Hidden Valley Memorial Forest commemorates the life and work of internationally known botanist Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992). Cronquist, an expert on Asters who became best known for developing the Cronquist system of taxonomy for flowering plants, owned the property and used it as a research site.
From Route 2, take Route 63 south. In Millers Falls village, where 63 turns right, go straight, then left onto South Prospect Street. Bear right onto Wendell Road and proceed to Wendell State Forest entrance on left, 3 miles from the village. Park in parking lot inside the state forest, beyond the headquarters and across from the pond.
The trail traverses a 67-acre inholding within the Wendell State Forest which was the research camp of the famous botanist, Arthur Cronquist, who observed that “time here refreshes my soul.” With the wealth of interesting wildflowers, deep forests, and inspiring waterfalls, you can see why. The Hidden Valley loop trail links into the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, a much longer route stretching from Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire to southern Connecticut. In 2009, the M&M Trail was designated the New England National Scenic Trail.
From the parking lot, take the M&M Trail north to follow Lyons Brook through cool, deeply shaded forest and cross Lynne’s Falls, an impressive waterfall tumbling over large boulders of gneiss. After several more minutes, you will arrive at a junction of trails; the M & M trail continues north, and the Hidden Valley Loop Trail heads to the left (west). The trail provides views of forest changes caused by three different agents: the great hurricane of 1938, defoliation of oaks by gypsy moths in 1980, and a selective timber harvest in 1998. The lack of older oaks will first clue you in to the destruction wreaked by these caterpillars of the gypsy moth, an invasive insect introduced in the 1860’s as an experiment to encourage silk production. Further along the trail, there will be evidence on your left of the timber harvest, although apart from the young regenerating trees it is hard to tell that the area was logged. As you travel further down the trail, you will notice that the forest understory is “lumpy” in places: this is “pit and mound” topography, which reflects the jumble of large trees and their root boles left by the massive blowdowns of the 1938 hurricane. In places, you may also notice that there are few or no trees older than about 70 years – the generation that grew up after the hurricane blew down their elders. As you round a gradual bend and begin heading uphill, a spur trail will appear on your left, heading north to the top of Jerusalem Hill. Returning to the Hidden Valley trail, head southeast through some lovely hardwood forest meet up with the M&M trail, which circles back due south to the parking area.
Hidden Valley is open to the public for non-motorized outdoor recreation including hiking, bird watching, nature study, and hunting.