Extensive, well-mapped and constantly being improved, the Hampstead Nature Trails are large and interesting enough to keep you busy for a couple of days. With over 1000 acres open to the public, it’s no surprise. Divided into East and West sections, there are many parking locations to choose from. A good idea is to start with the West Road Conservation Area (WRCA) and the superb trail guide published by the town and available for downloading. It guides you through 5 miles of easy walking through mixed forest.
The WRCA is connected to even more trails on the west network. There are streams both seasonal and persistent which host wildflowers such as marsh marigold, cardinal flower and even Canada lily. You’ll find large boulders known as glacial erratics. Extensive granite ledge which plays host to porcupines. And of course a diverse tree population including pitch pine and black birch. In addition to forest you’ll encounter wetlands and open areas free of tree cover. Also dotted through the property are cellar holes, wells and defunct mills.
If you like old mill sites, the east trail network is going to make you smile. There are 3 ruin sites within just a mile or two on Darby brook. One is quite large and still holds back a pond which is frequented by ducks and other waterfowl as well as playing host to a family of beavers. The other mills are smaller, but one has an intact spillway which was used to regulate the water flow into the wheel mechanism. Recently a new bridge went up over this part of the trails, connecting it to an even larger conservation area.
How to get there –
Head for the town of Hampstead, NH
Both the east and west trail networks have many places to park. Please refer to individual maps for the one that suits your outing best.
More photos can be found here.
Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.