Autumn Offers Opportunities for Great Hikes in the Woods

Bugs are gone and ground is harder

By Ken Wells

As winter approaches, I’m looking forward to great hikes in the woods when the bugs are gone and soggy ground is frozen. Two forested hikes topping my list are the Mountain Brook trail, north of Elbow Pond in East Andover, and the Great Brook trail on Lakeshore Road near the northernmost end of Pleasant Lake. Both are out-and-back trips. These two trails are enjoyable any time of year, but because they run so close to splashing watercourses, they can have muddy stretches in warm weather. I recommend waterproof footwear and trekking poles. Microspikes are good to take along in freezing weather.

Mountain Brook is the primary source that feeds Elbow Pond, which lies just east of Andover village and out of sight on the north side of Rte 11. In the warmer season, the Mountain Brook trail shows a fantastic variety of mushrooms and showy fungus, but when the temperature brings overnight frost, it’s a great great bug-free walk accompanied by talkative water. It’s about four miles round trip. Be sure to take time to contemplate all the small pools and cascades along the way; perhaps take some snacks for a picnic stop.

I won’t spoil the discoveries you can make on the Mountain Brook trail by describing them in detail, but keep a sharp lookout for relics of old roads, dams and bridges from Ragged Mountain’s water- and steam-powered past. Here are a couple of hints: After roughly 45 minutes of walking, the sound of rushing water ahead will become louder and louder – keep going until you discover its source! You could turn back at this point, but if you push on for another ten minutes, the trail crosses the Andover/Hill town line, becoming steeper and leading to another big, abandoned surprise.

The Great Brook trail begins across the street from a fairly large trailhead parking area near Spring Ledge Farm’s PYO strawberry field, a couple hundred yards north of the intersection of Lakeshore Road out of Elkins and Pleasant Street from New London. The trail parallels the Great Brook itself and is maintained by the New London Conservation Commission. (A trail map is available at There are several side trails such as the one that cuts over to the parking spot at the end of Pingree Road, about half an hour up the trail. This could be a good bail-out point if you don’t have time or the energy to hike all the way to the trail’s end at the picturesquely-named Devil’s Half Acre beaver pond (which is 2.3 miles one-way, with about 800 feet vertical rise). But if you explore the whole length, you will discover traces of abandoned camps and homesteads which suggest contrasting pictures of easy-living tourist outings and hard-living subsistence farming on these hillsides. If conditions are icy, be very cautious around the steep and rocky Upper Cascades. This would be an especially inconvenient place to have a fall!

If you’d prefer to get some exercise striding out on smoother terrain than the forest floor allows, or you’d like to saunter “side-by-each” in conversation with your hiking companions, I’d recommend the 3-mile partly paved road loop encircling Kezar Lake off Rte 114 in North Sutton. You’ll find a parking lot by the water’s edge between the Follansbee Inn and Wadleigh State Park. The walk is equally lovely whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise around the lake, and car traffic is very light.