Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hanson Pines - A River Walk in Rochester, NH

I first visited Dominicus Hanson Pines Park last summer when my son was taking swimming lessons through the Rochester Rec Department.  I noticed a trailhead in the parking lot, but without knowing anything about the trail, I was tentative to try it with two young children alone.  I reached out to social media to my peers at Hike It Baby Seacoast, but no one responded that they had the tried the trail. I forgot about it...until this spring when I saw a post on social media of a beautiful pedestrian bridge over the Cocheco river and a lovely trail.  Next, I reached out through Facebook to Rochester Rec and they were super accommodating - answering questions about the trail and even offering to hike it with us! I took the kids and discovered it’s a hidden gem of a city park - water views, gentle trail, huge trees, and a loop!  It is now part of our regular rotation of nature walks.

Pedestrian Bride along Hanson Pines Nature Walk

Here’s how to recreate this adventure…

Adventure: Dominicus Hanson Pines Park and Nature Trail

Getting there:  The park and parking lot is located right next to Spaulding High School in Rochester at 4 Yeagley Way.

Trailhead at Hanson Pines

Trail:  The trail is a loop that’s divided by a paved path.  It’s a little misleading since it looks like the trail IS the paved path, but it actually goes around the path.  The unpaved walking trail is a relatively flat, wide trail with a floor of pine needles and leaves. There are some roots and rocks, but it is an easy trail and could be accessible for someone with a jogging stroller.  The trail loop is 0.77 miles round trip. We made it a little longer by incorporating the paved path and making a sort of figure eight shape.

If you start by turning left at the trailhead, you will parallel the Hanson Pines pool and playground.
Trail map.  I highlighted the loop in yellow.
Red marks the paved path/bridge.
Next, it wil curve right down to the river.  There are multiple resting benches along the way. At the river, the trail curves right again and travels parallel to it. You will pass the intersection of the paved path and see the impressive footbridge.  Continue straight. Here, interpretive signs are available using a QR code on your phone. We saw muskrat, turtle, and waterfowl. The large pines were also impressive.

From the river, the trail curves right again and heads into a mixed forest of hardwoods and pines. Soon, you will get glimpses of Spaulding High School through the trees and once more the trail curves, taking you back to the well marked trailhead.

We have now visited this trail multiple times - we saw other families, couples, and dog walkers (leashed) enjoying the trail.  We have also tried it with my son on his balance bike. As a parent, I appreciate the playground as well!

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.77 miles for loop

  • Unless, the Hanson Pines Pool is open, there are no bathrooms at the park
  • Dogs are allowed on the trail but should be leashed
  • Parking is free
  • There are other small trails that weave in and out of the land. I haven't explored these (see map photo).

This is a great little strip of peaceful nature in the heart of an urban center.  It’s perfect for families with small children and/or anyone who’s looking for a short nature walk.

View from the footbridge
Happy hikers

Playground fun during hike

You might also enjoy these similar experiences:

- The Perfect Winter "Hike" with Toddlers 

- Winnie - the - Pooh Trail

- Willand Pond Nature Walk