Fox Forest, Hillsborough NH

• 4-star hike
• 2.8 to 6.2 mile options
• Easy difficulty | Gain 350 to 1,010 feet
• Hillsborough, NH | Monadnock Region
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Boardwalk viewing kiosk at Mud Pond Bog.

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Fox Forest is the state of New Hampshire's forestry research station and features 22 miles of trails within its 1,500 acre woodland plot just North of the town of Hillsborough.

The public is welcome on the trails, and to explore features that include a small plot of virgin forest and a viewing platform on Monroe Hill. The research center buildings include a museum of forestry memorabilia, but it is only open during the annual field day and at other times upon request.

No Ridge, Mud Pond blue icon Harvey Cutoff yellow icon So Ridge Expand Map

Mud Pond Loop 3★
2.8 mi, Loop, Easy, Gain 350ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

This shorter loop sticks to some of the flatter terrain in the park, leading past the virgin forest, a pond viewpoint and on to the Mud Pond which includes a boardwalk and a screened-in kiosk for wildlife viewing during the buggiest season.

The virgin forest is a small pocket of forest believed to have never seen an axe, featuring a stand of Easter Hemlock and hardwood trees that are over two hundred years old.

Mud Pond Bog reportedly contains peat deposits up to 30 feet in depth, so you'll probably want to stick to the boardwalk by the shore. There's a great interpretive sign illustrating the wetland's unique flora and fauna. The last section of trail to Mud Pond is quite light - if you find an unmarked trail fork, stay to the left and follow our map (the right-hand goes nowhere, but I've fallen for it twice already).

On the quiet Ridge Trail you'll likely find trees are your only company.

North Ridge Loop 4★
6.2 mi, Loop, Easy, Gain 1,010ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

This longer loop of the Northern side of the park includes a hike up the tallest hills, and includes a viewing platform with partial views towards Crotched Mountain. The route shares an outbound journey past the virgin forest to Mud Pond Bog, then continues on a counter-clockwise tour of Fox Forest's perimeters and towards Monroe Hill. The Ridge Trail eschews switchbacks and instead takes a direct route up and down several hilly slopes. Take care in wet weather and fallen leaves as this makes the gradients somewhat slippery.

The Monroe Hill tower was something of an anti-climax for us - less than a dozen steps to a viewing platform from where you can see the profile of distant hills and mountains. We wish the stewards of this trail would at least remove some of the taller brush that diminishes the view despite the increased height of the platform.

The lightly-traveled Ridge Trail can be hard to follow sometimes. The red-on-white blazes are often just too far apart to be useful, and there are several criss-crossing trails and old farm roads, so we'd recommend carrying GPS navigation and using our downloadable route map.

Straining for views on the Monroe Hill viewing platform.

yellow icon South Ridge Loop 2★
5.2 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 520ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

Trails on the south side of the road have fewer features to offer, but you are more likely to have the whole forest to yourself. You'll find yourself surrounded by verdant evergreen trees, and its particularly pleasant to find such greenery in New Hampshire's fallow seasons when other trails may appear somewhat barren.

Maintainance isn't great on this lower half of Fox Forest however, so expect to be stepping around many fallen branches while having to keep a careful eye out for the continuing trail. The lack of maintenance is so lacking on the furthest part of the trail that we recommend you take the Harvey Road cut-off route instead. It was difficult to follow the trail close to the southern perimeter and if it wasn't for the bright painted blazes on the trees and our smartphone directions we don't think we'd have been able to follow it. For this reason alone we give this loop two stars.

blue icon Harvey Cutoff 3★
4.5 mi, Loop, Easy, Gain 430ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

This is our preferred route on the south half of Fox Forest, combining the best sections of the South Ridge Trail and some abandoned and overgrown local roads that make for easier hiking.

Small creek crossing, heading out towards the Mud Pond Bog.

fungi clinging to trees
Fungi clinging to trees.

• Trail Links: Official map (PDF)
• Public Maps at AllTrails: North Ridge Loop, South Loop
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

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