In 1960 the Hays donated 675 acres to the Society for Protection of NH Forests. This property is located “across the road” from The Fells and has a network of trails that go to the top of Sunset Hill. A trail-head kiosk depicts this system of trails.
In 1987 upon the death of Alice , the remaining 164 acre-estate was deeded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of their wildlife refuge system. In 2008 83.5 acres that included the historic buildings and grounds were divested from USFWS, and The Fells, who had cared for the property since 1995, became owners. The remainder of the property continues to be owned and managed by USFWS.
There are several easy hiking trails across both properties, totaling nearly five miles.
The John Hay Forest Ecology Trail
This trail, named for the renowned natural history author and grandson of John Milton Hay, is part of The John Hay National Wildlife Refuge administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A brochure describing attractions along this 1 1/2 mile long trail is available at the Gatehouse and trailheads. Forest succession can be observed as the trail passes through fields and pastures abandoned over 100 years ago. The area is now populated by many stands of fine trees including white and yellow birch, red and white pine, beech, sugar maple, red spruce, and of special note, two virgin hemlocks 300 to 400 years old.
The understory along the trail is represented by striped maples, shadbush, hobblebush and tupelo. The ground cover consists of abundant examples of native ferns, mosses and wildflowers. The trail passes two large glacial erratics brought here by the continental ice sheet ten or twelve thousand years ago. A view of Lake Sunapee reveals another impressive glacial erratic on Minute Island. Across the lake, Mt. Sunapee rises to over 2,700 feet. Most of the mountain is a state park with chair lifts for skiers and, in the summer months, for sightseers. An observation platform on the summit offers fine views in all directions.