Black birch on the Tree ID Trail (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Ridge Trail blaze - red on white (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Fox State Forest
Black Gum Swamp and Mud Pond

Areas:  Fox State Forest: Black Gum Swamp, Mud Pond
Trails:  Ridge Trail, Swamp Trail, Molly J. Swamp Trail, Bible Hill Road, Rabbit Trail, Fisher Cat Trail, Tree Identification Trail, Valley Road, Concord End Road, Gould Pond Road, Mud Pond Road, Mud Pond Trail
Region:  NH - Southwest  
Fox State Forest
Location:  Hillsborough, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Black gum trees, brooks, pond, bog, swamp, virgin forest, tree identification trail, loop hike
Distance:  Approximately 8.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Minimal  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:15  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 4:00   Typical: 5:30  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  12/06/2008 (Saturday)  
Weather:  Cold
Author:  Faye Doria
Companions:  Eight SDHers, 2 dogs

Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

Route Summary   

This is a multi-loop hike which visits a black gum (tupelo) swamp, another swamp, a peat pond/bog, and a virgin forest. The two loops depart from opposite sides of the parking area so it's easy to reduce the hike and just do one loop if desired.

The loops are part of a rich trail network, so it is also easy to shorten or otherwise alter this hike; the route described below is just one of many possible variations and covers approximately 8.0 miles. Note that most of the "roads" mentioned are just trail names and are actually woods roads. The "Ridge Trail" discussed makes a loop throughout the forest and often coincides with other trails - you will be hitting it off and on during the hikes described below. It is blazed with red paint on a white background.

Loop 1 - Black Gum Swamp, Molly J. Swamp:
(Approximately 4.5 miles)
  • From the parking lot, follow Ridge Trail for several strides and then cross Center Road (the road you drove in from) to keep following Ridge Trail through the woods on the other side of the street. Ridge Trail loops around the entire Fox State Forest property so be sure to start off in the right direction.
  • At a junction about 0.5 mile from the parking area, Ridge Trail splits. Turn left for now; we will come back via the other leg.
  • After about 0.2 mile, take your next right onto Swamp Trail.
  • When Swamp Trail ends in about 0.1 mile, turn left onto White Cross Trail (may be signed simply Cross Trail) which will bring you past Black Gum Swamp on the right.
  • After about 0.2 mile you'll reach a T-junction with Ridge Trail. Turn right onto Ridge Trail and follow it for about 0.2 mile.
  • At the next junction, Ridge Trail goes left but you should turn right and follow this path for about 0.3 mile until it crosses Harvey Road.
  • Then curve to the right and pick up Ridge Trail again; Ridge Trail also goes straight so watch carefully for this junction; you should be heading west on Ridge Trail.
  • Follow Ridge Trail for about 1.1 miles which will bring you to Molly J. Swamp.
  • Turn left and follow Molly J. Swamp Trail for about 0.3 mile along one side of the swamp.
  • Upon reaching Bible Hill Road, turn right, then after about 0.2 mile, turn right again onto Rabbit Trail which runs along the opposite edge of the swamp.
  • Follow Rabbit Trail for about 0.4 mile until it ends.
  • When you bump into Fisher Cat Trail turn right and follow it for less than 0.1 mile until it meets Ridge Trail.
  • Bear left/straight onto Ridge Trail and follow it for about 0.5 mile until you reach a 3-way junction with Ridge Trail making up each branch. This is the point you were at near the beginning of the hike.
  • Turn left and follow Ridge Trail for about 0.5 mile back to the parking lot.

Tree Twister (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Black gum swamp (photo by Mark Malnati) Black gum swamp (photo by Dennis Marchand)


