Lebanon is a small city with the big benefit of having a great deal of opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors year round. One of the most popular (and convenient) ways to do that is via the 11 trail networks and individual trails that have been conserved specifically for recreational use. Among those is the Farnum Hill Preserve, Lebanon’s largest conserved, public nature reserve, where locals escape into the outdoors for hiking, biking, or a simple stroll through the wilderness with a four-legged friend.
This forested trail system sits right along the outskirts of downtown Lebanon and offers more than seven miles of looping singletrack and doubletrack trails that meander up and around three summits. Wildflowers and wildlife abound throughout the area, with fisher cats, hawks, white-tailed deer, bobcat, rabbit, red fox, raccoon, ruffed grouse, woodcock, several kinds of woodpeckers, barred owls, and many songbird species making their home here.
Bordered on the north side by Old King’s Highway, the first colonial road in Lebanon, the land is also rich with history. The Aspinwall family farmed the land for 95 years and are the namesake behind the Aspinwall Ridge trail, while the Farnum family owned the land from 1852-1921, hence the name Farnum Hill.
A multitude of stone and rock walls throughout the trees are standing reminders of bygone days when the hill’s landscape was all pasture. There are also many huge boulders, some the size of cars, scattered about the property, most likely carried by glaciers from north of the reserve, near Quarry Hill and Boston Lot.
While this is a great spot for hiking, it is also prime for trail running, with several hills as the route travels up and around three different peaks. The highest is South Peak at 1,336 feet, followed by the North Summit at 1,200 feet, and the Middle Summit at 1,191 feet. There is also a short steep climb to the top where hikers and runners can take a breather before heading out along the rocky singletrack that traverses the ridge. Spots along the trail offer magnificent views, including one of Mt. Ascutney from the clearing at the power lines. The descent is fun and fast.
In addition, the six trails (download a Farnum Hill trail map to plan your route) loop all around each other, with plenty of different spots to pop out onto the road and then back into the trail system. This makes it very easy to add or drop mileage as needed and create new routes each time.
As an added bonus, the Farnum Hill Trailhead sits right across from Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Ciders. Both make for an excellent spot to stop in the fall for apple picking or to grab a growler of fresh-made cider. They are only open daily in September and October, offering the opportunity for a beautiful hike or run at Farnum Hill in the midst of New Hampshire’s fall foliage season, capped off with a tasty adult beverage from the cider house.