Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond
via Pondicherry Rail Trail

Destinations:  Cherry Pond (1120'), Little Cherry Pond (1095')
Trails:  Pondicherry Rail Trail, Presidential Range Rail Trail, Shore Path, Rampart Path, New Hampshire Central Railroad, Little Cherry Pond Trail, Cohos Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
Location:  Whitefield, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Ponds, wetlands, views, bird watching
Distance:  5.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  75 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:00   Typical: 2:30  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 2:30   Typical: 3:45  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  11/30/2002 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  01/04/2011  
Weather:  2530 degrees, hazy, light rain
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike to the 100-acre Cherry Pond and the 25-acre Little Cherry Pond. These areas are popular for their bird watching appeal and for the beautiful views beyond Cherry Pond of the Pliny, Crescent, Presidential, and Dartmouth mountain ranges as well as Cherry Mountain.

To Cherry Pond:
  • Start at the Pondicherry Rail Trail parking area along Airport Road in Whitefield.
  • Follow the trail straight ahead for 1.5 miles to Waumbek Junction where the Presidential Range Rail Trail goes off to the right while Pondicherry Rail Trail continues straight for a short distance.
  • Turn right onto the Presidential Range Rail Trail and walk for just 0.1 mile which will bring you to the Tudor Richards viewing platform on the left, where there are great views of the pond and mountains.

Cherry Pond Shoreline Paths and Little Cherry Pond:
  • After enjoying the scenery, leave the viewing platform and turn right, either retracing your steps on the Presidential Range Rail Trail, or taking the more immediate right and following Waumbek Link which is a footpath rather than a rail trail. Either way, you will be back at the Pondicherry Rail Trail after walking for 0.1 mile.
  • Turn right and walk for 0.1 mile, crossing Johns River on a railroad bridge en route. After crossing Johns River you will be on the active New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks. Stay to the right edge of the tracks.
  • Turn right onto Shore Path – note that the trail sign is down low to the right of the tracks. Shore Path is part of the long-distance Cohos Trail.
  • Follow Shore Path / Cohos Trail for 0.1 mile along the edge of Cherry Pond. When you reach the shore at a T-junction, first take a short detour to the right for more shoreline views. Then retrace your steps and continue straight through the junction in order to explore the rest of Shore Path / Cohos Trail.
  • At the end of Shore Path / Cohos Trail you will be back at the New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks, a bit farther along from where you left them. At this point will be wide-open views of Cherry Pond and the mountains beyond it.
  • From Shore Path / Cohos Trail, turn right onto the tracks and walk for about 0.1 mile, staying to the right.
  • Once again, you are going to turn right onto a footpath – this one is called Rampart Path and like Shore Path, the trail sign (signed "Rampart Path / Colonel Whipple Trail / CT") will be low on the right. Rampart Path is also part of the Cohos Trail.
  • Follow Rampart Path for a bit less than 0.1 mile to enjoy more shore views, then turn left onto a brief connector trail where Rampart Path / Cohos Trail continues straight (no sign at this junction).
  • At the end of the connector path, you will be back at the railroad tracks, now directly across from the start of Little Cherry Pond Trail. Cross the tracks and head down this next footpath.
  • Little Cherry Pond Trail makes sort of a loop (with a spur on each end) leading to Little Cherry Pond.
  • Go 0.2 mile to the upper trail split, then bear left at a small arrow.
  • After 0.4 mile you will reach the lower loop junction.
  • Bear left and follow the path for 0.1 mile where it ends at the shore of Little Cherry Pond at a small viewing platform with a bench.
  • After enjoying the pond, retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the lower loop split and turn left at an arrow in order to return via the other leg of the loop.
  • After 0.3 mile you will be back to the upper loop junction.
  • Bear left and walk 0.2 mile to return to the New Hampshire Central Railroad tracks.

Return from Cherry Pond:
  • For the return trip, turn right and walk for 0.3 mile along the tracks, back to Waumbeck Junction.
  • Keep going straight on Pondicherry Rail Trail for another 1.5 miles to reach the parking area on Airport Road.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Pondicherry Rail Trailhead on Airport Road (1135') 0.0 0.0
Waumbek Junction (1130') 1.5 1.5
Tudor Richards viewing platform at Cherry Pond (1120') 0.1 1.6
Waumbek Junction (1130') 0.1 1.7
Start of Shore Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 1.8
End of Shore Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 1.9
Start of Rampart Path / Cohos Trail (1120') 0.1 2.0
Jct. Active Railroad / Little Cherry Pond Trail (1120') 0.1 2.1
Upper Little Cherry Pond loop split 0.2 2.3
Lower Little Cherry Pond loop split (via southern leg) 0.4 2.7
Little Cherry Pond (1095') 0.1 2.8
Lower Little Cherry Pond loop split 0.1 2.9
Upper Little Cherry Pond loop split (via northern leg) 0.3 3.2
Jct. Active Railroad / Little Cherry Pond Trail (1120') 0.2 3.4
Waumbek Junction (1130') 0.3 3.7
Pondicherry Rail Trailhead on Airport Road (1135') 1.5 5.2

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Click for a full trail map (it will open in a new window).   

