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Walk with Kids - Urban Forestry Center Portsmouth NH

Updated on May 12, 2015

Urban Forestry Center

If you live around the seacoast of NH, how many times have you driven by the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth on your way to Odiorne State Park or a drive along the seashore, and wondered what was in there?

This week was April Vacation and we were looking for something to do. I did some research and found that there were trails at the Urban Forestry Center.

To get there is super easy. If you are coming from the South, take Route 1 past Water Country, and when you get to Market Basket, take right onto Rd., and your first left is your destination. If you are coming from the North on Rt 1, go past McDonalds & Comfort Inn, and take a left on to Rd., and your first left is your destination.

45 Elwyn Road, Portsmouth, NH

When you first pull in the driveway, ahead of you is a wood fence with dirt in front of it. If you are going to walk around and look at the tree specimens along the grassy paths, this would be a good place to park. If you are going to walk the trail system, there is parking on both side of the paved road a little further down. If you follow the paved road all the way, it will bring you to the main office, where the restrooms are also located.

Map taken from the mail box at the Urban Forestry Center
Map taken from the mail box at the Urban Forestry Center

There are mailboxes at a few spots that say “trail map”. I’ve included a copy that I picked up in this blog just in case you want to print it before you go. I love to have maps when I go into the woods, its like a prerequisite for me, especially when I have my kids with me. That being said, I have 2 exceptions to my rule. The first is Odiorne State Park, and now, the Urban Forestry Center. The reason for this is because the trail network itself isn’t somewhere that you could get too lost. You are bordered by the salt marsh, Rd., Rt 1, and a housing subdivision. If you have younger children, this allows you to let them choose which trail to take knowing that they really can’t take you the “wrong” way. It can be empowering for them. If you frequent areas of trails like these that are bordered, and they choose, they are also learning their sense of direction. If the woods can sometimes make you or your children feel a little uneasy, this is a great walk. The trees are spaced pretty well, and there wasn’t a whole lot of underbrush so you could see all around you. Keep in mind we were there in the spring before the tree leaves had fully budded.

There are also doggie bags available near the mailboxes because your furry friends are allowed on the trails as long as they are leashed.

The overall terrain of the trails were fairly level or a gradual increase in elevation. There were large wide trails without many roots or rocks, and you could find offshoots with both roots and rocks. There were a lot of pine needles so it have the potential to be slippery even when dry. Because of the terrain, mountain biking would be a fun activity out there too. I read that it was 2 miles of trails. It seemed a little shorter than that to me, but still a great time in the woods with family.

My teenagers like rock outcroppings on trails, and there were a few decent ones throughout our walk. There were also a few other neat things, especially if you have younger children. If you go by the main office, walk through the “meadow” to the beginning of the wide trail, and at the 1st intersection by the large outcropping of rocks take a right, a little further up the trail was a teepee made of sticks large enough for a few kids for pretend play.

1st Rock Outcropping
1st Rock Outcropping
Kids in the teepee
Kids in the teepee

Following the map, if you go further and take the trail that shows a small pond to the right, there is a bench you can sit on and look at the pond. At this small pond, we saw traces of beaver activity and there were 2 medium sized turtles with red markings sunning themselves on the fallen trees in the water.

Wooden Bench at  the Edge of the Water
Wooden Bench at the Edge of the Water

There are a few stream and bridge crossings throughout. There are also a few mushy spots but there are planks to walk on so you don’t have to go through the mud.

Bridge Crossing
Bridge Crossing
Another Bridge Crossing
Another Bridge Crossing
Planks in the Mud
Planks in the Mud

Now here is my favorite part of our walk. We decided to go all the way to the end of the loop. As we were walking, we saw 2 dogs coming out of the woods near the subdivision that didn’t appear to be leashed until we saw the owner. She was surprised to see us and she said that people didn’t usually go all the way to the end but she thought we would enjoy it and she was right! At the end is a steep drop off to the edge of the water than ran into the flowing salt marsh. If you have small children, it would be wise to keep them with you when you see the large fireplace with graffiti on it because you are very close. The steep part was cliff like and you could see all around. The trail bends to the left and descends abruptly, where there are a few entry point into the edge of the water if you want to get a closer look. It is much like the edge of a lake.

Cliff at the furthest point of the trails
Cliff at the furthest point of the trails
Shoreline at the bottom of the cliff
Shoreline at the bottom of the cliff

Back near the parking area are picnic tables where you can see the green lawns and the salt marsh. It would be a perfect picnic spot.

While we were there, there were men spraying the salt marsh for mosquitos. We didn’t experience any bugs while we were there but given some of the low lying areas and amount of water, it would be a very good idea to make sure you at least have bug spray with you!

Until next time, get out there and have fun!



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