The Thrill of Stratham Hill

On a rather gray day in October, mister gardener and I explored another recommended trail in nearby Stratham NH. Our goal was to find and climb a restored fire tower for a bird’s eye view of the surround. I’d never climbed a fire tower and could hardly believe folks were allowed to do it. We had no idea how far we had to walk but it turned out to be a rather short and gradual assent to the summit, an elevation of 280 feet.

We soon approached a tree-tunneled opening and were surprised to find an expanse of well-maintained fields. To the right, a sign pointed to other trails but we could see the tower at the summit on the left. Well, I thought, that tower certainly doesn’t look imposing. I’ve seen taller.

Click photos to enlarge.

We walked up the dew covered grass and noticed the tower that seemed so manageable was looming larger as we got closer. And once there, I saw that the metal steps were dew covered and slippery. I had qualms… but I swallowed my apprehension and began the slippery climb, holding on very tight and photographing each level as I passed with my free hand. The worst part was a see-through metal grate instead of a solid surface beneath my feet. Whenever I looked down, I saw all the way to the ground. Add a breeze up there and I developed a slight case of vertigo. I didn’t linger.

On a clear day not only Portsmouth and the Great Bay can be seen, but several mountains can be identified… including Mt. Washington 88 miles in the distance.

Can you spot the picnic table? We are up high! Click to enlarge.

I stayed long enough to see what people tagged on the beams… mostly nice thoughts but when I saw one about jumping, I decided it was time for my safe descent.

On the way back down to the parking lot, we took a steeper trail, the Lincoln Trail named for Robert Lincoln, Honest Abe’s son.

We stopped to read the plaque on a large boulder that marked the spot where Robert Lincoln, a student at Phillips Exeter Academy, read the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1860, the year his father was elected president.

Once back on level ground, we checked our GPS and found that we had logged less than 2 miles, a short walk. This map of all the trails in this area illustrates the amazing 9 miles of trails on both private and public land. We had barely scratched the surface!

Stratum Trail Map

8 thoughts on “The Thrill of Stratham Hill

    • I am thoroughly enjoying the miles of hiking trails that New Hampshire provides. In Virginia we just didn’t have that. We walked on the side of our quiet rural roads, rarely venturing off into our thicket of woods.


  1. I often pass by Stratham Park, and mostly know it as a great place to picnic… had no idea that there were trails there! Have only recently discovered the very walkable trails at the Urban Forestry Center and at the Wentworth-Coolidge in Portsmouth, and, for more interesting hiking, Pawtuckaway, which also has a fire tower…


    • I’m familiar with the Urban Forestry Center as my daughter accesses it from her home. I like your suggestions: Wentworth-Coolidge and especially Pawtuckaway. I hear so much about Pawtuckaway but not sure I’d want to climb another fire tower!


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