Some have deemed Monadnock as New Hampshire’s “cultural corner.” Others, like myself, have a hard time spelling the name. But, once you get past the iffy phonics, the region is quite lovely. This southwestern corner of the state had me exploring miles of forest, castle ruins, and one of the best campgrounds I’ve seen yet.
Chesterfield Gorge Natural Area
Unsurprisingly, Chesterfield Gorge is in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Tucked right off the Franklin Pierce Highway, there is a small parking lot. Two paths lead you towards the base of the gorge, and near the top, the paths aren’t gated, so plenty of kids (and canines) were shaking off the heat in the trickling stream.
As I descended, I watched the gorge unfold alongside me. There is no way to grasp the enormity of it until you have landed on the bridge at the base of the behemoth. The paths are short, easy, and well maintained. I would also vouch for the surrounding forest, it’s enveloping, but the trees are dispersed enough to dispel any sense of fear. The few trails that lead into it are short but worth the extra few minutes if you want to see fungi overpowering old logs.
Pisgah State Park
Thick swaths of forest run between Chesterfield and Hinsdale, New Hampshire, bursting with hidden treasure. To the east, Pisgah State Park stretches northward. When combined with nearby state and town forests, the park encompasses over 13,000 acres, which means there is quite a bit to explore. I only had an afternoon, and so I picked a trail and headed out. Pisgah has many different entrances, so I recommend finding a trail or two in advance and following your GPS to the trailhead.
Side Trip: Madame Sherri Forest
To the west of Pisgah, in between Bear Mountain State Forest and Wantastiquet Mountain Natural Area, I found Madame Sherri Forest. The Ann Stokes Loop Trail led me through the old stomping grounds of Madame Antoinette Sherri, a costume designer from Paris who used to own a summer home on the grounds. The trail ends at the ruins of her old chateau, and while they are crumbling, it is still quite the sight as you’re walking through the woods.
Greenfield State Park
With over 250 campsites, Greenfield State Park, located in, you guessed it, Greenfield, boasts one of the biggest campgrounds in the system. It’s the perfect little getaway; there is swimming, hiking, and the prettiest camp store I have seen yet, imagine an A-Frame log cabin nestled into a looming forest.
Otter Lake is the main attraction, but there are also trails that lead out and around Hogback Pond. So, make sure you turn your trip into an overnight — you won’t regret it. Odin is the park ranger on duty, or at least, I wish he was. He belongs to the park manager, Alec, and you might see them riding around in a big green pickup while you set up camp.
The main day-use beach has little hideaways sectioned off by trees. Venturing through a few of them, I met so many campers who say that Greenfield is the best place to camp in the area. The location is unbeatable; if you stay for a few nights you’re close enough to Miller, Pisgah, and Monadnock State Parks for a few exciting day trips.
Reservation tip: I was told by park staff that Site #226 has the best view, and a quick trip over backed up the claim. It overlooks a cute pond and is tucked far back into the woods.
Miller State Park
Miller State Park is the oldest state park in New Hampshire, and it sits on Pack Monadnock in Peterborough. There are a few trails up to the summit, which is a magical little place overlooking the surrounding mountains. There are picnic benches tucked into pockets of moss and wildflowers, and the lush foliage up top make it an experience unlike many of the barefaced granite mountains you will find nearby.
But, the best part of my visit was not the lovely view, it was all the people I met. Everyone on the trail, up top, and down below, was in the mood to chat. Apparently, this park has regulars. Some people come a few times a week just to get their steps in; don’t be afraid to join them!
Monadnock State Park
You’ve probably heard of this one, but for those of you who haven’t, Monadnock State Park sits on Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey. Monadnock rises 3,165 feet, earning its rightful place on the 52 With a View list. This couple was able to cross it off their list last week!
Monadnock is popular, but during the week, the crowds thin out. I checked out the adjacent Gilson Pond Campground, which did not disappoint. I was told by staff that if you’re going to book a remote spot, try to get R4. So, I took a quick detour through the woods and checked it out. It’s remote, so privacy and adventure await, but the most impressive feature is this remnant of a chimney that you can use for campfires! Also, this forest smells like a Bath & Bodyworks candle; a camper’s dream come true?