If you have not ventured out of the interior terrain in your area, with its fragrant evergreens,
whispering winds and hilly trails, lift your head and smell the salt air. New Hampshire’s coastline is a very small portion of the state’s total area, at only 18 miles, but it is distinctive. State parks and wildlife refuges are full of ducks and geese, as well as, bald eagles. The salt marshes attract all manner of birds and other wildlife.
In the Newington area is the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge Trail, a favorite along coastal New Hampshire, with over 580 acres and 6.5 miles along the coast. Also in the Newington area is the Adams Point Trail, a peninsula jutting into Great Bay. It provides stunning water views along its three total miles. In the Rye area is the 3.2 mile Odiorne Point State Park Trail lying between Rye Beach and the city of Portsmouth. The park itself comprises 300 acres and has a Science Center that is open all year. Kids especially love the exhibits and the touch tanks where they can experience the environment of a tide pool. Also in Odiorne Point State Park is the Battery Seaman Loop of 2 miles. If you’ve never experienced the crashing of waves and the salt smell of the sea while snowshoeing, this is the place.
In contrast, the state of Maine has one of the longest coastlines in the country that meanders into coves, out around rocky points, and up along the shores of salt bays and down long peninsulas. Noteworthy snowshoeing is Acadia National Park, which I have addressed in other articles. Lesser known is the Laudholm Farm at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, a mouthful yes, but a 1,600-acre area that is home to a wide range of shorebirds, deer and fox.
Be forewarned that snow does not stay on the ground long on the New England coast and follow the weather before you go or you will end up hiking bare ground. The dramatic coastal acreage is worth the effort.
GREAT BAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE TRAIL is actually two trails, the longer being an out-and-back 2-mile loop, named Ferry Way Trail, which takes about an hour to traverse. You will go through woods and along tidal flats, frozen bogs and ponds, and out to open water. This is a refuge for all kinds of birds such as loons, grebe and osprey, in case you are interested in observing the wildlife that shelters here. It is also the major winter locale for New Hampshire’s black ducks. You’ll see wild turkey and whitetail deer, as well as, bald eagles. Elevation gain is only 100 feet, making this an easy outing for sightseeing and family outings. The shorter trail runs one-half mile through sheltered woods to Upper Peverly Pond.
ADAMS POINT TRAIL lies on a peninsula and the trail runs right along the waterline, a short 3-mile loop with a total elevation gain of only 300 feet. You are in an estuarine reserve of 4,500 acres. The ocean converges with fresh water rivers in Great Bay, providing spectacular views of the tides doing their thing and all manner of protected wildlife, including twenty-three species of endangered animals.
ODIORNE POINT STATE PARK TRAIL in Rye runs along the largest undeveloped stretch of coastline in New Hampshire and is adjacent to the Science Center with its programs and exhibits. This is an excellent location to explore natural tide pools or refuge from the cold, should you want to take a break. The Center is open all year. This 300-acre park was once home to a summer resort and is now a pristine acreage from which you face the Gulf of Maine and the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The area is reputed to be home to more than 300 animals and thousands of plant and invertebrate species. If you are here at low tide you will be able to view the tide pools and the myriad types of life within. This loop trail runs 3.25 miles and is rated easy.
BATTERY SEAMAN LOOP also lies within Odiorne Point State Park a bit further south. The 2-mile trail rated easy is dramatic in its exposure and you will be able to hear waves crashing on the shore and enjoy the smell of the sea with every step. The Science Center and the park are adjacent to each other so if you get chilled you can go inside and learn about the area’s role in fortifying the coast during WW II. There is no elevation here to speak of, making this another great family or novice outing.
LAUDHOLM FARM’S SALT HAY LOOP is located in the Wells, (Maine) National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, which provides a total of 7.0 miles of trails. This loop trail is 2.4 miles and rated easy. It combines the quiet of the Maine woods with the salt water environment within a total of 1,600 acres of reserve. You will see wildlife here as you will along the trails listed above. The unique environment of woodland and coastal waters provides endless opportunities to see wintering species, as well as, migrating birds. Deer and fox tracks dot the reserve.
You can find food and year-round lodging in all of the areas above. Enjoy!
Sherry Ballou Hanson
Photos by Sherry Hanson and Ann Harris