NH Family Hikes

The SPNHF Forest Reservation Challenge: An Introductory Guide


Not willing to be overshadowed by famous challenges like the AMC's 4000-footers, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests offered up its own personal entry into the canon of New Hampshire hiking lists in 2017. Calling it the "Forest Reservation Challenge", they compiled a list of 33 of their favorite publicly promoted conservation properties in all regions of New Hampshire in an effort to attract visitors to some of their lesser-known reservations, in which there are found many scenic gems. The society will award a patch to finishers of the list, who can earn it in one of two ways. The classic method to earn the patch is to simply visit all the properties on the list, while a second and more family-oriented way is to visit all properties in any one of NH's seven scenic regions and answer trivia-style questions about each one. In actuality, the entire concept of the list is family friendly; unlike most hiking challenges, where you must reach a summit in order to log a visit, the "FRC" requires you only to capture a photo of yourself on a specified location on the property. In most cases, this location is merely the signpost welcoming you to the reservation (or another feature at a trailhead), giving you the option to choose the level of exploration you will devote to each one. Many of the properties do have multiple points of interest worth visitng, and the amount of time and effort you spend at each one will depend on your own preferences of what you want to see. You may also notice that several properties are most notable for a feature that is not associated with the Forest Society; these include Mt. Monadnock, Lost River, The Rocks Estate, and Black Mountain. Occasionally this means that our recommended hike for a property will include some features that are outside the property itself. However you choose to explore this list, you are sure to discover some local gems that most haven't. We guarantee you will be impressed by the northern beauty of the Kauffmann Forest, the pristine solace of Grafton Pond, the expansive lake vista from the Morse Preserve, and many others.

You can find all of the Forest Society's featured properties here on NH Family Hikes, but you will find them grouped in a neater arrangement on this page. In addition to our suggestions on how to get started with your quest, you will find a table with information on each property. Click on a row in the table to visit our guide for our recommended hike on that particular property. This is by no means a complete reference, but we think it's a suitable reference for beginners. Please note there exist a variety of options for exploring each property, but we present our one recommended route and destination(s) for each one.

Working on the List

Since the Forest Reservation Challenge is unique in that it has such loose requirements for visiting each property, the amount of time it takes you to finish the list will depend on how much time you want to spend to finish the list. The majority of the properties on the list have much for visitors to discover, and you have your choice of checking off multiple properties in one trip or getting a fuller experience from just one or two in a day. Do some research ahead of time to decide which properties look most interesting and worth exploring completely to you.


Please visit the SPNHF website for information about how to receive your achievement patch when you finish. Don't forget that you are required to submit specific images from each property, so download their spreadsheet and make note of what is required at each one.

Quick Info

The following table lists route statistics for each of our selected hikes within the forest reservations. As previously stated, it is not necessary to follow these exact routes to qualify for visiting it on the FRC. Consult the Forest Society website to find other options for exploring each one. Difficulty listed here is subjective and relative to this set of hikes; it is not a general classification. Click on any row to view our guide for that hike.

Name Town Round-trip Distance Elevation Gain Difficulty Special/Unique Features
Ashuelot River Headwaters ForestLempster1.2 mi550 feetMediumScenic grassy ledges. Panoramic views.
Bockes Memorial ForestHudson/Londonderry0.5 mi0 feetEasierSmall forest tract in developed area.
Bretzfelder ParkBethlehem0.4 mi60 feetEasierGreat for picnicking.
Buxton Forest/Simons PreserveWeare3.2 mi500 feetMediumClearing with views of the White Mountains. Extensive wetlands.
Champlin ForestRochester2.5 miles120 feetEasierTwo former dam sites. Old quarry.
Creek FarmPortsmouth1.5 mi0 feetEasierPretty seaside scenes. Historical sites. Variety of forest scenery.
Cockermouth ForestGroton4.1 mi1400 feetHarderHistoric old roads and farm sites. Several excellent ledge viewpoints.
Cooper Cedar WoodsNew Durham0.7 mi0 feetEasierBoardwalk exploring cedar swamp environment.
Dame ForestDurham0.9 mi120 feetEasierSeveral marshes.
Dana ForestDalton2.4 mi200 feetEasierHistoric gold mine. Beautiful spruce forest.
Gap Mountain ReservationJaffrey/Troy3.2 mi700 feetMediumBlueberry-filled fields. Up-close view of Mt. Monadnock.
Grafton Pond ReservationGrafton0.6 mi40 feetEasierUndeveloped lake with mountain views.
Hay ReservationNewbury1.8 mi550 feetEasierNice forested ledges with lake view.
Heald TractWilton/Temple1.7 mi0 feetEasierTranquil pond.
High Five ReservationDeering0.7 mi100 feetEasierOpen grassy hilltop with wide views.
High Watch PreserveEffingham3.6 mi1370 feetHarderPanoramic views from fire tower.
Hutchins ForestCanterbury1.5 mi0 feetEasierQuiet forest walk along a brook.
Kauffmann ForestStark4.8 mi1090 feetHarderLedge views in two directions. Beautiful lake. Northern forest scenery.
Kingsbury Timber-Chippewa Trail LotBenton3.6 mi1730 feetHarderHistoric lime kilns. Many excellent ledge viewpoints.
Lost River ReservationWoodstock1.7 mi880 miHarderWide view of Kinsman Notch. Interesting forest fire regrowth environment.
Madame Sherri ForestChesterfield4.3 mi950 feetMediumInteresting forested cliffs. Pastoral views of Connecticut River. Pleasant pond.
McCabe ForestAntrim2 mi0 feetEasierPeaceful scenes on the banks of the Contoocook River.
Merrimack River Conservation AreaConcord1.5 miles0 feetEasierPeaceful scenes along the Merrimack River. Pretty silver maple grove
Merriman ForestSandwich1.3 mi650 feetMediumSteep rocky terrain. Wide lake views from ledge.
Monadnock ReservationJaffrey/Dublin5.6 mi1700 feetHarderHistoric road. Spring. Far-reaching views from many viewpoints. Huge expanse of ledges. 3rd most hiked mountain in the world.
Monson CenterMilford/Hollis2.3 mi220 feetEasierCellar holes and historical sites from 18th-centure colony.
Moose Mountains ReservationMiddleton/Brookfield3.6 mi1100 feetMediumLoop hike with two low, rocky viewpoints. Scenic forests and boulders. Historic farm site.
Morse PreserveAlton1.3 mi300 feetEasierOpen grassy environment. Exceptional views of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Reney ForestGrantham1.3 mi350 feetMediumWoods roads and snowmobile trail.
The Rocks EstateBethlehem0.8 mi50 feetEasierHistoric Christmas tree farm. Beautiful mountain views.
Washburn ForestClarksville0.7 mi0 feetEasierScenic spot on the bank of the Connecticut River.
Weeks WoodsGilford1.8 mi250 feetEasierLogging activity. View from open field.
Welch Family Farm and ForestHancock0.9 mi100 feetEasierHistoric farm site.

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