Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Little River Loop Hike - River, Ridges, and Playground

I try to take my children - age 1.5 and 3.5 - on a hike once a week.  The perfect "hike" for my preschooler is easy walking, has points of interest, and a playground at the parking lot.  I've found that there are actually quite a few that fit these specifications in the Seacoast including Great Bay Discovery Center, Hanson Pines, and Stratham Hill.  One of our other favorite spots is Little River Park in Lee, New Hampshire which offers a network of trails, ample parking, picnic area, sports fields, and playground.  Sometimes, we visit for the park alone, but this is also where I first started taking my son hiking out of a pack when he was two years old.  My favorite path is to make a loop out of the river, ridge and forest trails.

Looking down at the playground from the Ridge trail.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:

Adventure: Little River Park Loop

Getting There: A large sign and parking lot marks the park and trailhead to Little River Park.  It is located on North River Road (Rt 155) about four miles south of Rt. 4.  The physical address is 34 North River Rd in Lee.

Trail: When looking at the playground from the parking lot, there is a large painted trail sign on the right by the hill.  This shows the short loop Forest trail to the right (.4 miles), the River trail (.52 miles) on the left side of the parking lot, and the ridge trail (.28 miles) straight up from the sign.  While I have done all of these separately, my favorite choice is to combine them all in a loop that is about two miles.
Trail map near parking lot

To do this, start with the River Trail (red) which starts from the left side of the parking lot.  This trail skirts the edge of the park and eventually dips down to Little River.  It ends with a moderate climb up to a residential street (Lee Hill Road).  To continue the loop, turn right and walk along Lee Hill Road about 0.1-0.2 miles until you reach the trail entrance on the right.  The trail will skirt private property and dump you back into park boundaries on the Ridge trail.  This is my favorite part of the trail.  From elevation, you see the park below as it winds along the ridge.  As it turns back down towards parking, hikers have the option to veer left into the Forest trail.  This offshoot, takes you into hemlock and pine forest before winding you to the parking lot.   It is an easy trail with some gradual elevation changes that make it more interesting.  For such a short loop it's nice to experience river, ridge, and forest views.

River Views


Distance: Total loop including road portion and forest loop is approximately 2 miles, but you can make this shorter than a mile by just doing one portion.
Playground and pavilion at Little River Park


- While this park is usually sparse, when youth leagues are using the fields, the parking area can be crowded.  That said, I've never seen it fill. 

- Dogs are allowed on leash.

- The picnic pavilion can be reserved, so don't be surprised if a birthday party is using it on a sunny summer day.

- There are no permanent bathroom facilities but often port-a-potties in the parking lot.

- The playground is perfect for age 2-5.  It has the most epic sandbox I've ever seen, complete with trucks and sand toys that have been donated to the park.

This is a perfect destination for a family with small children or someone looking for an easy neighborhood nature walk.  For awhile it was located next to my children's daycare and we visited multiple times a week.  It is a well kept park hidden in a quiet country town.

Enjoying Little River with my kids.

You might also enjoy the following adventures:

Great Bay Discovery Center and Hike in Greenland, NH

Winnie the Pooh Hike in Barrington, NH

Hanson Pines Hike and Playground in Rochester, NH

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

WM Gonic Trails - River Views and Waterfalls

I've blogged this one before. The Gonic Trails on the Waste Management land in Gonic (Rochester), New Hampshire is probably my most hiked trail in the Seacoast.  It's about 5 minutes from my house and provides river and waterfall views, easy to moderate walking, and limited mileage - perfect for a quick after work dog walk or Saturday family morning stroll.  I also love doing it as a winter hike or snowshoe.  After posting photos of it on my Instagram stories this week, I realized that the only post I had about it was for deep snow and winter walks.  It's a slightly different experience when there's no snow on the ground.

Waterfall views on the Gonic Trail.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:

Adventure: WM Gonic Trails in Summer/Fall

Getting there:  The main parking lot for this trail is located on Rochester Neck Road.  Take Rt 125 to Rochester Neck Road (across from 1st City Motors Auto Dealer).  The parking lot is located on the right about 0.7 miles down Rochester Neck Rd.  Park in the gravel lot.  There is a sign in the parking lot that says WM Trails.  Parking is free but there are no restrooms.
Trail Sign in parking lot (with map)
Trail: There are three trails in this system - blue, red, and yellow.  There are multiple opportunities to take a loop (see map).  My favorite is to start by taking the yellow trail toward the waterfall.  When facing the parking lot from the road, this trail starts to the far right.  This path is wide and easy.  It travels through hemlock forest on the outskirts of the waste management land.  There is a slight decline and a fairly straight stretch.  When you reach the Isinglass river, you can see remnants of a bridge or damn.  The trail curves left and goes down a moderate rocky area, past a rock wall to low area where you can approach the waterfall.

After enjoying the waterfall, continue on the yellow trail (trail markers on trees).  It will wander up and down with small elevation changes until it drops back to the river and it meets the Red Trail.  Here I continue with the river on my right until I get the second offshoot of the red trail.  If you continue straight here on yellow, you will go multiple miles more to a different parking lot.  There is a sign present which warns that the red to the left is the last option to loop back.

Take Red up a steep incline.  After about 20 feet, the trail levels off again and you will enjoy an easy walk back to the parking lot through hardwood forest.
Trail Map available here.

Difficulty: Easy with a few short/steep portions.

Distance: The yellow to red loop is about 1.5 miles.
Yellow Trail

Recommendations/Additional Information

- There usually is ample (free) parking in the dirt lot.  At times it can get crowded on hot summer days.

- Leashed dogs are allowed.  Be prepared to see them on trail.

- There are no bathrooms available at the trailhead.

- For an even longer hike (or different approach), hike the out and back yellow trail.  You can also access this trail further down the Rochester Neck Road on the right.  It's labeled Isinglass River Park.
Yellow/Red Trail right before taking red back toward parking lot.

I've hiked this trail in every season and really enjoy all that it offers in such a reasonable loop.  It's one of the many short, yet beautiful scenic hikes in Seacoast New Hampshire.  
Isinglass River in September

For similar experiences, check out:

Winnie the Pooh Hike in Barrington, NH

Hanson Pines in Rochester, NH

Pickering Ponds in Rochester, NH