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Lakes Region Hikes: Goose Pond

Thomas P. Caldwell - May 19, 2014





Goose Pond

Goose Pond in Bristol is a pleasant hike near Newfound Lake. (Photo: Tom Caldwell)

Whether one is a through-hiker seeking long-distance adventure or a casual walker who enjoys the views offered by New Hampshire’s hills and mountains, there is no shortage of places to hike in the Lakes Region.

The Appalachian Trail, which originates in Georgia, passes just north of the Lakes Region, going through the White Mountains on its way to Mount Katahdin in Maine, making it an easy destination to those living or vacationing by the lakes. However, there are many other hiking trails that are closer to home and offer great opportunities for day hikes of varying difficulty.

One of our favorites is the Elwell Trail which begins one-tenth of a mile west of Wellington State Park on West Shore Road, at the Bristol-Alexandria town line. Goose Pond is a relatively quick hike, offering beautiful scenery at any time of year, but particularly in the spring.

Elwell Trail takes off from the parking area off West Shore Road, giving hikers a choice between Goose Pond and the Sugarloafs; and, for those looking for a longer hike, continuing trails lead to Bear Mountain and Mount Cardigan.

Walking up from the parking lot, there is a signpost listing the various destinations, with a snowmobile track heading to the right and marked as an orange trail. From that direction, it is a steep climb on frequently washed-out terrain, so we prefer saving that trail for the return loop and beginning our hike a short distance further along, where we can pick up the yellow trail. It wends around streams and gently climbs along the side of the mountain until it intersects with the orange trail. The trails soon part again with signs indicating Goose Pond to the left and Sugarloaf to the right.

We chose Mother’s Day for our initial hike this year, and the weather was perfect: sunny and warm but not too hot, although the temperature rose quickly as the day progressed. The trail to Goose Pond descends for a while after parting from the Sugarloaf trail, but soon one comes to the pond which this year shows a lot of fresh activity by beavers. The animals have built a lodge on the upper end of the pond, with dams there and at the lower end. In order to circle the pond without retracing one’s steps, it is necessary to cross the outlet of the pond.

We took a clockwise route around the pond on the orange-marked trail because that would tell us right away whether the stream crossing was still there. An old plank serves as a bridge but, with the water rather high, accessing it proved to be a bit difficult. It meant scrambling over a boulder to get to the plank on the downstream side.

We had our dogs along for the hike and two of them lost their footing halfway across the plank, plunging into the cold water before scrambling out. The third dog did a perfect walk-the-plank routine, and my wife and I also made it across with dry feet.

With this year’s late-arriving spring weather, we weren’t sure what the plant life would be like, but all along the trail we found trailing arbutus in bloom (the plants also known as Mayflowers), and on the other side of the pond we found a few blossoming trillium. As we made our way around the pond, the songbirds were quite vocal and, at the northern end, the spring peepers were giving a serenade.

About halfway around the pond is a nice picnic spot: a grassy clearing with access to shallow water. Unfortunately, it also serves as a party spot, and the fire pit was littered with empty bottles from those who won’t observe the carry-in, carry-out courtesy rule.

A few moderately steep slopes make the Goose Pond loop something the very old and very young may want to avoid, but otherwise it’s a fairly easy hike, and there is another picnic spot at the base of the trail that is much more easily reached. In fact, many people will hike to the pond and stop there, not bothering to do the full circle around the perimeter.

One of the nice things about Goose Pond is that is rarely crowded. Most hikers will take the fork leading up to Little and Big Sugarloaf which offer great views of Newfound Lake and the more distant mountains.

The hike to Little Sugarloaf involves some fairly steep scrambles over ledges and boulders, although with some off-trail wandering, it is possible to avoid some of those climbs. At the top, however, the views of Newfound Lake and Goose Pond are worth the trip.

For even better views, one would continue to Big Sugarloaf, which involves following the blazes down the saddle between the two peaks. From the top of Big Sugarloaf, there are views far to the northeast.

One can continue the hike to Bear Mountain which still carries some of the original Mowglis signs featuring a stenciled wolf. Mowglis is a summer camp on Newfound Lake and what now is known as the Elwell Trail was originally cut about 1925 by Camp Mowglis to give campers access to Cardigan Mountain. By continuing over Bear Mountain, the Mowglis Trail continues east of Cardigan and one can complete the trip to the peak of Cardigan by way of the Welton Falls Trail. Mount Cardigan overlooks Newfound on the Alexandria side and the Upper Connecticut Valley on the Orange side.

Of course, we didn’t go that far on Mother’s Day; Goose Pond was far enough for people who have been inside with little exercise other than shoveling snow during the long and seemingly never-ending winter just past. But with this hike behind us, we’ll be ready to take on some other interesting Lakes Region hikes later this summer. 

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