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.
The idea of conserving the Green Hills began in 1966, when Katherine Billings and Anna B. Stearns, summer residents of New Hampshire, went on a bushwhack up Peaked Mountain. They were delighted to see a variety of forest types, fascinating geological formations and spectacular views. They resolved to protect the Green Hills from development and to enlist others in their campaign.
Anna B. Stearns visited the Green Hills often, even in winter. She and Katherine Billings shared their hopes for protection with many, including The Nature Conservancy. After years of negotiations, The Conservancy purchased 2,822 acres in 1990. Although Anna B. Stearns died before the purchase was finalized, she lived to learn of the Conservancy’s agreement to purchase the land, and she provided funding for the acquisition as a memorial for her mother and father. Since then, The Anna B. Stearns Foundation and many others have contributed to support The Nature Conservancy’s continuing work in the Green Hills.