A few of my favorite local go-to spots
These are of varying levels and lengths and are listed in order from easiest to hardest.
1. Colette and Bicknell Brook Trails
A nice lookout along Bicknell Brook
This trail can be accessed from Boys Camp Rd or Grafton Pond Rd. If you start from Boys Camp Rd, you can head down towards Crystal Lake and get a nice view at the lake's edge or you can head up along Bicknell Brook. This eventually gets you to a loop that would bring you to the Grafton Pond Rd parking access. I typically park at Boys Camp Rd and head to Crystal Lake in the warmer months (though be careful anywhere near the rocks on the way down as they are slick!) and head along Bicknell Brook any other time of year. Winter can be especially beautiful when it's not icy! This is an out and back trail that is overall pretty flat so you can make it as short or long as you'd like. This website has some great info on many of these hikes and says it's 3 miles from the Grafton Pond Rd lot to Crystal Lake. I usually go from Boys Camp Rd to where the loop begins then turn back and it is just around 2 miles.
View of Bicknell Brook along the way
2. Cole Pond
A short walk to Cole Pond
This is a very short (1 mile to Cole Pond) out and back hike with just a little elevation gain and some nice scenery when you get to Cole Pond. This trail gets super soggy in the spring and after summer rains so plan accordingly. Trail access is from Bog Rd and you will see a sign for where to park.
3. Big Dog Falls
Big Dog Falls in spring
This hike took me two attempts to get to Big Dog Falls; the first time there was still some snow on the trails that made for some tough passes and a porcupine riled up the dogs. Getting to the parking area took some trust in the directions; you go behind the Lakeview Condos following Marsten Lane beyond the condos and staying to the left (there is a private house to the right). I took the lower falls trail the first time which stayed along the brook the whole way, but lost the trail a few times due to moderate trail marking and little foot traffic. The second time I followed the grass path up beyond the gate to the sign for Big Dog Falls, this was much quicker though less scenic. There is not much elevation gain, but the trail is rocky and I would recommend waterproof shoes when hiking in the spring. This trail eventually goes on to Smith Pond which I have yet to do, but it's on my list. I have heard the falls dry up in the summer so I would highly recommend getting out to Big Dog Falls soon!
A view along the lower trail
4. Shaker Mountain Trails
A summery view looking over the Shaker Village and Mascoma Lake with Cardigan Mountain beyond
These are some of my favorite go to trails, dogs can be off leash and I rarely see anyone else here when I go. Parking is on Rt 4A across from Keene Medical Products, there is a gravel drive with parking that is part of Enfield Fish and Game (there is a map at this parking area). The map can be helpful to give you a lay of the land, but the trails are not well marked to know which trail you are on though (most) all trails are well traveled. If you know the trails well enough you can make a variety of loops throughout. A simple loop I like that gives you a little climbing of elevation and a great view of Mascoma Lake is to start on the trail past the gate, stay right at the fork and the grade will climb up, as the grade levels take the first main trail to the right just past the top of the field, then head back down the field from the far end. Follow the trails through the field and once at the bottom of the field head through the woods or around the Shaker building to get back to the parking area.
A view from the very top of the Shaker Field looking south
5. Mt. Cardigan
The granite top offers sweeping 360 degree views on a clear day
Although technically in Orange, it is just beyond Canaan and is so worth the drive. Access the parking area from Mt Cardigan Rd off of Rt 118 from Canaan's town center. The hike starts off pretty easy and then climbs to just above 3,000 ft with the final climb being on exposed granite on the West Ridge Trail. I have also started on the West Ridge trail then gone onto the South Ridge trail; this has some great views and feels a little less steep. Once at the top take in the views and make sure you've packed a few snacks to enjoy. In the warmer summer months, I recommend and early start to beat the heat and the crowds at the top. West Ridge trail is 1.5 miles to the top and typically takes me right around an hour.
So there you have it, a few of my favorite go-to hikes that are easy, accessible and offer great views in all seasons especially spring and summer!
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