Hiking with Kids - North Mountain Pawtuckaway State Park Nottingham NH
Pawtuckaway State Park - Nottingham NH
Pawtuckaway State Park is a gem for hiking trails on the seacoast of New Hampshire.
The very first thing I should note about the park. Much like Bear brook State Park in Allenstown NH, using the GPS for driving directions could quite possibly take you to the wrong side of the park because of the trailheads that lead into the park.
The main entrance is located at 128 Mountain Road in Nottingham NH. This is the entrance for the swimming area, camping, group areas, and a host of trails. Entering the park from this entrance requires a fee per person.
About a 1/2 in from the main entrance just after the water crossing is a trailhead on your left that will lead to the Fire Tower on the top of South Mountain. There are two turns on this trail and whenever there are turns in a trail I recommend that you carry a map, especially if you are traveling with children. It is a decent hike at a little over 3 miles total. The views at the top are pretty good and you can climb the stairs on the fire tower to see even further. It is a great hike to take your lunch and eat at the top. This is a great hike for children. I took my children out there as young as 6 and they did well.
A hike that we have been doing lately is the North Mountain Trail to Boulder Trail and back via North Mountain Bypass. Doing the trail in this manner is about 5 - 6 miles. This is also the trail that we are going to start training on with our gear to get ready for backpacking. This trail is best done in the spring and the fall if you are looking for any kind of view from the top because there are lots of trees with leaves on them obstructing any kind of view, although there are spots you can view the fire tower on South Mountain.
To get to this area you need to get to Reservation Road off of Route 107. It starts out paved but turns to dirt. You can tell the trail heads on your left by the gates that may or may not be closed. The beauty about going into the park on these trails is that you don't have to pay to get in and there are not signs on this side of the park that say that dogs are not allowed.
This hike starts out easy and then the trail ascends upward until you reach the top. There isn't really a summit. I would describe it almost like ridge walking because you stay up in elevation with small rises and falls for a ways. Then the trails starts to descend. There are some very steep parts so make sure you have good shoes. When you get to the steepest descent, don't worry you can't miss it, there is a cliff rock, and HUGE boulders to the right. It might look tricky but it is worth your while to go off the trail and investigate these rocks. You will see what looks like a den, although it isn't very dark. It almost looks like a triangle. This area is commonly called "Devils Den". If you go up into this area and go to the back of the cave you will see glow in the dark moss. If you and your children do venture into this area, it is important that we teach our kids to look and not touch so that other people can enjoy the same thing later.
Following Boulder Trail was a treat the last time we went out. There were quite a few people there learning how to rock climb without ropes with their safety mats and all. We came across a family who were teaching their kids how to climb up a rock face with the ropes. It was great. After our kids saw that, they said they would like to learn someday even though it looks scary.
From Boulder Trail you come out to a dirt road and head right for a little ways. There will be a trail that heads of to the right almost parallel to the road. Then there will be another right turn but it is easy to miss. Watch for the white markings on the trees. From there it is pretty easy back to the beginning.
It is very easy to get turned around in this park if you are not familiar with it. Here is a link to the park trail map which is pretty good.
Until next time, get out there and have fun!