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Hiking a Pond of Safety Loop

Hiking a Pond of Safety Loop

The Pond of Safety is located in the area of the White Mountains called the Randolph Community Forest (RCF). Randolph is a small community located just north of Rt 2 across from Mts Madison, Adams, and Jefferson in the Presidential Mountain Range. The town has a dense and picturesque network of walking trails that run between the homes and through the forested areas abutting the National Forest. The trails are maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club which also maintains trails, several cabins, and a campsite on Mt Adams, which are available for public use for a modest fee.

The hiking trails in the RCF are also much easier to hike on than most of the trails in the White Mountains, in part because many follow old logging roads that were used to harvest wood. They’re well-signed, well-blazed, and well-tended with numerous signed viewpoints and spur trails to interesting natural features and historic sites.

The origin of the Pond of Safety place name dates back to the Revolutionary War when four Continental Army soldiers captured by the British were paroled on the condition that they return to their families and not fight again, a common practice at the time. But, after returning to their homes, they feared that they would be arrested as deserters, so they fled into the wilderness, settling at the Pond of Safety until the end of the war when they were welcomed back into their communities.

Mt Madison, Mt Adams, and King Ravine seen from the Eye of the Needle Viewpoint on the Four Soldiers Path
Mt Madison, Mt Adams, and King Ravine are seen from the Eye of the Needle Viewpoint on the Four Soldiers Path.

Hike Description

  • Difficulty: Moderate, but the blazes may be hard to follow in spots. A GPS or GPS App can be helpful.
  • Distance: 8.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain; 2,000 feet
  • Water: Bring at least 2 liters per person. Natural water sources are available but filtering is recommended.
  • Trailhead:  Randolph Community Forest Trailhead (click for Google map view), located at the end of Randolph Road in Randolph, NH. Continue following the road for about 1/2 mile after it leaves the pavement and continues on dirt and gravel until you reach a large parking area and trail kiosk. This trailhead provides access to the Peak Path, Mt. Crescent Trail, and Carlton Notch Trail.
  • Blazing: All of the trails listed here are blazed, but you do need to pay attention while hiking to follow them. If you can’t find a blaze, turn around and retrace your steps to the last blaze you saw before resuming.
  • Recommended Maps and Guidebooks:
  • Season: Mid-May through October
  • Camping: Camping is not permitted in the Randolph Community Forest Portion of this hike and is also prohibited at the Pond of Safety.

Pond of Safety Loop Map


  • Carlton Notch Trail – 1.6 miles
  • Crescent Ridge Trail – 0.3 miles
  • Underhill Trail – 1.4 miles
  • Four Soldiers Path to Pond – 0.8 miles
  • Four Soldiers Path to Community Forest Road – 3.5 miles
  • Community Forest Road (called Jimtown Rod on older maps) – 0.75 miles
  • Carlton Notch Trail – 0.3 miles

On the Trail

Carlton Notch Trail in the Randolph Comnmunity Forest

Carlton Notch Trail

Follow the dirt road you drove along to the trailhead parking area a short distance to the signed beginning of the Carlton Notch Trail. This is a tree-lined path that follows an old logging road. The trail crosses another logging road and resumes on the other side on a signed path. Trails in Randolph are generally very well signed with arrows or blazes.

Follow the Carlton Notch Trail as it climbs, gently at first, and then more steeply to the Crescent Ridge Trail. This is the only significant continuous elevation gain of the day. The Crescent Ridge Trail marks the boundary between the Randolph Community Forest and the White Mountain National Forest.

Crescent Ridge Trail Junction

Crescent Ridge Trail

Turn left (south towards Lookout Ledge) on the Crescent Ridge Trail for a very brief 0.3 miles and hike to its junction with the Underhill Trail.

Underhill Trail

Underhill Path

Turn right onto the Underhill Trail (the only direction possible) which climbs briefly before switchbacking downhill through the forest towards the Four Ponds Trail over a distance of 1.4 miles. This area is a favorite moose habitat so if you’re lucky you’ll spy one trotting away from you into the woods. Watch your step though so you don’t step in Moose scat, which looks like piles of brown ball bearings!

Moose Scat

The trail winds downhill through the forest until it comes to a logging road and merges onto the Four Soldiers Path.

Four Soldiers Path

It’s easy to miss the sign for this junction, so look for the yellow blazes that continue through the open forest ahead.

Turn left at the second logging road and follow the path signs to Pond of Safety

The woods get thicker and darker as you get closer to the pond before you arrive at another logging road and a well-signed junction. Turn left and follow the signs to the Pond of Safety, which is at the end of a gravel road on your right. Continue past the dead-end at the end of the road, passing a trail kiosk and follow a short gravel path down to the shore of the Pond. It’s a big pond, but quite shallow and muddy, so you probably don’t want to swim in it.

Sign for pond of safety

When I visited last, the road out to the pond was still gated and closed for the winter, but people do drive out there with kayaks occasionally. A high-clearance vehicle is advised because the road is reportedly quite rough to drive on.

Four Soldiers Path

For the return trip, retrace your steps along the Four Soldier Path to the UnderHill Path trail junction at the logging road and bear right to continue along the Four Soldiers Path towards Randolph Hill.

Return trip on Four Soldiers Path

The path is pretty obvious, but the yellow blazes are spread apart every 75 yards or so and can be hard to locate unless you’re looking for them.

This is a nice hike in the autumn when you want to enjoy the foliage and views of the northern Presidential Range without encountering a lot of other people. That can be said of all the trails in the Randolph Community Forest which is a hidden gem of the White Mountain National Forest.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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