Happy Trails! Get outside and enjoy the seacoast’s beautiful outdoor walks.
Looking to enjoy the great outdoors this weekend? Check out our recommendations for a family outing along some of the seacoast’s most beautiful walking trails and nature centers.
Dover Community Trail
Downtown Dover, NH (603) 516-6008
This .69 mile trail follows a former railroad bed through much of downtown Dover and provides public access to protected greenways along the Cochecho and Bellamy Rivers. The in-town section of the trail provides a pedestrian and bicycle friendly connection between downtown, the Dover Middle and High School campuses and Bellamy Park. This section of the trail is paved which is great for strollers and bike riding with the kids. And once the snow flies, the trail is a fantastic place to go snowshoeing with the family!
Rural extensions of the trail will provide opportunities for bicycling, hiking and fishing where the trail follows the Cochecho and Bellamy Rivers. Along the shore of the Cochecho River, various birds and animals, including great blue herons and red fox, may be seen. Most of the land along the trail has been changed by man, but you will see the resiliency of nature as you travel along the trail. A recent survey of trees along this section of trail identified more than twenty species. They were not planted, but took over that space since the construction of the rail bed in the 1840’s. Print out this Tree Species Guide and bring it with you on your walk. How many can you find?
Parking is located at the Rotary Trailhead at the back of the Downtown Transportation Center parking lot on Chestnut Street. There is trail information and a map at the kiosk. If you wish to use the rural section of the trail, parking is available on Watson Road.
Odiorne State Park
Route 1A, Rye NH (603) 436-7406
Cost: Adults $4.00; Children ages 6-11 $2.00; Children ages 5 & under, NH residents age 65 & over FREE
Odiorne Point, nearly covering 332 acres, is the largest undeveloped stretch of shore on New Hampshire’s eighteen mile coast. Located three miles south of Portsmouth on Route 1A in Rye, visitors can enjoy sweeping views of the ocean and rocky shore, and explorers can uncover evidence of past military occupation. An extensive network of trails wind through the dense vegetation and traverse the park.
The park is open year round and encourages visitors to enjoy the many walking trails, paved bicycle path and military forts. In the winter months, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails are also available. Sorry, pets are not permitted in the park.
Great Bay Wildlife Reserve
100 Merrimac Drive, Newington NH (Pease International Tradeport)
For information, call Parker River at (978) 465-5753
Established in 1992, Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located along the eastern shore of New Hampshire’s Great Bay in the town of Newington. The refuge protects more than 1,000 acres along the seacoast for migratory birds and other wildlife. It is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline along the bay. These diverse habitats support many plants and animals native to the area, including New Hampshire’s greatest concentration of wintering bald eagles, river otters, foxes and turtles.
The refuge features two main trails. A shorter, half mile trail meanders gently through woods to picture-perfect Upper Peverly Pond. The longer Ferry Way Trail, is a 2 mile walk through the woods, along inter-tidal mud flats, ponds and bogs, and out to the open waters of Great Bay. Visitors are welcome to watch wildlife, hike, bike, and hunt on the refuge. The refuge trails and headquarters are located at 100 Merrimac Drive in Newington. Trails are open seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset.
Urban Forestry Center
45 Elwyn Road, Portsmouth, NH (603) 431-6774
Investigate the great outdoors by walking the trails at the Urban Forestry Center including the Goodwin Trail, a two-mile (round-trip) path which takes visitors through a scenic woodland setting where native foliage, birds and animals can be seen. If available, grab a Tree Identification Pamphlet from the mailbox in the parking lot and complete the self-guided tour that leads visitors through mixed deciduous forest, northern hardwood forest, salt marsh wetland, red pine plantation, and blue spruce plantation. Or do your own thing by checking out the animal tracks or by creating a family scavenger hunt! Trails are open every day from 7:00am-8:00pm.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Plum Island, Newburyport MA (978) 465-5753
Cost: $5/car $2/walk or bike
The refuge is renowned for its wildlife observation and photography opportunities. Observation towers and platforms afford commanding views of the refuge and surrounding lands and waters. Several miles of self-guiding foot trails meander through dune, maritime forest, and marsh habitats. All trails are on boardwalks or lined with stonedust to protect the refuge’s fragile ecosystems.
The Hellcat Interpretive Trail is the most popular walking trail with families (parking lot 4 is best for this trail). This 1.5 mile trail offers a narrative brochure to guide you along numbered posts. This brochure is available at the trailhead, refuge headquarters and the entrance gatehouse when staffed. The Dune Loop portion of this trail takes you up a 50 foot tall dune to give you a 360 degree view of the island. The Marsh Loop portion takes you through the North Pool, past beaver and muskrat homes, and gives you a great chance to view red winged blackbirds and marsh wrens. The Pines Trail, Salt Pannes Wildlife Observation Area, North Pool Overlook, and observation platforms overlooking the beach and ocean at parking lots 1 and 7 are wheelchair accessible. Click here to view a refuge map outlining these and other areas of the refuge.
A checklist of refuge birds is available from refuge headquarters and the entrance gatehouse when staffed. Trails are open every day, sunrise to sunset.
What are your favorite outdoor walking spots? Share with us and inspire other families to visit new places and enjoy the fresh air!