Trail map of hike route to Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond
from Pondicherry Rail Trail (map by Webmaster)
Trail map of hike route to Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond from Pondicherry Rail Trail (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge consists of three ponds and the surrounding area. It is reputed as having an abundant amount of bird life, as well as other interesting flora and fauna.

I started from the parking area along Airport Road in Whitefield, which is located across the street from the noisy Whitefield Power and Light Company plant. I followed Pondicherry Rail Trail which is also used as a snowmobile trail. There was about 2–3 inches of snow on the ground. There were snowmobile tracks but I didn't encounter any machines on my hike.

Pondicherry Rail Trail is wide and straight as an arrow and almost completely flat. I walked briskly since the trail was so easy (not to mention my mid-afternoon start). I heard chickadees and a woodpecker. After a while, the trail crosses a stream. Just after the brook, on the left, I saw a bird's nest in a bushy tree. Next, the path crosses under power lines. It looked like snowmobile trails also run alongside the power lines. A while after that, there's a field on the right.

Soon, you'll come upon the Presidential Range Rail Trail which veers off to right. Go right here for 0.1 mile which will bring you to a great viewing deck (Tudor Richards viewing platform) where you can see Cherry Pond and the mountains behind it.

Leaving the viewing platform, I retraced my steps, then turned right which shortly brought me to some railroad tracks at a point called Waumbek Junction.

At the first track is a little yellow sign warning that this is an active railroad. I think the first track you hit is inactive; but continuing straight across that track, you come to another track that definitely is active so be careful! I read somewhere, and it may have been in reference to this trail, that by some trick of sound, a train can actually sneak up on you.

Cherry Pond with the Crescent Range beyond it to the left, and the hazy Presidential Range to the right (photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond, Crescent Range, and the Presidentials (photo by Webmaster)

Not wanting to take any chances, and not wanting to be looking over my shoulder every few seconds, I walked alongside the active rail line, instead of right on the tracks. I crossed Johns River on a railroad bridge – this waterway connects Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond. About twenty yards after the crossing, there's a trail leading off to the right. It is signed as "Shore Path", but the sign is down low and may be hidden by snow in the winter. This path leads to the shore of Cherry Pond, and a short ways along the shoreline before rejoining the railroad a bit farther up from where it left it.

From the railroad at this point, is a beautiful, open view of the pond. I could only see a hint of the reported wonderful view of the Presidentials, due to the heavy haze. The pond was iced over and there was a little island. Cattails clung to the island and parts of the shoreline. The little path along the shore was narrow and has a nice, woodsy feel to it, unlike the view from the tracks – yet the view from the tracks seemed more impressive.

Going a bit farther along the tracks, is another footpath down on the right signed as "Rampart Path / Colonel Whipple Trail". Turn right here and follow Rampart Path along the shoreline. Later this trail will turn into Colonel Whipple Trail and both segments are part of the Cohos Trail. Colonel Whipple Trail leads to Whipple Road in Jefferson. Leaving further exploration of the Cohos Trail for another day, I turned left at the first junction encountered on Rampart Path, which brought me back up the railroad tracks.

I crossed the tracks and embarked upon Little Cherry Pond Trail that leads to Little Cherry Pond. This is a narrow, woodsy trail, with several wet areas – most of which are mitigated by bog bridges. After a short ways, I encountered a small white sign with a left-hand arrow on it. This is the start of a loop that touches down to the pond. I headed left and the trail soon veered right, and then straight, on a gradual downhill. After the first glimpse of the pond, bog bridges brought me the rest of the way down to the shoreline, where there was a small platform and an inviting bench.

Little Cherry Pond is pretty too. Without the haze and with bird season in full swing, I imagine this is a remarkable place. Little Cherry Pond has a much wilder, more intimate feel to it than the larger pond. This truly feels like a bog environment with the tamarack and black spruce and heath-type shrubs. It looked like it would be a wet walk if one attempted to skirt the shoreline.

Since it was pretty dark by the time I arrived at Little Cherry Pond, I didn't linger for too long. I headed back up the trail, where I was shortly greeted by another arrow on a small, white sign. Following the sign's suggestion, I headed left to return via the other leg of the loop. This leg is more direct and I was back to the start of the loop in no time; and then from there, I made quick time back to the railroad tracks.

The walk back was uneventful. The path was easy enough and the snow bright enough, that I didn't need to use a flashlight even though darkness had fully descended.

The trail up until Waumbek Junction would be great for cross-country skiing; and the whole trail would be good for jogging.

Locator map for Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
(map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Locator map for Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge (map by Ben Kimball for NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
 






 


NH - Central East


  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for Pondicherry Rail Trail is located on Airport Road in Whitefield, New Hampshire.

