Flowering shrub along the gravel road
(photo by Webmaster)
Flowering shrub along the gravel road (photo by Webmaster)

Wagon Hill Farm

Destination:  Wagon Hill Farm
Region:  NH - Southeast  
Seacoast Region
Location:  Durham, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Views, river, loop hike
Distance:  2.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  80 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 0:45   Typical: 1:10  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 1:45   Typical: 2:30  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/11/2009 (Monday)  
Last Updated:  10/19/2009  
Weather:  60 degrees, partly cloudy
Author:  Webmaster

View of Oyster River from the end of a peninsula (photo by Webmaster)
View of Oyster River from the end of a peninsula (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike at Wagon Hill Farm. It walks along meadows and the Oyster River and visits the popular wagon landmark. Actually, it's two loop hikes each starting and ending at the same place. If you are pressed for time or wish for a shorter walk, you can choose to do just one of the loops.

Loop 1: Shoreline and Woods
  • From the upper parking lot, follow the gravel road (not the entrance road), past meadows, downhill for 0.3 mile which will bring you to an open area along the shore of Oyster River. There are picnic tables and a small pavilion here.
  • Turn right to walk along the water, and then enter the woods.
  • Close-up of a flowering shrub along the gravel road (photo by Webmaster)
    Close-up of a flowering shrub along the gravel road (photo by Webmaster)
  • Follow the woods trail for about 0.3 mile, then turn left onto a peninsula. There is a picnic table here and also great views from the end of the point.
  • Retrace your steps on the peninsula and then turn left.
  • Walk through the woods for a bit more and at a fork, turn left.
  • When you emerge at a meadow, keep walking straight ahead towards the shoreline, then curve back to the right on a mowed path towards a black iron bench.
  • This path will quickly return you to the gravel road.
  • Turn left and walk back up to the parking area.

Loop 2: Mostly Meadows
  • Instead of entering the parking lot, continue past it to the right (when facing the lot) on a mowed path in order to reach the wagon.
  • Continue past the wagon and after a bit the trail will turn right and head downhill.
  • Keep going straight downhill along the edge of the meadow, ignoring any paths that go off to the right.
  • At the base of the meadow, turn right, and then immediately left, in order to enter some woods.
  • Follow the path through the woods straight ahead to the shore, then turn right to walk along the shore until reaching a corner.
  • Here you can step out of the woods, down onto the shore in order to get better views of the water.
  • After enjoying this viewpoint, continue along the path (coming back up from the embankment, turn left).
  • Follow the trail as it turns right.
  • The path reconnects with the first part of the woods trail at a T-junction.
  • Turn left and you'll find yourself back at the meadow after several strides.
  • Turn left onto the meadow path and continue walking.
  • When you see a bridge on the left, cross it, and then turn left at the other side.
  • You will soon find yourself back at the open area near the picnic pavilion.
  • Walk over to the main path (which is grassy at first) and follow the wide gravel path back to the parking lot.

View from the end of the promontory (photo by Webmaster)
View from the end of the promontory (photo by Webmaster)

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Upper parking lot (40') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Picnic area at the pavilion (10') 0.3 0.3 0:05 0:05
Peninsula (10') 0.3 0.6 0:07 0:12
Upper parking lot (40') 0.4 1.0 0:08 0:20
Picnic area at the pavilion (10') 0.9 1.9 0:20 0:40
Upper parking lot (40') 0.3 2.2 0:05 0:45

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging

View up to the wagon from the gravel road
(photo by Webmaster)
View up to the wagon from the gravel road (photo by Webmaster)


Tiny oak leaves that are barely an inch long
(photo by Webmaster)
Tiny oak leaves that are barely an inch long (photo by Webmaster)

White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 


Shagbark hickory trunk (photo by Webmaster)
Shagbark hickory trunk (photo by Webmaster)


Violets
(photo by Webmaster)
Violets (photo by Webmaster)



Woods trail at the base of the meadows (photo by Webmaster)
Woods trail at the base of the meadows (photo by Webmaster)

 

Click for the full trail map (it will open in a new window).   

Trail map of hike route at Wagon Hill Farm (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Note: For more photos of this hike, see the Wagon Hill Farm trail report for 10/04/2009.

