel Whipple Trailhead, also in Jefferson, and then driving back to the Presidential Range Rail Trail to begin the hike.

Presidential Range Rail Trailhead from Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), head north on Rt. 3.
  • After 2.1 miles, at a blinking yellow light, turn right onto Rt. 115.
  • Wetlands along the Presidential
    Range Rail Trail, with part of Cherry
    Mountain in the background
    (photo by Webmaster)
    Wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail, with part of Cherry Mountain in the background (photo by Webmaster)
  • Travel 6.4 miles, then turn left onto Rt. 115A (Meadows Road).
  • Drive 0.4 mile, then just after some power lines, turn left into a grassy area. There is room for several cars to park alongside the road and on either side of the trail. Take care not to block the trail.
  • Note that this is not plowed in the winter but there is probably room to squeeze alongside the road if the snow banks aren't too great and if it's not during an active storm.

Presidential Range Rail Trailhead from Jefferson, NH:
  • From the junction of Routes 2 and 115 in Jefferson, head south on Rt. 115.
  • Travel 3.2 miles, then turn right onto Rt. 115A (Meadows Road).
  • Drive 0.4 mile, then just after some power lines, turn left into a grassy area. There is room for several cars to park alongside the road and on either side of the trail. Take care not to block the trail.
  • Note that this is not plowed in the winter but there is probably room to squeeze alongside the road if the snow banks aren't too great and if it's not during an active storm.

Colonel Whipple Trailhead:
  • From the Presidential Range Rail Trailhead, keep traveling on Rt. 115A North (Meadows Road) for another 1.3 miles.
  • Where Rt. 115A curves to the right and E&R Dairy appears on the left, go straight onto the gravel Whipple Road.
  • Drive for 0.7 mile, then turn left into an open area where there is room for several cars to park without blocking the gate. The wide yellow gate is set back from the road and to its right is a small sign for Colonel Whipple Trail.
  • Note that this is not plowed in the winter but there is probably room to squeeze alongside the road if the snow banks aren't too great and if it's not during an active storm.

Other Notes   

The Presidential Range Rail Trail is used by snowmobiles in the winter and is usually groomed.

Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range from the Tudor Richards viewing platform
(photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range from the Tudor Richards viewing platform (photo by Webmaster)

About Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge   

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is a tract of preserved land of about 6,000 acres located in Whitefield and Jefferson, New Hampshire. It offers scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, and protection of important habitats.

The refuge encloses Cherry Pond (100 acres), Little Cherry Pond (25 acres), Mud Pond (3 acres), and Moorhen Marsh. Johns River and Stanley Slide Brook (a.k.a. Stanley Brook or Slide Brook) pass through the refuge, as do several foot trails, a couple rail trails, and even an active railroad (New Hampshire Central Railroad).

The Presidential Range Rail Trail at
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
(photo by Webmaster)
The Presidential Range Rail Trail at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge (photo by Webmaster)
The property can be accessed via several trails: the Pondicherry Rail Trail, the Presidential Range Rail Trail, Slide Brook Trail (part of the long-distance Cohos Trail), Colonel Whipple Trail (also part of the Cohos Trail), and Mud Pond Trail. The rail trails allow snowmobile traffic in the winter; otherwise all trails are open to foot travel only. Mud Pond Trail is reportedly handicapped accessible – I only hiked it during the winter so I can't confirm that for sure but it certainly seemed like it would be in the non-snow seasons. Unlike the other access points, Mud Pond Trail does not connect into the rest of the trail network.

Popular activities include bird watching, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, nature study, photography, and hunting (excluding Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond and the area between them).

The scenery is stunning. The views from the shores of Cherry Pond include the Presidential, Pliny, Crescent, and Dartmouth mountain ranges as well as Cherry Mountain. The Tudor Richards viewing platform at Cherry Pond offers a comfortable spot from which to enjoy the vista and watch for birds. There are vast tracts of beautiful wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail, and the surrounding mountains are visible from these areas too. Little Cherry Pond and Mud Pond are also equipped with viewings platforms.

With its proximity to the White Mountain National Forest, the refuge serves as a wildlife corridor as well as preserving its many important habitats. Over 200 species of birds have been identified at the refuge and a heron rookery exists on the west side of Little Cherry Pond. Links to checklists of the various animals at Pondicherry are included below. Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge also supports lots of interesting flora such as pitcher plants, creeping snowberry, trillium, leatherleaf, and rhodora.

Pondicherry is a Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and it is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game. A local Friends group also plays a role in the management of the refuge, and the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails has specific jurisdiction for the rail trails.

Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Checklists   

Click on the following links to see lists of species that have been spotted at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.


Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Property Use Guidelines   

The refuge is open to the public during daylight hours. Please, for the protection of the area and its inhabitants, and for everyone's enjoyment:

  • No camping or fires permitted.
  • Carry out all trash and litter.
  • Do not collect or disturb plants or animals.
  • Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash or under the control of the owner at all times.
  • Hunting is allowed on the refuge in accordance with state regulations. Be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season. Hunting is not allowed between Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond.
  • Foot travel only on Little Cherry Pond Trail.
  • Bicycles and horses are allowed on the rail trail only.
  • No motor vehicles allowed in spring, summer, and fall.
  • Snowmobiles and cross-country skiers share the rail trail in winter – use caution when crossing trails.
  • Be prepared for uneven walking. Trails may be wet, and the boardwalks will be slippery when wet.

The Presidential Mountain Range from the Presidential Range Rail Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
The Presidential Mountain Range from the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)

More Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Trail Reports   

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Cherry Mountain, taken from the wetlands area on the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Mountain, taken from the wetlands area on the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)
 

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