From Whitefield:
  • From Whitefield's village center, follow Rt. 116 East.
  • After 1.7 miles, turn right onto Hazen Road (also marked by an airport sign).
  • After 1.3 miles, turn left onto Airport Road.
  • Travel another 1.4 miles and the trailhead parking area will be located on the left side of the road in Whitefield, across the street from a biomass plant which is on the right.
  • To access the parking area, go over a one lane bridge to find the parking area on the right, right after the bridge.
  • The trail is straight ahead from the bridge.

From Carroll (Twin Mountain):
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), head north on Rt. 3.
  • After 2.1 miles, at a blinking yellow light, turn right onto Rt. 115.
  • Travel 4.3 miles then turn left onto Airport Road.
  • Drive for 1.5 miles, then turn right and the trailhead parking area will be located on the right side of the road in Whitefield, across the street from a biomass plant which is on the left.
  • To access the parking area, go over a one lane bridge to find the parking area on the right, right after the bridge.
  • The trail is straight ahead from the bridge.

From Jefferson:
  • From the junction of Routes 2 and 115 in Jefferson, head southwest onto Rt. 115.
  • After 5.4 miles, turn right onto Airport Road.
  • Drive for 1.5 miles, then turn right and the trailhead parking area will be located on the right side of the road in Whitefield, across the street from a biomass plant which is on the left.
  • To access the parking area, go over a one lane bridge to find the parking area on the right, right after the bridge.
  • The trail is straight ahead from the bridge.

Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range from the Tudor Richards viewing platform
(photo by Webmaster)
Cherry Pond and the Pliny Range from the Tudor Richards viewing platform (photo by Webmaster)

About Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge   

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is a tract of preserved land of about 6,000 acres located in Whitefield and Jefferson, New Hampshire. It offers scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, and protection of important habitats.

The refuge encloses Cherry Pond (100 acres), Little Cherry Pond (25 acres), Mud Pond (3 acres), and Moorhen Marsh. Johns River and Stanley Slide Brook (a.k.a. Stanley Brook or Slide Brook) pass through the refuge, as do several foot trails, a couple rail trails, and even an active railroad (New Hampshire Central Railroad).

The Presidential Range Rail Trail at
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
(photo by Webmaster)
The Presidential Range Rail Trail at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge (photo by Webmaster)
The property can be accessed via several trails: the Pondicherry Rail Trail, the Presidential Range Rail Trail, Slide Brook Trail (part of the long-distance Cohos Trail), Colonel Whipple Trail (also part of the Cohos Trail), and Mud Pond Trail. The rail trails allow snowmobile traffic in the winter; otherwise all trails are open to foot travel only. Mud Pond Trail is reportedly handicapped accessible – I only hiked it during the winter so I can't confirm that for sure but it certainly seemed like it would be in the non-snow seasons. Unlike the other access points, Mud Pond Trail does not connect into the rest of the trail network.

Popular activities include bird watching, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, nature study, photography, and hunting (excluding Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond and the area between them).

The scenery is stunning. The views from the shores of Cherry Pond include the Presidential, Pliny, Crescent, and Dartmouth mountain ranges as well as Cherry Mountain. The Tudor Richards viewing platform at Cherry Pond offers a comfortable spot from which to enjoy the vista and watch for birds. There are vast tracts of beautiful wetlands along the Presidential Range Rail Trail, and the surrounding mountains are visible from these areas too. Little Cherry Pond and Mud Pond are also equipped with viewings platforms.

With its proximity to the White Mountain National Forest, the refuge serves as a wildlife corridor as well as preserving its many important habitats. Over 200 species of birds have been identified at the refuge and a heron rookery exists on the west side of Little Cherry Pond. Links to checklists of the various animals at Pondicherry are included below. Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge also supports lots of interesting flora such as pitcher plants, creeping snowberry, trillium, leatherleaf, and rhodora.

Pondicherry is a Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and it is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game. A local Friends group also plays a role in the management of the refuge, and the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails has specific jurisdiction for the rail trails.

Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)
Little Cherry Pond (photo by Webmaster)

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Checklists   

Click on the following links to see lists of species that have been spotted at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.


Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Property Use Guidelines   

The refuge is open to the public during daylight hours. Please, for the protection of the area and its inhabitants, and for everyone's enjoyment:

  • No camping or fires permitted.
  • Carry out all trash and litter.
  • Do not collect or disturb plants or animals.
  • Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash or under the control of the owner at all times.
  • Hunting is allowed on the refuge in accordance with state regulations. Be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season. Hunting is not allowed between Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond.
  • Foot travel only on Little Cherry Pond Trail.
  • Bicycles and horses are allowed on the rail trail only.
  • No motor vehicles allowed in spring, summer, and fall.
  • Snowmobiles and cross-country skiers share the rail trail in winter – use caution when crossing trails.
  • Be prepared for uneven walking. Trails may be wet, and the boardwalks will be slippery when wet.

The Presidential Mountain Range from the Presidential Range Rail Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
The Presidential Mountain Range from the Presidential Range Rail Trail (photo by Webmaster)

More Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Trail Reports   

 

 

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