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"Nestled beneath the mountains north of the Presidential Range,   
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge has often been called one of the 'crown jewels' 
of New Hampshire's landscape . . . The ponds, wetlands, and forests of this refuge
support a wide variety of significant ecological features."
~ Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge website
We can thank our friend Eric for another great recommendation for hiking and cycling near our campground. His knowledge of the White Mountains has been invaluable to us during our visits to this area in July and September.

This beautiful wildlife refuge is just eight miles north of Twin Mountain, NH on Rt. 115. Both times I hiked there I parked at a trailhead off Airport Rd. There is another trailhead on Rt. 115A.

Here's a diagram of the wildlife refuge. You can see a larger one at the link above.

I marked the trails I hiked with Casey on this date, a Sunday. We walked a total of 5.5 miles. I raved about it enough to convince Jim to see it, too. On Tuesday he and Cody came along for a 3.25-mile hike.

The main trail, shown below, is multi-use (hiking, cycling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, and snowmobiling) but all we did in the refuge this visit was hike.

There is a lot to like about this refuge:

  • The views of the mountains are fantastic from the west and north sides of Cherry Pond.
  • There is a variety of trails through the forests and wetlands, from the wide main path to nice single-track.
  • Lots of critters call the refuge home, so it's fairly easy to spot birds and small animals.
  • There's plenty of solitude. On Sunday, a warm, sunny weekend day, I saw only three people and one dog in 2+ hours of hiking.

And the fall colors! Some of the leaves appear to have reached their vibrant peak in the refuge this week. Although we left the area before all the colors peaked we saw quite a bit the last few days we were there.

Colorful view across Cherry Pond

Most of the photos in this entry are from my longer hike with Casey on Sunday. I'll organize them according to their location within the refuge.


This mostly-straight, wide rail trail follows the old Maine Central Railroad bed through mixed spruce-fir and deciduous forest for 1.5 miles from the parking area on Airport Road to Waumbeck Junction, a former railroad station where three rail lines converged.

You can see this junction at the lower left corner of Cherry Pond on the map above. At this point visitors have choices of several trails to take.

This flat, tree-lined rail trail was full of color both times we hiked it out and back:

Trail head parking area on Airport Rd.



There was a wet area in one place where Casey had fun splashing in the water. This refuge is a good place for dogs, as long as they don't chase wildlife.


At Waumbek Junction the rail trail turns right (east) and continues on to Rt. 115 A.

I followed it about a quarter mile to a wooden platform with beautiful views of the western and northern shores of Cherry Pond:





Then I followed the rail trail back to the junction and turned north along the railroad tracks. You have to walk along these tracks to reach the Shore Path, Rampart Path, and trail to Little Cherry Pond. In some places the gravel on the side of the tracks is either too narrow or too sloped to walk comfortably so Casey and I just walked down the middle of the tracks.

I found the tracks to be rather interesting because some of the best views and most colorful trees and shrubs can be seen there:

Bridge over Cherry Pond outlet


Awesome view to northern Presies, including Mt. Washington



Signs indicate that the tracks are still active. I doubt it. I could see several trees in the distance that had fallen over the tracks and hadn't been removed.


I reached the Shore Trail soon after walking along the tracks. It's a somewhat rough, treed single-track path on the western shore of Cherry Pond with excellent views across the water to the mountain ranges to the east and south of the refuge, including the northern Presidentials:





After I walked the loop along the shore I continued north along the railroad tracks for about a quarter mile to the beginning of the Little Cherry Pond Trail.


The rolling single track trail to this smaller lake passes through interesting lowland spruce-fir forest with aspens, birch, red maples, and other deciduous trees and shrubs.

Bog bridging crosses several wet areas full of ferns and other plants typically found in northern boreal forests:.

Casey waits patiently while I take her picture.
We had this trail to ourselves so I let her run loose.

Some of the bog boards had wire mesh to reduce slipping when they are wet.

Nature's medley


This out-and-back trail has a loop in the middle. I followed one part outbound and the other inbound. Note that this trail is for pedestrians only (and dogs!).

The trail ends at a bench on the eastern side of Little Cherry Pond:


I didn't see a trail around the lake so I turned around and went back to the railroad tracks.


I crossed the tracks and followed the Rampart Path farther north along Cherry Pond (the larger lake) for about a quarter of a mile to get some different views toward the mountains:


Here are a couple more leaf photos I took on the way back to the parking area:


I swear the leaves were even more colorful when Jim went with the dogs and me to the refuge two days later. It's so beautiful in the fall.

Go if you're in the area. It's free, easy to walk or cycle, and a nature lover's paradise.

Next entry:  gorgeous fall colors from Middle Sugarloaf Mountain

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil