Miller State Park
April 19. 2011 9:26PM
Located on the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough, Miller is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A winding 1.3-mile paved road leading to the scenic summit is open for visitors to drive in summer and on spring and fall weekends. Picnicking and hiking are popular activities at the scenic mountain park. Three main hiking trails ascend Pack Monadnock to the summit. The best known is the Wapack Trail, which is a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, Mass., to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield.
A fire tower, no longer used for detecting fires, affords a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Mount Monadnock, 3,165 feet high, can be seen standing alone 12 miles to the west. It is believed Native Americans named the area's mountains, and that "pack" means little. Other peaks and hills of southern New Hampshire and adjacent Massachusetts can also be seen. On clear days views reach to Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston, and the Vermont hills. Photo: Jenny Meskauskas
Location: Rte 101E, Peterborough
Activities: Hiking, picnicking
Amenities: Picnic tables, auto road to summit
Weekends: Early April to Mid-May; Late October until snowfall
Daily: Mid-May to Late October
Acreage: 533 acres
New Hampshire's first state park was created in 1891 when Charles F. Melendy and Austin A. Spofford deeded a three-acre tract of land on the summit of South Pack Monadnock to the state. The following year the park was dedicated in memory of General James Miller, a hero of the Battle of Lundy's Lane in the War of 1812.
In the early years, all-day Sunday picnics at the summit were a popular pastime. Families would arrive by horse and wagon, with lunches packed in wooden cheese boxes, gallon jugs, and milk cans. In winter people enjoyed sledding, skiing and snowshoeing on the mountain. Until 1901 cattle were driven by foot from Massachusetts farms to the park for summer grazing on what was then open pasture extending nearly to the summit.
A hotel called the Pioneer House was built in 1892 on a ridge on the southwest side of the mountain. Unprofitable for its first proprietor, George F. Barker, the business was sold three years after opening. The hotel burned to the ground in 1896, and a new, smaller structure was erectd in its place. The new building was anchored to the rocks by iron rods and chains. It was used as a hunting lodge until it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The building was destroyed by fire in 1924, but the foundation remains visible today.
In 1939 a 27-foot steel tower, topped with a wooden lookout cabin, was erected to be used as a forest fire watch tower. The cabin no longer exists, but visitors can still climb the tower to enjoy the views.