Thursday, May 22, 2014


I undertook three short hikes on either side of a one-night trip down to Cape Cod for a family visit.


On Monday morning I wandered over a few of the many fine trails maintained by the City of Concord on the western slopes of Oak Hill in the Oak Hill City Forest. The best parking is at the northern of the two trailheads on Shaker Road, where there is room for quite a few vehicles.

The trails are well-marked with signs and color-coded blazes.

Typical Oak Hill trail - nice woods and good footing.

I wanted to check the newly created viewpoint on the Vista Way trail, located above the former viewing spot.

Mt. Kearsarge is prominent in the view from here.

Ragged Mountain, too. And Mt. Cardigan can be seen way off to the north.

Fringed Polygala was blooming along the trail.


After a quick 1.6 mile loop, I drove over to the other side of Oak Hill to the old gravel road that provides the traditional route to the 990-ft. summit and its fire tower. Parking is tight here, limited to the shoulder of Oak Hill Road directly across from the entrance to the fire tower road. The distance listed on the sign is round trip.

The highlight of this hike was the delightful unmarked but well-used side path that leaves the gravel road on the left, about half way up.

This path leads 0.4 mile at easy grades to a terrific quartzite outlook ledge on the SW slope of the hill. This is the finest spot I've seen on Oak Hill.

The view includes North Pack Monadnock on the L and Crotched Mountain and Mt. Monadnock on the R.

You can also see the city of Concord, with the gold-domed State House just R of center.

Back on the fire tower road, which has mostly easy grades along its 1.3 mile length.

The Oak Hill fire tower, built in 1928.

Stairs with a message.

Looking down from the upper level. Unfortunately the views from the tower are now largely restricted by tree growth.

The most open view is to the west.

A piece of farm machinery at the edge of the summit clearing. Oak Hill was mostly pastureland a hundred years ago.

A patch of violets alongside the fire tower road.


After a great overnight visit with my sister and brother-in-law on the Cape, on Tuesday I rambled across northern Massachusetts and at noontime made my way to the entrance to Miller State Park on Rt. 101 in Peterborough. I'd never climbed (South) Pack Monadnock before, so these were all new trails to me. I went up via the Wapack Trail, which was reputed to have some pretty rocky footing.

Near the start the trail crosses the auto road that winds up to the summit.

Right after crossing the road, the Wapack Trail climbs steeply up a rough jumble of rocks.

These metamorphic ledges show some interesting layering.

Within a few minutes I was rewarded with my first view of iconic Mt. Monandnock.

In a short distance there was another nice vantage point.

Fine rock step work. The 21-mile Wapack Trail is admirably maintained by the dedicated volunteers of the Friends of the Wapack. I wore my FOW baseball cap today, which I received as a Christmas present. The Friends publish a great guidebook that comes with a waterproof GPS-surveyed trail map.

A double yellow triangle indicates a turn in the trail.

At the top of the 1.4 mile climb, where you emerge from the woods, there's another view of Monadnock.

On the west side of the summit is this neat stone shelter (day use only).

I went 0.1 mile down the northbound Wapack to catch the northern views.

This open area is the site of Audubon hawk watches during fall migration.

 It was a spectacular spring day, with endless views under puffy clouds.

North Pack Monadnock, another fine peak, is seen close by to the north, with its great South Cliff well-displayed. A number of White Mountain peaks were visible over the left slope of North Pack.

Mt. Kearsarge could be seen behind Crotched Mountain. There were also good western views into Vermont.

After a long spell enjoying the views, I followed the Summit Loop Trail (also known as the Red Circle Trail) through interesting woods around the upper flank of the mountain.

On the east side of the mountain is the Joanne Bass Bross Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The Loop Trail meandered through some freshly greening oak woods.

It ends up on the east side of the summit and a famous view spot.

The Boston viewing area. It's a good day when you can see the White Mountains and the Boston skyline from the same peak.

The buildings of Beantown.

A partial view south along the peaks of the Wapack Range.

Mt. Wachusett (L) and Mt. Watatic (R), which is at the south end of the Wapack Trail.

From here I followed a spur trail to the east, which just two weeks earlier had been extended to a new viewpoint by the Friends of the Wapack.

This was a delightful, lightly-traveled footpath.

The spruce knoll for which the spur trail was named.

A vast eastern horizon, including the cities of Manchester and Boston.

Along the trail was this marker at the border between the towns of Peterborough and Temple.

In looking at the Wapack trail map text, I saw that there was a viewpoint not far down along the trail heading towards North Pack.

Another wide view to the east and northeast.

The twin Uncanoonuc Mountains (L) and the distant Pawtuckaway Mountains (R).

Finally I headed up into the fire tower at the summit, which was casting a long evening shadow.

I was very disappointed to see that a huge cell tower blocked the nifty view south along the Wapack Range. Allowing this travesty to be erected on the summit of South Pack, in its oldest state park, belongs in the state of New Hampshire's Hall of Shame, along with the monstrosity of a tower that the state allowed to be built on the summit of Mt. Kearsarge.

But what a view to the north!

Perhaps the best view anywhere of North Pack.

Backlit clouds over Monadnock.

The Pack Monadnock tower, in service from 1939 to 1981, according to A Field Guide to New Hampshire Firetowers, by Iris W. Baird and Chris Haartz.

I descended by the blue-blazed Marion Davis Trail, an earlier route of the Wapack Trail.

This led through an oak-dominated hardwood forest all the way down.

Neat cliffs along the Marion Davis Trail. The Pack Monadnocks offer some of the best hiking in southern New Hampshire.


  1. Nice report, Steve. I've never hiked in any of these places, but I've often wondered if the Pack Monadnocks are worth the trip. They obviously are! I'll have to head up there some time.

    1. Thanks, BC! The Packs are definitely one of the best hiking destinations in southern NH.


  2. Hi Steve, Great report and info. I'm from southern NH and have never heard of Oak Hill. Concord is only 40 minutes away from home for me and 20 minutes away from work, so I'll need to explore that sometime. Seems like a quick after work hike might fit this area perfectly. Your pics of Pack Monadnock are great as well. It's been only list for a while!


    1. Thanks, Karl - there's some nice walking at Oak Hill, and that quartzite ledge is a fine spot. That was my first time up Pack Monadnock, and I really enjoyed it.