  Loop 2 - Mud Pond, Virgin Forest:
(Approximately 3.5 miles)
  • From the parking lot, follow the Tree Identification Trail which leaves a short ways to the left of the kiosk. This path ends after barely 0.2 mile but has clear signs identifying many different species of trees along the way.
  • At its end, the ID trail bumps into Ridge Trail. Turn left and follow Ridge Trail for about 0.5 mile.
  • At this point, Ridge Trail makes a sharp turn to the left while Concord End Road goes right/straight (and it also follows Ridge Trail to the left). Bear right to follow Concord End Road, very soon passing a cemetery on the right.
  • Upon reaching a fork after about 0.2 mile, bear right onto Gould Pond Road.
  • Follow Gould Pond Road for about 0.5 mile then turn right onto Mud Pond Road.
  • Follow Mud Pond Road for about 0.6 mile and then turn left onto Mud Pond Trail.
  • After about 0.1 mile you will reach Mud Pond and its boardwalk.
  • When you're finished exploring the pond/bog area, continue on Mud Pond Trail (coming from the boardwalk, turn left) for about 0.3 mile where it will end at Mud Pond Road.
  • Turn right onto Mud Pond Road and follow it for about 0.2 mile which will bring you back to the Mud Pond Road/Mud Pond Trail junction that you were at a short while ago (just before reaching the pond).
  • Turn left to follow the section of Mud Pond Trail that you have not yet traversed.
  • After about 0.3 mile you will again meet Ridge Trail and also a small stand of virgin forest.
  • Ridge Trail goes in both directions; bear left/straight to head back to the parking area.
  • After about 0.3 mile, turn left to keep following Ridge Trail.
  • Another 0.3 mile of walking on Ridge Trail will return you to the parking lot.


Virgin forest (photo by Dennis Marchand) Mud Pond (photo by Mark Malnati)

  Loop 1 - Black Gum Swamp, Molly J. Swamp:
Place         Split
Parking Lot 0.0 0.0
Black Gum Swamp 0.8 0.8
Molly J. Swamp 1.8 2.6
Parking Lot 1.9 4.5

Loop 2 - Mud Pond, Virgin Forest:
Place         Split
Parking Lot 0.0 0.0
Cemetery 0.7 0.7
Mud Pond 1.4 2.1
Virgin Forest 0.8 2.9
Parking Lot 0.6 3.5

Trail map of hike route at Fox State Forest (map courtesy of State of New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands)


Trees (photo by Dennis Marchand)

  Trail Guide   

Fox Forest has 22 miles of trails on nearly 1,500 acres, so there is plenty to explore. My plan was to do two loops of about 3-5 miles each. That way, those who want a shorter hike can drop off after the first loop. Those wanting a longer hike can continue on for a full day's outing.

Berries (photo by Mark Malnati) The first loop includes Black Gum Swamp and the second loop visits a different area of the forest. Both loops can be hilly and muddy. If there is snow, you may want snowshoes or stabilicers.

Eight hikers and two dogs ventured out on a cold morning for this hike at Fox Forest in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Most had never been there before, and I had never hiked the trails, so it was an adventure for all of us. We didn't have a real plan, so it turned into a rather serendipitous eight miles.

First we headed west towards the Black Gum Swamp. Black gum, or black tupelo, trees are quite rare in New Hampshire. They are the oldest known living hardwoods and some in New England are nearly 700 years old. The ones we visited are "only" 400-500 years old. These trees had strong trunks, but not many upper branches, since those fall off in snow or wind. Nearby tree trunks often share a root system, and they expand by cloning, rather than by seeds.

Stone wall (photo by Mark Malnati)

Next, we circled south and back west around the Molly J. Swamp before heading east again. We all agreed the woods were pretty - with easy hills mixed with flatter terrain. It would have been great snowshoeing territory, which was the original plan. We had an inch or two of icy snow about half of the time, making for some interesting walking. And the ground was iced over in some places, while the faster flowing streams were racing along, but starting to have icicles hanging over them on branches.

We found a great spot for lunch on a wooden bridge over a stream. There were other logs nearby to sit on and the sun was shining weakly and we didn't notice much wind. But we also didn't linger too long since we started getting colder as we sat.

Ice forming (photo by Mark Malnati)

We decided to head north before going east to Mud Pond Bog. One hiker headed home (those darn holiday parties!) and the rest of us ended up on a tree identification trail. It was nice to have many different kinds of trees identified - and we were surprised to find about 10 different kind of trees in just a quarter mile. A sampling of the labeled species: poplar, Douglas fir, black birch, hop hornbeam, and basswood.

Mud Pond Bog has peat deposits over 13 feet deep. It would have been more interesting in the spring and summer so that the carnivorous and other plants unique to bogs could be readily spotted. It has a boardwalk out into the bog and to a wildlife blind, so we could see more than just looking from shore.

