Trail Riding in New Hampshire

Buck-N-Horse Campground in Groton, New Hampshire has been our base camp for two months. In that time we’ve explored miles and miles of trails that are accessible directly from camp. Trail terrain varies greatly, from dirt roads to grassy logging trails to rocky forest paths. The trails loop over and around the mountain so there is a great deal of elevation change.

Logging trail up on the mountain
Navigating dead-fall in the woods

The campground is nestled into a mountain called Jewell Hill. In the early 1800s the area was mostly cleared “hill farms.” We see remnants of these farms in the form of stone walls snaking through the forests that have since grown up to reclaim the land.

Old stone wall found in the forest

Hill farming died out due to population decline after the Civil War. Locals discovered Mica in the hills during this period and mining took over as the primary industry. An abandoned mica mine is a short ride from camp. They flooded the mine years ago to prevent entrance. However, it is still very interesting to see. Small flecks of mica are everywhere, lending a sparkle to the ground.

A large translucent flake of mica
Mackenzie and Jess in front of the mica mine

Lakes and ponds dot the area. Beavers are common and their handiwork is easily spotted; whether that’s fallen trees with pointed tips or dammed streams.

Beaver pond with lodge (upper right)
Beaver cut
Flooded trail next to small pond with evidence of beavers

Most loops around camp are in the four- to six-mile range. Due to the steep and technical nature of the trails this distance can easily fill three hours. Give your horse plenty of opportunities to rest as you climb and descend if they are not already conditioned for this type of terrain.

Use caution on bare, wet, inclined slabs especially if wearing steel shoes

The camp is in the foothills of the White Mountains on the southern edge of the national forest. Jewell Hill’s peak is 1,982 feet above sea level. Beautiful mountain views are accessible from a few of the trails in the six- to nine-mile range.

A rocky outcrop called “The Jumping Off Point” looks over Sculptured Rocks Road
Storm clouds hover over Newfound Lake and the town of Hebron

Other interesting sights are reached on the longer loops in the range of 10-15 miles. One spot is a state park called Sculptured Rocks. Here you can see the Cockermouth River run through a narrow canyon worn into swirling shapes and potholes. This is a very popular swimming spot on a hot Summer day and is sometimes crowded with locals or tourists.

Sculptured Rocks from the bridge spanning the river

A network of snowmobile trails blanket the area. They offer convenient connector trails. Be ready to cross bridges with your horse if you choose to use them. However, use caution on these bridges as some need replacing. Turn back or cross through the water when the bridge looks questionable.

One of many snowmobile bridges in the area
Hole punched through a wooden bridge by Mackenzie’s hoof
Snowmobile trails follow the powerlines and provide seemingly endless, albeit boring, distances

One of my favorite long loops goes up to Groton Wind Farm on Tenney Mountain. The Wind Power Project is a contentious subject but it sure did create some nice roads to get up the mountain and enjoy the view. The turbines are 256 feet tall at the hub and each blade is 140 feet in length. They are certainly impressive to see. We follow the service road that runs right under the turbines. The sound the blades make as they cut through the air is unique and might make your horse nervous at first. On the other hand, some horses are more upset by the massive shadows streaking across the ground.


View of Rumney Rocks climbing area from the wind turbines on Tenney Mountain
Mackenzie watching the turbines during our lunch break at the top

Most trails run through forested areas. This is not hard to imagine considering 80% of the state of New Hampshire is forest. The tree cover provides excellent shade and makes riding in the summer heat tolerable. Some trails are more traveled than others making them more or less defined. It helps to have a good sense of direction and an adventurous spirit when riding out alone.

Tom’s Lane, the nicely shaded route to and from camp

We join in group rides with fellow campers on the weekends but I often ride solo during the week. I track my route with a GPS app but there are so many trails that it is difficult to know the quickest way home. Whenever I am in doubt, I let Mackenzie guide the way home. She never steers us wrong.

Finding our way through new territory when there’s no obvious trail

Buck-N-Horse is the hidden gem of the Northeast. The camp is clean and well-maintained with a relaxed, rustic feel. There are plenty of sites for tents and RVs with full hook-ups (electric, water, sewer). Hot showers are available in the beautiful bathhouse. The campground owner, Dave Leone, and seasonal campers are friendly and welcoming. Potluck suppers are typically held in the common area, or “People Paddock”, on Saturday evenings. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and highly recommend a trip to this place.

Labor Day ride with our friends from Buck-N-Horse


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