If you have not ventured out of the interior terrain in your area, with its fragrant evergreens,
whispering winds and hilly trails, then lift your head and smell the salt air. Snowshoeing coastal Maine and New Hampshire provides excellent opportunities to spot wildlife and meander along marshes, coves, and shorelines.
Snowshoeing Coastal New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s coastline is a very small portion of the state’s total area, at only 18 miles (29 km), 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.
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
In the Newington area is the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite along coastal New Hampshire, with over 580 acres and 6.5 miles (10.5 km) along the coast. The Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge Trail is actually two trails. The longer trail is an out-and-back 2-mile (3.2 km) 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 (30.5 m), making this an easy outing for sightseeing and family outings. The shorter trail runs one-half mile (0.8 km) through sheltered woods to Upper Peverly Pond.
Adams Point Trail
Also in the Newington area is the Adams Point Trail, a peninsula jutting into Great Bay. It provides stunning water views. The trail runs right along the waterline, a short 3-mile loop with a total elevation gain of only 300 feet (91 m). Furthermore, you are in an estuarine reserve of 4,500 acres. The ocean converges with freshwater rivers in Great Bay, providing spectacular views of the tides doing their thing. Observe all manner of protected wildlife, including twenty-three species of endangered animals.
Odiorne Point State Park
In the Rye area, Odiorne Point State Park comprises 300 acres and 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.
One snowshoeing trail option is the easy 3.2-mile (5.1 km) Odiorne Point State Park Trail, which lies between Rye Beach and the city of Portsmouth in southern New Hampshire. This area is the largest undeveloped stretch of coastline in New Hampshire. 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.
A second trail option in Odiorne Point State Park located a bit further south of the Odiorne Point State Park Trail is the Battery Seaman Loop. If you’ve never experienced the crashing of waves and the salty smell of the sea while snowshoeing, this 2-mile (3.2 km) easy trail is the place. There is no elevation here to speak of, making this another great family or novice outing.
Additionally, the Seacoast Science Center is open all year. Kids especially love the exhibits and the touch tanks where they can experience the environment of a natural tide pool. The Science Center and Odiorne Point State 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.
Snowshoeing Coastal Maine
In contrast to the coast of New Hampshire, the state of Maine has one of the longest coastlines in the country. The shoreline meanders into coves, out around rocky points, and up along the shores of salt bays and down long peninsulas. Be forewarned that snow does not stay on the ground very long on the New England coast. So make sure to follow the weather before you go or you will end up hiking bare ground. However, views of the dramatic coastal acreage are worth the effort when you can snowshoe along the coast in southern Maine.
Acadia National Park
Where else can you snowshoe the pristine wilderness of a winter forest, yet take another route and have a panoramic view of the ocean? Acadia National Park is unique and once you visit this part of the southern Maine coast, you’ll be hooked for life. If you want to snowshoe the solitude and beauty of the woods, Acadia’s system of carriage paths offers more than 40 miles (64 km) of groomed surface winding through the eastern side of the park. Or for scenic views of the ocean, about one mile (1.6 km) south of downtown Bar Harbor on Route 3 is the Schooner Head access road that will take you to a two-mile stretch right along the coast that is open in winter.
Read More: Snowshoe Magic: Acadia National Park
Laudholm Farm at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Lesser known than Acadia National Park is the Laudholm Farm, located in Wells, Maine at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. It’s a mouthful yes, but also a 1,600-acre area that is home to a wide range of shorebirds, deer, and fox.
Laudholm Farm’s provides a total of 7.0 miles (11 km) of trails. The trails are easy to moderate and open every day. The unique environment of woodland and coastal waters provides endless opportunities to see wintering species, as well as, migrating birds. No pets are allowed on the trails.
What’s your favorite area to snowshoe in coastal New Hampshire or Maine? We’d love to know!