Saturday, August 29, 2020

Little Harbor Loop Trail - A Portsmouth Treasure

small girl on rock near water

In my pursuit to find all the best Seacoast hikes, I realized I had left out what many would consider the "capital" of the Seacoast - the city of Portsmouth.  I've done many trails near Portsmouth - Great Bay, Peverly Pond, and Fort Constitution , but very few nature walks actually within the city limits.  I did some research and decided to try Little Harbor Loop Hike.  I liked it so much, the next day I went back with the kids!

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Little Harbor Loop Trail

Getting there:  Little Harbor Loop trail has three possible parking areas along the trail.  One is at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion located at the address: 375 Little Harbor Road in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  This historic site and grounds is managed by New Hampshire State Parks and offers free parking and a trailhead to the loop.  The other two parking areas are located on the Creek Farm Reservation Property which is maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Trail sign for little harbor loop in portsmouth new hampshire
The Little Harbor Loop Trial is well signed. 
Follow the yellow blazes!
Trail:  The trailhead to Little Harbor Loop is right in the parking lot to the Wentworth-Coolidge parking lot and marked with a small wooden sign and a gap in the woods.  The important thing to note on this trail is to follow the yellow blazes.  The trail is well marked but there are several unmarked offshoots where a hiker could get off course.  Stay on the yellow trail and you’ll be fine.

The hike begins in the woods.  You will hike over uneven terrain of rocks and roots.  The trail winds through woods, crossing a driveway, passing through two rock walls, and eventually to a trail junction sign that shows you can veer off the loop to the right to visit the “view spur”.  This is definitely worth it.  Take the spur and you will be rewarded with views of the tidal bay, rocky shoreline, and a grassy marsh.  Return the way you came and continue on the yellow-blazed loop.

The trail will cross the road and enter the well signed “Creek Farm Reservation” and second parking lot.  The trail is well signed, but travels along the road - yellow blazes marked on trees on the shoulder until entering the third parking lot for this hike near the Shoals Marine Laboratory and Sagamore Creek Boat Car Top Boat Launch.

The trail continues around the grounds of the impressive building and hugs the shore, curving around an inlet marked on the map as a tidal pool. Continue to follow the yellow blazes (now marked on stones), along the shore with views of Goose Island on your right.  

The trail will cut back inland and travel the road back to the parking lot of Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion.

Little Harbor Loop trail on road
Part of the Little Harbor Loop Trail walks along the road. 
Follow the yellow blazes.
Difficulty: Mostly easy with some root/rocky footing in the first half mile.

Distance: 1.5 miles


  • Little Harbor Loop Trail is managed by the New Hampshire state parks and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.  It is open dawn to dusk.

  • A trail map is available on the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion website.

  • Dogs are not allowed on the trail.

  • At low tide visitors can walk out to some of the close islands and tidal pool areas. Be mindful of the tide so you don’t get stuck.

  • The first half mile of the trail from Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion has a series of unmarked offshoot trails.  Stick to the yellow loop so not to impact more areas with unofficial trails- with the exception of the marked viewpoint.

I really enjoyed Little Harbor Loop twice this week. When I brought the kids, we didn't do the full loop - we just went down to the viewpoint and back.  This was the perfect length for my 2 year old.  Afterwards we enjoyed the lawn and waterfront views of the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion who's grounds were open to the public.  I hope you get to enjoy it too!

See more photos and adventure on my INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK!

Little Harbor Loop Trial in Portsmouth New Hampshire
Little Harbor Loop Trial in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

You might enjoy these similar experiences...

- Cutts Island Trail in Kittery

- Stonehouse Pond in Barrington

- Little River Park Loop in Lee