Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham, NH
Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham, NH is about 90 minutes north of Boston. Take Interstate 93 north toward Manchester, NH, then take New Hampshire 101 east to Exit 5 and follow the signs. Easy!
At 5,500 acres, Pawtuckaway offers plenty of room to enjoy the peace and solitude of the outdoors as well as multiple opportunities for... fun!... including a spectacular beach, miles and miles of hiking trails, 192 tent sites and more.
During our recent day trip to this lovely New Hampshire State Park, weather permitted us only a short hike through the many miles of trails that await the hiker here. We started on the Fundy Trail, then took the Shaw Trail over to the Split Rock Trail, then closed the loop back to the Fundy Trail on the Woronoco Trail - making for a hike of low to moderate difficulty of about six miles.
On our hike we encountered perhaps half a dozen other hikers and as many cyclists. The park is a popular destination for mountain bike riders and it is easy to see why. The rooty, rocky trails (typical in northern New England) certainly offer great exercise for both hiker and biker. As is usual on popular hiking trails, the further out we hiked, the fewer people we encountered.
The trails wind through boulder-strewn forests of varied pine and hardwoods. It is beautiful there with autumn's colors, but it is a beautiful place any time of year. The gentle music of small streams and the deep whisper of the wind in the trees comprise most of the sounds one hears. Everywhere one looks there is something to delight the eye. We encountered a few moderately challenging, but short climbs - enough to get the heart pumping a bit, but far from a tremendous workout. The cyclists and trail runners we saw looked like they were getting a great workout.
We rented a lakefront camp site, not to spend the night, but to enjoy cooking outdoors and a bit of time by the camp fire. Although this was cut short by rain, we enjoyed our meal with appetites enhanced by our day outdoors and generally wonderful time.
When our children were small we occasionally took them to the beach at Pawtuckaway. The lake is gorgeous and the beach well maintained. There is a life guard there for much of the summer. Near the beach there is a wooded picnic area and an open field for playing soccer or kickball with the kids. All it all it is a fantastic place to get away with the tribe and have a great time. Near the beach there is also a small store that offers ice cream and other treats and a boat rental where you can rent a kayak or canoe.
One part of the park we did not get to this trip was the boulder field located in the northernmost reaches. From designated parking areas near Pawtuckaway Lake the boulder field is about a five mile hike - ten miles round trip. However, it is possible to get closer to the boulder field by car. Exit the park via Mountain Road, turn left on Nottingham Road; Nottingham Road becomes Raymond Road; turn left on Deerfield Road; and turn left on Round Pond road. When you come to the gate, that is the border of the State Park. Continue to follow Round Pond Road on foot, then turn right on Boulder Trail. This will be our adventure next time we visit. I hope it will be soon.