Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stratham Hill Park

Fire tower at the summit of Stratham Hill
After getting my puppy, Summit, I was searching for places near my house where I could walk the dog in a non-urban setting. After realizing the large Exeter Rec Park didn't allow dogs, I drove  down the road to Stratham Hill Park (5 minutes from my house).  After walking around the fields and playground, I was warmly greeted by park ranger, Kim, who gave me with a trail map, advice, and a dog treat for Summit.  Since then, I've been visiting Stratham Hill almost once a week, each time trying a new short hike and venturing deeper into the trails.

Kim let me know that there are over 9 miles of trails at Stratham Hill - traversing by fields, through forests, over hills, to fire towers, and alongside woodland ponds.  It's a hidden gem of peaceful nature in an otherwise populated part of the state.

Yesterday, Summit and I enjoyed a great 2 mile loop that got us out of the heat, into the forest, and a peaceful nature visit.
Sign at the parking lot at the end of Jack Rabbit Lane

Here is how to recreate this adventure....

Adventure:  Loop Hike at Stratham Hill Park  in Stratham, New Hampshire

Getting there:  Stratham Hill Park is easily located along Route 33 between Portsmouth and Exeter, NH.  From Exeter, head east on Route 33/Portsmouth Ave.  Stay straight through the traffic circle.  The park will be on the right after a couple miles.  A large sign and parking lot marks it's presence.

If you have a dog and you'd like to take her off leash, Pam suggested parking in a different entrance on Jack Rabbit Lane.  It is accessed on the right just feet before the main entrance to the the park.  At the end of the road is a large dirt lot and a sign greeting you to "Gordon Barker Town Forest".  This is the start of the Tote Road trail.  This is where Summit and I started our hike.

End of the Tote Road Trail
Both lots are free to park, and there are bathrooms, sports fields, trail maps, playground, and picnic areas at the main parking area.  Dogs must be on leash here.

Trail:  From the parking lot at the end of Jack Rabbit Road, I took the Tote Road trail.  It is just inside the woods.  On the right will be a field and on the left a series of ponds/wetlands.  We took this for about 0.5 miles.  About 0.2 miles after the pond we took a sharp left onto the Kitty Rock Trail (not signed, but obvious).  This trail continues through woods and gradually ascends 60 feet in elevation over 0.45 miles until it connects to the Lincoln trail.  Follow the Lincoln trail out of the woods and on to the grassy summit of Stratham Hill (elevation  280 feet).  You will see the fire tower and views of area lakes and even views of the Great Bay.  Enjoy the sunshine and picnic area before continuing forward, past the tower to continue on the Lincoln Trail.  The short and steep 0.36 miles will take you down 60 feet of elevation and into the main park area.  To return to our car, we stayed left (outskirts of the fields) on the Eagle trail to connect back to the parking lot at the End of Jack Rabbit Lane (0.3 miles).
Marker at summit

Difficulty:  Easy!  Great trail for a lazy day, families, or those who just want a casual stroll in nature.

Distance:  1.5-1.7 mile loop.  It is possible to have a longer/shorter loop.  The Outer Perimeter trail
skirts the entire park and is a 4.6 mile hike in total.  My version is shorter, and gets a view from the summit of Stratham Hill.


  • Grab a trail map at the main entrance or download on from the town website here.  Not all trails are well marked.  Use the map and bring a compass.  
  • Wear bug spray.  Although I haven't noticed many problems there, Southern New Hampshire is
    Summit loves hiking at Stratham Hill Park
    infamous for ticks and Lyme Disease.  
  • Realize that if you start from the Jack Rabbit Lane Entrance, there will be multiple dogs off leash.  If you want to avoid this, stick to the Stratham Hill side of the park and don't take the Tote Road - a popular run for local pups.  
  • Bring a picnic and frisbee/ball. Enjoy the wonderful facilities of Stratham Hill Park!
  • Greet the staff - they are friendly and helpful!  There is always filled water bowls for dogs near the caretaker garage and dog treats if you meet Park Ranger Kim.  
I'm so glad I discovered this local treasure.  Not only is Stratham Hill a great sports park, but it's a wonderful spot to hike, picnic, and get into nature in the Seacoast region.