Chesterfield Gorge Natural Area is a southern New Hampshire gem that offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy beautiful waterfalls and glimpses of the area’s geologic past. Its large parking area is also used as a park and ride, and picnic tables are available next to the parking lot as well as on the lawn in front of the seasonal visitor center.
A well-established 0.7-mile trail descends approximately 200 feet and loops over bridges through this small gorge, where you’ll see several cascades along the east side of Wilde Brook. The west side of the brook boasts an excellent view of the gorge. The rock you’ll observe in and along the water is granodiorite, which likely formed approximately 450 million years ago. This bedrock is visible today due to weathering and erosion, and if you’re into geology, you can try to identify the sheeting and vertical fractures in the bedrock as you explore the gorge. The trail is often shady, and much of the plant life is shade-tolerant due to the sun being blocked by both hemlock boughs and the topography. Look for mosses, ferns, and lichens as you walk through the gorge.
It is thanks to a local farmer that this area is protected and open to the public today. George White bought the property to protect it from being logged in the 1930s, and he sold it to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which later donated it to the State. The park is open from dawn until dusk, and dogs are required to be leashed.