If you want to get away from the crowds of tourists in the White Mountains or the thundering hordes of smoke-belching Harleys that tour the region’s scenic byways in summer, New Hampshire’s North Country is the place to go. Located North of Rt 2, there are many excellent hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing opportunities just a stones throw from Gorham, Jefferson, or Littleton, NH where you’re can get by without seeing another hiker for days at a time.
One such destination is the Pond of Safety, an isolated body of water located in the valley between the Pliny Mountain Range and the Crescent Range, outside the tiny hamlet of Jefferson, NH. Prime moose, bear, and bird habitat, the pond can only be reached by 4 wheel drive vehicles (driving along winter snowmobile trails) or by hikers interested in the solitude and novelty of this off-the-beaten path destination. While a round trip to the Pond of Safety can be hiked in one day, it also makes an excellent short backpacking trip if you want to savor the remoteness of this unique location.
On of the reasons this unique destination has remained so pristine is because the trails leading to it are not published in most of the maps or trail guides of the White Mountains region (including USGS maps), even though it falls inside the White Mountain National Forest Boundary. While I’ve listed the trails you need to hike to get to the Pond of Safety below, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the excellent Randolph Paths Trail Guide w/ waterproof map published and sold by the Randolph Mountain Club, which contains other similar backcountry destinations that are also off the beaten track.
History of The Pond of Safety
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 the families and not fight again, a common practice at the time. However, 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.
Route to the Pond of Safety from Lowe’s Store on Rt 2
The signage is excellent along this route, although it is recommended that you bring the Randolph Paths Trail Guide and/or Map. This route follows paths within the Randolph Community Forest and the White Mountain National Forest.
- Park at Lowe’s Store and Gas Station on Rt 2, located at the base of the famous Lowe’s Path. Parking costs $2/day.
- Walk behind the store down Durand Rd to the Randolph Spring and the Vyron D. Lowe Trailhead, which climbs steeply to the Mt Crescent Ridge Trail.
- Follow the Mt Crescent Ridge Trail north to the Four Soldiers Path.
- Turn west (left) onto the Four Soldiers Path and follow it past the Eye of the Needle sign to a logging road named Hunters Pass Spur.
- Cross Hunters Pass Spur and continue on the Four Soldiers Path until the next logging road, Pond of Safety Road.
- Turn left to and follow Pond of Safety Road briefly until you see a path marker pointing right.
- Turn right and follow the road to the end. A short trail at the bottom of the cul-de-sac bring you to the Pond of Safety’s edge.
The distance from the Randolph Spring on Durand Rd to the Pond of Safety is approximately 6.0 miles.
Return Route from The Pond of Safety to Lowe’s Store
To return to Lowe’s Store, you can simply reverse the above route or make a loop by hiking back to Randolph Spring on Durand Road via the Four Soldier’s Path, The Underhill Path, the Crescent Ridge Trail, a very short section of The Pasture Path, and Vyron D. Lowe Trail. The base of the Underhill Path parallels The Four Soldier’s Path, east of Hunter Spur Road before climbing steeply via switchbacks to Carlton Notch. Turning south, hike over Mt Randolph on the Crescent Ridge Trail to The Pasture Path and back down the Vyron D. Lowe Trail.
The distance of this alternative return route is approximately 5 miles.
Camping is permitted in the Randolph Community Forest (RCF) section of this route, although campfires are not. Camping is also permitted in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) in accordance with WMNF Backcountry Camping Regulations. The boundary between the RCF and the WMNF is clearly shown on the Randolph Paths waterproof map. Trail sections in the WMNF are also blazed in yellow, while trails in the RCF tend to be blazed in orange or red.
When I backpacked to the Pond of Safety, I camped east of Hunters Spur Road on WMNF land because I didn’t want to impact the more fragile area around the Pond of Safety itself. The area where I camped was close to a stream in fairly open woods with patches of fern and hobblebush. I rarely light campfires when I camp out and cooked with a Jetboil Titanium Sol camping stove. During my trip, I found a greater number of suitable backcountry campsites in the WMNF section of this trip than in the RCF portions which have been logged more recently and have a much denser understory. If you do camp, please remember to Leave No Trace to help preserve the beauty of this pristine wilderness area.
This is just what I’m looking for. Spent a few days hiking the AT in Connecticut and can really use a bit of solitude about now.
When you’re up there, check out Mt Crescent – simply wonderful views or any of the many view points facing the northern presidentials such as Lookout Ledge which is quite close to the top of the Vyron Lowe Trail. Very few people hike in the Randolph Community Forest, making it a real gem of a place to go. The RMC does a superb job maintaining it.
Any thoughts as this place’s viability as a beginner backpack location? Many of the beginner ‘test your gear’ trips all go to the same place so some variety might be cool.
To far to drive from Boston and you need more advanced campsite selection skills. The three ponds area near Plymouth is much better. That’s where I take our beginner backpacks for Skurka.
A lot of your recent posts have the common theme of searching for isolation in a very crowded region of the world. Have you considered thru-hiking the COHOs trail?
It seems like it’s up your alley. I have read trail journals or people going days between human interactions. The moose are abundant and in many places the trails aren’t well maintained so your navigation and bushwhacking skills will come into play.
It’s a trail I’ve thought about often for just these reasons. I’m wrapping up the LT this year, then heading out west to fastpack the JMT next year, so summer of 2016 I plan on heading North and walking to Canada… again.
I’ve been thinking about hiking the Cohos and I’m heading up north in two weeks to do another section. I’ve already hiked the entire portion south of the Percy Peaks. But the pattern you’re seeing is the fact that I do a lot of solo hiking in summer and that I prefer hiking trails I’ve never been on before. They seem isolated because I’ve hiked most everything else where other people go already. :-)
I have a 40 miler coming up in a part of the Pemi where I doubt I’ll see more than two dozen people over 4 days.
I guess I meant as a bigger expedition, after you finish the White MT challenge.
After the WMC, I’ll probably get off my butt and get serious about redlining, bushwhacking the NH 3000 footers and finishing the AT.
“…thundering hordes of smoke-belching Harleys…”. As a proud Harley owner I can honestly say I’ve never heard of a Harley called “smoke-belching”. ; ) Loud yes, smoke belching, never. Too funny. But nice write-up, I will have to check this area out. And no room on the Harley for my backback so all is safe. ; – )
I hiked it during Bike-Week. :-)
Yep, LOTS of Harley’s during bike week. They even shut the auto road down for one day during bike week to all traffic except bikes. : )
Is the map that comes in the RMC Guidebook a paper map or the tyvek version you can buy separately? I don’t like paper maps when hiking.
The tyvek one comes with the guide book but you can also buy it separately. I’d encourage you to get the guidebook – it has a lot of great info in it.
I definitely want the guidebook, I was thinking if the map in the guidebook was paper I’d order a tyvek version too.
A little more lore from the hamlet of Jefferson for you Philip: https://www.celebrateboston.com/ghost/nancy-brook-ghost.htm
Actually, this occured at Harts Landing at the foot of the Nancy Pond Trail and the Davis Path in Crawford Notch. You can read the full history in the Notchland Inn guest book. :-)
Oh I know, you mentioned the town of Jefferson, so it seemed related. Pam and I were just there, not as quiet though since a pair of hikers passed our tents at 2 am!