The Seacoast is known for its rich and diverse landscape, and with all four seasons, each time of year is distinct, inspiring and worthy of exploring.
As Seacoast Media Group Executive Editor Howard Altschiller has said, we live in a beautiful part of the world, where there’s no shortage of natural wonder and the list of remarkable sights goes on and on.
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We’re highlighting nine of our favorite hiking spots and trails in the Seacoast and explaining why we love them, especially as the leaves begin to transition and jaw- dropping, vibrant landscapes become the norm.
1. Little Harbor Loop Trail, Portsmouth
This leisurely, 1.5-mile trail is one of Hadley Barndollar’s favorites.
“It is an absolute gem … At low tide, you can walk the sandbar, too, and that looks out at Wentworth by the Sea,” said Barndollar, a New England regional reporter for the USA TODAY Network. “The woods are forest-bathing status.”
The waterside path at 375 Little Harbor Road connects to the Wentworth-Coolidge Grounds, Creek Farm and Portsmouth Conservation Land, boasting remarkable views of Portsmouth and the ocean.
The area is open daily from dawn until dusk, and free parking is available at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion trail access point.
The Mansion remains closed for the 2021 season, but free guided tours around the grounds will be available with advance notice.
2. Stratham Hill Park, Stratham
Stratham Hill Park is home to the highest point in Stratham, according to the town, so it’s also home to some of the most spectacular views.
Altschiller said he enjoys climbing up the fire tower in the park, which offers panoramic views of the Seacoast, Great Bay and, on a clear day, far beyond.
Primary access to the trail system is found at 270 Portsmouth Avenue, with a second access point and parking location off of Jack Rabbit Lane.
If you’re looking to hike the Crockett Farm Trail head, limited parking can be found on Portsmouth Avenue near the western edge of the trail network.
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Additional access points with limited parking can be found further south on Portsmouth Avenue, western edge of the trail network where Crockett Farm Trail head is located. Stratham Memorial School is at the eastern edge and is another point with good parking (outside of school hours).
Outside of school hours, you can access free parking near the eastern edge of the park at Stratham Memorial School.
Park access is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, according to the park’s social media.
Trail Map: Stratham State Park
3. Rockingham Rail Trail, Portsmouth
The Rockingham Recreational Rail Trail is one of New Hampshire’s longest rail trails at about 28 miles, beginning at Page Street in Manchester and ending at Ash Swamp Road in Newfields, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
This trail, with parking at Rockingham Junction in Newfields, offers views of wetlands and forests and is a great spot for hiking and biking, according to Altschille
Travelers may run into deer, foxes, loons and other wildlife, or stumble upon former mill towns along the way, where they can visit historic buildings and relics from the railroads, some dating as far back as 1850, like a surviving railroad station in Raymond built in 1893. The Raymond Depot has railroad relics such as a locomotive, a caboose, and a push car, as well as food and refreshments nearby.,
Trail Map: Rockingham Rail Trail
4. Mount Agamenticus, York, ME
As a reporter who covers York, I admit that I may be biased when it comes to Mount A. This destination is very popular with locals and visitors, and for good reason. It boasts a plethora of different trails to choose from, with breathtaking views at every turn.
On top of the views, it has the highest diversity of animal and plant species in all of Maine, according to the town’s website.
The mountain is part of an expansive conservation region that is rare for the highly developed southern portion of the state, and it’s an ideal spot for hiking, according to the town’s website. From the summit, you can expect to see 360-degree views the include the town and the ocean. If you’re an early bird who loves to chase beautiful light, I recommend going for a sunrise hike.
Mount A offers a guided children’s story walk, which includes 24 stations along the Ring Trail. The story, which is generally seasonal and swapped out quarterly, starts at the lowest parking lot on the ring trail, continues on the west side of Ring, and up the Witch Hazel trail to finish on the summit. This season’s book is called “We Are Fungi” by Christine Nishiyama.
The 1.5-mile Ring Trail is a moderate to difficult trail meant for hiking and mountain biking, with steep and rocky portions on the way up.
Trail Map: Mount Agamenticus
5. Brave Boat Headwaters, Kittery, ME
This easy 1.4-mile loop is another southern Maine favorite of mine, especially if you’re in the mood for a quick hike in a dreamy forest. The trail sits on a 60-acre preserve, part of the largest block of natural land remaining in Kittery, and feels like a hidden oasis within itself.
As you walk through, you’ll probably be looking up to catch a glimpse of the numerous species of birds, but don’t forget to look down at the vernal pools throughout. The trail is mostly leveled and has resting benches along the way, providing the chance to pause and soak up your surroundings.
Trail Map: Brave Boat Headwaters
6. Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham
Pawtuckaway State Park sits on 5,500 acres and is inundated with trails that lead to numerous spots, including a mountaintop fire tower; a marsh where beavers, deer, and great blue herons can be seen; and large boulders that date back to the end of the Ice Age and are used by rock climbers to practice their techniques.
Hikers can find a panoramic view from the fire tower walking 2.4 miles to the 908’ summit of South Mountain.
The park recommends hiking the Fundy Trail bordering Burnham’s Marsh during the early morning or evening when beavers, deer, and great blue herons are most active.
Trail Map: Pawtuckaway State Park
7. The Urban Forestry Center, Portsmouth
The Urban Forestry Center offers a series of self-guided trails for walking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing and is where our reporter Karen Dandurant’s likes to walk her dog, especially during the holidays when the area is decorated, she said.
The Tree Identification Trail is a self-guided walk that leads visitors through the Center’s Mixed Deciduous Forest, Northern Hardwood Forest, Saltmarsh Wetland, Red Pine Plantation, and Blue Spruce Plantation, according to the center’s website.
The Goodwin Trail is a two-mile trail which takes visitors through a woodland setting, where they can see native wildflowers, birds, and other animals. Additionally, a tidal salt marsh on Sagamore Creek can be viewed along this trail, which is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Trail Map: The Urban Forestry Center
8. Lubberland Creek, Newmarket
This 400-acre preserve on Great Bay‘s northern shore has been nicknamed “lubberland” since as early as 1669. This preserve is home to one of the largest salt marshes in the area, a lush forest and scenic views of Great Bay.
A 4-mile trail in the preserve, Sweet Trail, stretches from Longmarsh Road in Durham to the Great Bay Estuary in Newmarket, and takes hikers through upland forests, freshwater wetlands and the salt marsh. The unique ecosystem supports more than 150 rare plant and animal species, according to Great Bay Resource Protective Partnership.
Trail Map: Lubberland Creek Preserve
9. Odiorne State Park, Rye
Odiorne State Park has an extensive network…
Read More:We can’t wait to hit these 9 trails this weekend