Nestled in Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, New Hampshire is a beautiful stone stairway to nowhere, making for a unique dog friendly hike. Named for the eccentric Madame Antoinette Sherri, who once designed costumes for the Zigfield Follies in the 1920s, the stairway and a few ruins are all that remain of her "castle" that once graced these woods. Today Madame Sherri Forest is 513 acres with an extensive trail network. On the day we visited, most of the people we met were only interested in the short walk of 150 yards from the parking lot to the ruins. However, if you're looking for more of an adventure, with breathtaking views of New Hampshire mountains, then we suggest hiking the Ann Stokes Loop.
The Ann Stokes Loop Trail is a difficult 2 mile hike that winds through dense forest featuring varied terrain, rugged slopes to the summit of Wantastiquet Mountain, with exceptional views from East Hill, past Indian Pond, and ends at the castle ruins. Although it is possible to begin the Ann Stokes Loop from the ruins, we suggest accessing it to the left where the trail divides, and leaving your approach to the infamous stairway for the end of your hike. This isn't just to leave the best for last, it is also based on our experience that it is easier to to descend the final leg of the trail than to climb the steep path with a dog. This trail is best for dogs who are seasoned hikers, and not recommended for inexperienced or out of shape dogs. Also connecting off of the Ann Stokes Trail is the Daniels Mountain Loop. We did not hike that 1.8 mile trail, but were told by a local resident that this difficult climb has magnificent views from the summit of Daniels Mountain.
For those seeking less of an adventure along the Ann Stokes Trail, where the trail splits at the map kiosk, rather than taking a left at the Indian Pond Trail sign, bear right and it is an easy to moderate half mile hike to the secluded lake nestled in the shoulder of the mountain. Indian Pond Trail will also loop you back to Madame Sherri's Stairway. At the castle ruins, be sure to follow the path behind the stairs to see all that remains of the French chateau where elaborate parties were once held during the roaring twenties. The parties ended in the 1940s, and the home was abandoned not long after. Vandals burned it down in 1962, leaving only the Roman arched stairway. Purchased by Ann Stokes shortly after Madame Sherri's death in 1965, she continued the parties at the burned out ruins. Today Madame Sherri Forest is maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
Dogs are allowed on-leash at Madame Sherri Forest, and trails range from easy to difficult. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead, with overflow parking available across the street. Please note that on-street parking is not allowed at this popular destination.