One of my favorite family activities is hiking, so on any given weekend you’re apt to find me, my son and our dog in the woods somewhere, no matter the time of year.
Last Sunday, we headed to Harrisville to check out the Eliza Adams Gorge Trail, a spot I had only stumbled upon during an online search for another trail. We donned our hunters’ orange outdoor gear because it’s that time of year and safety in the woods is paramount and headed out on a chilly overcast afternoon.
To get there from Keene, we took Chesham Road off Route 101 right after Audrey’s Café and then veered to the right onto Brown Road, driving only about two miles total from 101 to the small parking lot, where the signage for the trail is difficult to see. With only a teeny-tiny sign up in a tree to mark the trailhead, we missed it the first time and turned around.
We guessed that it might be located at a pull-in spot we had passed where we saw a few cars parked. It appeared as though it was used for some logging activity at some point in the past. Online comments about the trail had mentioned there being no parking area, although that may have been the case when the comments were made.
Part of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, which runs 48 miles in length through southwestern New Hampshire, alltrails.com reports that the Eliza Adams Gorge Trail is a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike. It was a relatively easy trek, with barely any incline and only some rocky areas, mud and puddles to navigate along the way. The trail was very well-marked with white painted trees.
When you get to the gorge, to the left is a clearing for the Howe Reservoir Dam, which is owned and operated by the N.H. Dept of Environmental Services (NHDES). Howe Reservoir is about 250 acres large and stretches one mile from Route 101 to the dam, in the towns of Dublin and Harrisville.
In the 1920s, the Breed’s Pond Cooperative ran a hydroelectric power plant on Minnewawa Brook and owned water rights to five area bodies of water — Chesham Pond, Silver Lake, Seaver Lake, Russell Reservoir and Howe Reservoir — with dams built on each to control water flow for the power plant.
After the power plant closed decades ago, the care of the dam was passed over to NHDES which uses it to control flooding in Harrisville by lowering levels by 6 feet in November. I think possibly the levels had recently been dropped when we were there because there was quite a bit of shoreline visible on the reservoir.
The land around Howe Reservoir is mostly owned by either the towns of Dublin or Harrisville or is conservation property. The area near the dam is posted with quite a few “No Trespassing” signs by Adams Farm, so we avoided that space. Adams Farm on MacVeagh Road in Harrisville was built by Moses Adams, Jr., dates back to 1780 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although I searched online, I couldn’t find much information about Eliza Adams, for whom the trail is named, but presume she was a member of the same family, perhaps a granddaughter from what I could find.
And so, on this day we turned right and continued down to the footbridge that passes over the gorge. The water was flowing strong due to some recent rain, and because it was a chilly day of only about 45 degrees, we didn’t take our dog down to the edge for any wading or swimming, not that she wouldn’t have loved the opportunity. It was a picturesque spot, the bridge perched high above to overlook the flowing waterfalls and spillway from the dam.
We crossed the bridge and to the left, hiking now along the opposite side of the dam and reservoir. We came to a “T” in the trail where a left took us down to the shoreline of the reservoir and the right continued on the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway.
After exploring the reservoir’s shoreline with its view of Mount Monadnock in the distance and letting the dog get a drink, we returned back along the gorge trail. It was rather late in the day at this point and getting chillier by the minute, the sun setting earlier than it was the previous week before the end of daylight saving time.
We’ll be back. Now that we’ve seen the beauty of Eliza Adams Gorge it will be hard to stay away.