Mast Yard State Forest & Lehtinen Park

• 4-star hike
• 4 mile loop (and alternatives)
• Easy difficulty | Elevation gain 40 feet
• Merrimack | Hopkinton NH & Concord NH
Google Map | KML | Horse Trailhead | Broad Trailhead

NH Heroes Recreational Crossing on the Rail Trail

The Eastern white pines that grew here along the Contoocook River near Concord provided highly prized timber used as masts on nineteenth century ocean-going vessels. There’s also a history lesson here about how protests against British law reserving the best timber for the British Royal Navy fleet led to the Pine Tree Riot, which may have been inspiration for the Boston Tea Party, but this is a hiking website and not a history website.

Today the Mast Yard State Forest area is much quieter. No lumberjacks were to be seen, and over a space of four hours this hiker happened only across one hunting bowman and a couple walking a dog. Probably for the best however in case they wondered what a British person (me) was doing surveying the former mast yards of New Hampshire.

For us the highlight of the area is the two mile hiking trail following the banks of the Conoocook River. We’ve mapped out two different looping routes that start from different trailheads but both include the river trail:

• Riverside & Rail Loop (4.0 mi, 40 ft) - Combines the river trail with 1.7 miles of rail trail, beginning at a trailhead on Horse Hill Road. The rail trail return is completely straight and mostly featureless, but the NN Heroes bridge near the Horse Hill Road trailhead might be worth checking out.

• Mast Yard Loop (5.3 mi, 70 ft) – From the Broad Cove Drive trailhead follow the wide trail into the woods, past the open power line corridor and over the small bridge at Dolf Brook. Hang a right at the junction and take a counter clockwise loop up to the narrow river trail. There’s some more power line trail to traverse before reaching the river trail, where in summer the high grass will be brushing your legs.

On the river trail.

Under the power line corridor on the Mast Yard Loop.

We’d have rated the mast yard trails and the straight rail trail as a 3-star, but because of the scenic meandering river trail we upped it to a 4-star review. Also note that we recommend counter clockwise routes as the river trail can difficult to pick up on the West side due to a mess of logging roads.

Due to its mostly level terrain these trails can also be used as a non-technical mountain bike route. We had great fun on our hybrid bicycle at slow speeds, particularly on the river trail.

Google Map | KML | Horse Trailhead | Broad Trailhead

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