Rainy Spring Hike in Southern NH

Hiking into Spalding Town Forest from Silver Lake State Park

Starting from Silver Lake State Park, a network of hiking trails spreads out through Spalding Town Forest, entering conservation land, looping around Parker Pond and traversing the edge of Dunklee Pond. There are some really interesting wetland areas to explore and lots of chances to see wildlife. The trails are doubletrack (flat, wide and graded) and would be very accessible/easy for hikers and bikers of all abilities. There are many trails to explore here including some singletrack that branches off the main routes offering possible mountain bike terrain. On a recent rainy day I chose to do the loop around Parker Pond and along the edge of Dunklee Pond which turned out to be about 4.5 miles.

Parking lot at Silver Lake State Park
Parking lot at Silver Lake State Park

Silver Lake State Park/Spalding Town Forest Trails Hike Info:
Parking: Located off of Route 122 in Hollis, NH. Trails start from the parking lot at Silver Lake State Park and enter Hollis Town Forest Conservation Land (Spalding Town Forest).
Hiking Distance (Parker Pond Loop): 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy (flat doubletrack trails)
Trail Maps:  Hollis Trails Committee – Town Forest Area Trails Map (pdf)   |   Silver Lake State Park Trails Map (pdf)
Additional maps are posted throughout the trails (by Hollis NorEasters Snowmobile Club) along with junction markers.

Before starting your hike its worth crossing the street to briefly explore the shores of Silver Lake and walk the little trails loop that starts and ends at the State Park beach. It provides some interesting views of the lake and incentive for coming back during warmer month for picnicking and swimming.

Silver Lake State Park Beach Area
Silver Lake State Park Beach Area
There is a short trail loop starting behind the beach area.
Short trail loop starting behind the beach area.

From the gate at the back corner of the parking lot, make your way into Spalding Town Forest Conservation Land. After about a half mile you’ll come to the first junction where you’ll find a trail map, junction marker and other info posted by the Hollis NorEasters Snowmobile Club. These junction markers and maps (posted throughout the trail system) are quite helpful for navigating and getting your bearings throughout the hike. At the first junction, head straight on the Parker Pond Trail.

Trails into Spalding Town Forest start at this gate at the back of the Silver Lake parking lot.
Trails into Spalding Town Forest start at this gate at the back of the Silver Lake parking lot.
Trail leading into Spalding Town Forest
Trail leading into Spalding Town Forest
Helpful trail maps and junction markers posted by the Hollis NorEasters Snowmobile Club
Helpful trail maps and junction markers are posted throughout the trail network by the Hollis NorEasters Snowmobile Club

Right away I was amazed by the abundance of mountain laurel throughout the forest and alongside the trail. This is definitely one of my favorite plants as its bony delicate form is reminiscent of Japanese bonsai. It also provides a spattering of brilliant green foliage against the otherwise brown forest floor. These plants were found in abundance all throughout this hike and turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

Wet, green mountain laurel plants really pop against the brown landscape
Wet, green mountain laurel plants really pop against the brown landscape
Delicate, bony form of the mountain laurel plants in the mist lend atmosphere to the hike
Delicate, bony form of the mountain laurel plants in the mist lend atmosphere to the hike

After about another half mile you’ll come up to the edge of Parker Pond and get some views down to the water. Bony, dead trees poke up through the surface of the pond providing some unique habitat for birds and also making for some interesting compositions to photograph.

Parker Pond Trail runs along the edge of Parker Pond
Parker Pond Trail along the edge of Parker Pond
Rain and fog on Parker Pond
Rain and fog on Parker Pond

If you wander off the trail to the water’s edge you’ll also notice an old wrecked car on the shore of the pond. Some may take offense to seeing such ‘junk’ in the middle of a conservation area but I found it to be an interesting artifact to ponder and certainly made me interested in learning more about the history of this property.

Old, wrecked automobile on the shore of Parker Pond
Old, wrecked automobile on the shore of Parker Pond

From here the trail continues on through a tunnel of hemlock trees and veers to the right and away from the pond. After another half mile you’ll come up on the next trail junction. Stay left here to continue around Parker Pond.

Section of trail lined with Hemlock trees
Section of trail lined with Hemlock trees

More and more through this section, I started to notice and appreciate the numerous stone walls that crisscross the property and sprawl out through the forest. There are tons of them to see along this route in varying states of form. Some of the walls are still tightly stacked while others are just mounded piles of rocks. Seeing an abundance of these rock walls is always a great reminder of our agricultural heritage and certainly lends an additional element of visual interest to the hike.

Many stone walls line the trails throughout the forest
Many stone walls line the trails throughout the forest

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At the bottom of a hill you’ll pass a gate and walk through another small wetland area with some more unique habitat surrounding a tiny pond and crossing over a small stream before reaching the next junction.

Walk around the gate and through another small wetland area
Walk around the gate and through another small wetland area
Walking along the edge of small wetland area (between junctions H9 and H10)
Walking along the edge of a small wetland area (between junctions H9 and H10)

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Stay left at trail junction H10 and head towards Dunklee Pond
Stay left at trail junction H10 and head towards Dunklee Pond

Stay left again at this junction and head towards Dunklee Pond. You’ll soon come to another junction where you’ll want to stay left again to continue on the Parker Pond Loop. Dunklee Pond lies just on the other side of the gate at this junction and before continuing down the trail to the left it is worth walking down the hill and across the dam to the water’s edge to briefly take in the view looking out across the pond. There is a neat little clearing here with a small bench offering visitors a chance to pause and take in the surroundings.

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The trail veers left here but some great view of Dunklee Pond are just beyong this gate.
The trail veers left here but some great views of Dunklee Pond are just beyond this gate.
View from the edge of Dunklee Pond
View from the edge of Dunklee Pond

After getting a view of the pond, make your way back toward the gate and continue on the Parker Pond Loop. Pretty soon the trail comes up onto a ridge where Dunklee Pond will be on your right and a black spruce swamp on your left. I learned about these floating communities from one of the Discover the Power of Parks Interpretive Rangers a few years ago at Greenfield State Park and was excited to see them again here. They are very distinct in how they look – with black spruce trees and other shrubs growing on a dense mat of sphagnum moss on top of the water.

Walking the ridge next to Dunklee Pond and a cool floating community
Walking the ridge next to Dunklee Pond and a cool black spruce swamp
View of a floating community through the trees
View of the black spruce swamp floating community through the trees

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Continue straight for the final stretch of the hike. You’ll pass one more marshy open area on your right, enter the forest again and then end up back at the first junction for the Parker Pond loop where the hike began.

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Overall this was a very pleasant hike and one that I also thought would make for a great running loop since it goes on mostly flat and easy double track the whole way.

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Hiking in the rain made the experience even better since the mist created a slightly mysterious atmosphere and provided some extra visual interest. The wetness of the forest made the landscape feel more vibrant and the green of the mountain laurel really popped against the otherwise brown backdrop. There also were no other people on the trail making this solitary adventure a chance to travel inward and restore my sense of peace and calm.

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While the trails start and end at Silver Lake State Park, they are primarily maintained by the Hollis Trail Committee and the Hollis NorEaster Snowmobile Club. This is a great offering for visitors to Silver Lake State Park’s beach in the summer and solid option for hiking in Southern, NH.

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Grant Klene

Digital Marketing Manager for New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation

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