After another loop, we headed back west to our cars. On the way, we passed an area of virgin forest with eastern hemlock trees over 200 years old. It was on a hill next to another swamp, so it would have been difficult to get to for logging. And then it was uphill back to the cars.

Trees (photo by Dennis Marchand)

All agreed it had been a great day - cold, but not too cold. Interesting terrain with a variety of sights. Enough distance and hills to keep it challenging. Old friends and new friends to catch up with.

There are lots of other not well-known sites around the state that have hiking trails. Go to Click on "Events & Programs", then on "Visiting NH's Biodiversity", and you can download maps and brochures to lots of interesting places. You can even download sheets on rare plants and animals or a list of the 200+ state forests.
Frozen brook with leaves on its bed (photo by Dennis Marchand)


Brook (photo by Dennis Marchand) Brook (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Southwest

  Driving Directions   

The trailheads are located at Fox State Forest Headquarters in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.

From the combined Routes 9 and 202 in Hillsborough:
  • Take the exit for Hillsborough and Fox State Forest. The signs leading up to the exit indicate "Henniker St. to West Main St. - Hillsborough" but just before the actual exit is a sign specifically for "Fox State Forest".
  • At the end of the exit ramp, turn towards town in the direction indicated by the "Fox State Forest" sign.
  • About 1.8 miles from the bottom of the exit ramp, you will reach a set of traffic lights in the center of Hillsborough.
  • At the lights turn right (opposite the junction for Route 149) onto what starts out as School Street and then becomes Center Road.
  • Travel 1.9 miles on School Street/Center Road and then turn right into a parking lot prominently signed as "NH Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Forest and Lands, Fox Forest, Southwest Region Headquarters".
  • Upon pulling into the driveway, turn left to access the large parking area.
  • There is a trail kiosk next to the lot with trail maps and brochures. Trails leave the parking area from both sides of the lot (one side heading across the road) and are are well signed.


SDH near a big V-shaped tree (photo by Dennis Marchand) Mark in front of a big tree (photo by Dennis Marchand)

Start of the Ridge Trail at Fox State Forest (photo by Ben Kimball)

  About Fox State Forest   

Fox State Forest is the State of New Hampshire’s forestry research station. It is operated by the Forest Management Bureau, part of the NH Division of Forests and Lands in the Department of Resources and Economic Development. The forest is managed to study and demonstrate scientific forestry and includes specific trees that have been studied since 1952 as well as a couple wooded plots that are managed as silviculture demonstration areas.

Nyssa sylvatica (black gum) (photo by Ben Kimball) Highlights of Fox State Forest include its Black Gum Swamp (black gum trees are also known as tupelo trees) with trees over 500 years old, Mud Pond Bog which contains peat deposits over 13 feet deep and has a boardwalk for easy access to the bog and its unique plants, and Monroe Hill Tower which provides views locally as well as towards Mount Monadnock. Other points of interest include a small stand of virgin forest, a swamp managed specifically for woodcocks, and a cemetary.

There are 22 miles of trails winding through the 1,445 acres of forest. Ridge Trail, blazed in red on a white background, is a 10-mile loop encircling most of the property. A plethora of other trails intersect it including a short Tree Identification Trail. Brochures and trail maps for the forest are available at the site. The trails are well marked and are fairly easy although they do traverse several small hills.

Fox State Forest was initiated in 1922 when Caroline A. Fox donated 348 acres, including her summer home, as well as a trust fund for the purpose of forest research. Her house still stands by the parking area and serves as the headquarters building. Also at the site is the Dr. Henry I. Baldwin Forestry Education Center which contains a museum and is used for meetings and workshops. The museum is open on Saturdays in July and August.

Property Use Guidelines   

This property is open to the public for recreation and education. Please, for the protection of the area and its inhabitants, and for everyone’s enjoyment:
  • Trails are for multiple-use. Please share with care.
  • No motorized wheeled vehicles on trails.
  • Respect the private property of adjacent landowners.
  • Carry out all trash.
  • Practice low-impact hiking; tread lightly and please don't pick plants or flowers.
  • No camping or open fires are allowed.

Douglas fir tree on the Tree Identification Trail (photo by Dennis Marchand)
  More Fox State Forest Trail Reports   


Deb and Faye on the trail (photo by Dennis Marchand) SDH taking a break (photo by Dennis Marchand)


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