Open to the Public
What makes this place special?
Just east of the hustle and bustle of North Conway Village lies a ridge of small mountains with bald peaks and outstanding views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. More than 4,200 acres of this ridgeline and three mountain peaks are protected in the Conservancy’s Green Hills Preserve. Here, visitors are rewarded with excellent hiking and opportunities to view unusual red pine rocky ridge habitat and rare plants like White Mountain silverling, smooth sandwort and green adder’s mouth. In addition to its exposed ridge habitats, the preserve also features wetlands, mixed hardwood forests and hemlock groves which support a diversity of White Mountain wildlife like black bear, bobcat, and wood warblers.
The Green Hills ridge is derived from Conway Granite, a volcanic bedrock formed approximately 200 million years ago. This bedrock is exposed in several places along the ridge, most notably on Middle Mountain, Peaked Mountain, and Black Cap, where visitors are exposed to excellent views as well as lessons in geology and ecology. Peaked Mountain contains great examples of glacial polish, whereby the granite has a smooth, marble-like appearance created when fine grit on the underside of a glacier scours underlying rocks during movement. In the early 20th century, wildfires on the Green Hills burned many of the summit areas and were in large part responsible for the preserve’s uncommon red pine rocky ridge community. Look carefully at the red pines on Peaked and Middle mountains, and notice that most are about the same size – this is because they all originated around the same time, when fire had cleared out competing vegetation and created optimal conditions for red pine establishment. On summer evenings, the bald peaks also provide a great place to watch for common nighthawks and listen for the ethereal songs of whip-poor-wills, which are thought to nest near the summits.
How was this place protected?
After colonial settlement of the area, the Green Hills were town common land, where local residents were allowed to hunt, graze livestock, and cut firewood. In the 1800’s, the town sold off much of the land to private interests, but the hills remained relatively undisturbed into the 20th century. Enter into the picture Anna B. Stearns of Randolph, and Katherine Billings, a summer New Hampshire resident, both of whom spent a great deal of time hiking on Peaked Mountain and recognized the high conservation value of its unusual geology, vegetation, and surrounding forests. These visionary women brought the Green Hills to the attention of The Nature Conservancy. It took many years of difficult negotiations, but in 1990 the Conservancy was able to purchase 2,822 acres thanks in large part to generous funding provided by Anna Stearns shortly before she passed away. In 1998, an additional 1,400 acres abutting the preserve were anonymously donated, and 24 more acres were added in 2010 through a land swap with the White Mountain National Forest.
How can I explore this place?
The Green Hills Preserve is part of a larger matrix of contiguous conservation lands including town land, the Conway State Forest, and the White Mountain National Forest. Nearly 12 miles of hiking trails on the preserve provide moderate to strenuous routes to the summits of Middle Mountain, Peaked Mountain, and Black Cap, and also lead to the town’s Pudding Pond conservation area where the lovely Pudding Pond Trail follows a brook through spruce-fir and hemlock woods to Pudding Pond.
Trail maps and further information:
A preserve map & guide is available from the kiosks at the Thompson Road parking area. Download the map & guide.
Special Visitation Guidelines:
- Mountain biking and snowmobiling area permitted on designated trails only. See trail map for details, and please only use designated trails for these activities..
- Stay on exposed bedrock in and around the summit of Peaked Mountain to avoid trampling rare plants and sensitive habitat, which can occur very close to the trail.
To Black Cap Trail
•The Black Cap Trailhead Parking Area is located on Hurricane Mountain Road.
•From NH Route 16 north, travel through North Conway Village to the North Conway/Bartlett town line.
•Turn right onto Hurricane Mountain Road (across from the scenic vista overlooking Mount Washington).
•Travel approximately 3.6 miles to the parking area on your right.
To Peaked Mountain Trail
•This trail begins on Thompson (formerly Woodland) Road.
•From NH Route 16, travel 0.5 mile south of North Conway Village.
•Turn Left onto Artist Falls Road.
•Go 0.3 mile and bear Right onto Thompson Road.
•Drive 0.4 mile to the parking area for Pudding Pond and the Green Hills (just before the power lines.
•Hike parallel to the power lines for 0.2 miles until you reach an information kiosk. Maps and printed information are available.