A walk at the lightly wooded, park-like Wagon Hill Farm was surprisingly rewarding. Although there were many others enjoying the park, there was also plenty of room for peaceful rambling. The views of, and from, the meadows were tranquil, and exploring the shoreline of the Little Bay / Oyster River tidal estuary was interesting.

In spite of being able to see a good deal of the property from the rise next to the upper parking lot, there were many paths and sights to keep me engaged for quite a while. I actually would have stayed longer but had an appointment I needed to get to. I ended up doing two wide loops which allowed me to explore most of the property on the southern side of Route 4 (Wagon Hill Farm continues on the north side of the highway). Although Route 4 borders the property, I never even noticed it, either by sight or sound, during my outing here.

The walking here is easy – a mixture of flat terrain and gentle hills. But there were several places that were wet or muddy. My sneakers were soaked by the time I was through. If you prefer dry feet, then wearing boots would be a better choice.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Loop 1: Shoreline and Woods    |    Loop 2: Mostly Meadows


Little Bay and Oyster River waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)
Little Bay and Oyster River waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)

Loop 1: Shoreline and Woods   

I parked in the upper lot and stepped through the hedges enclosing the area and was immediately treated to a pleasant vista. Lush green meadows, dotted by trees and bordered by woods, rolled downhill to meet Oyster River, which was just barely visible.

I started walking downhill on the wide gravel road and passed a small apple orchard on my right. Soon woods appeared to the right while there were still open meadows to the left. Looking uphill across the fields, I could see the namesake wagon perched at the top. Walking just a little farther brought the waters of Little Bay and Oyster River into sight.

Before actually reaching the shoreline, I spotted a small cemetery to the left. The headstones jutted out of the ground at crooked angles and the writing on them was hard to read.

Cemetery (photo by Webmaster)
Cemetery (photo by Webmaster)

I continued to the shoreline where there was a lot to see. There's a wide grassy area in front of the water, ideal for laying out and enjoying the atmosphere. A wide, sandy track led down to the water to allow for swimming and paddling (you'd have to carry your boat the 0.3 mile down from the parking lot). To the left of that was a small pavilion and several picnic tables. To the right was a granite bench ("In loving memory of Herbert S. Lourie, 1923–1981").

Holow tree (photo by Webmaster)
Holow tree (photo by Webmaster)
And of course, there were views of the water in the estuary where Oyster River empties into Little Bay. There was an island and it was neat to see the various land formations edged by water. Boats were passing by and I could smell the sea (which isn't always a pleasant smell).

I turned right and walked above the shoreline next to a railing, and then entered some woods on a trail. The woods path paralleled the shore giving partial views through a light screen a trees. There were also several viewpoints where you could see unobstructed views of Oyster River, with woods and some grand-looking homes on the opposite shore.

I hiked up a small rise and then noticed a side path on the right to an interesting-looking tree. I took a short detour to check out this big hollow tree sitting next to a boulder. The photos really don't do it justice – it seemed much cooler in person.

Returning to the shore path, I continued walking and quickly arrived at a path to the left leading over a peninsula. Although this was a narrow area, it supported some lovely pitch pines and even had a picnic table. There were outstanding views from the open end of the promontory. I could see up and down the river and also had good views of a little cove to the right.

I retraced my steps on the peninsula, then turned left to continue the woods walk. The trail soon crossed a boardwalk and veered away from the water, then reached a junction. I turned left here, but if you wish to turn right, it will quickly bring you back to the gravel road, after passing by two benches.

I passed through some muddy (both options at the junction required traversing mud) woods, then quickly emerged at a meadow and the shoreline of the cove that I had spotted from the peninsula. I followed a mowed path that started contouring the shoreline and then it turned right, uphill, where the white farmhouse by the parking lot was readily visible.

I reached the top of a rise where an ornate black bench provided a nice viewpoint over the water. There was lots of birdsong here and it was a pleasant place to sit. Leaving the bench, I continued across the field which shortly connected me back to the wide gravel road. I turned left and walked uphill to soon arrive back at the parking lot.

Ornate black bench in the apple orchard (photo by Webmaster)
Ornate black bench in the apple orchard (photo by Webmaster)

Loop 2: Mostly Meadows   

From the parking lot, I walked on the mowed path, past a farm implement, and soon reached the wagon for which this property is known. The wagon had a high bench on it, making it easy to picture a team of horses pulling it along with a driver perched on the bench and the wagon loaded with goods. The views from this area were of rolling meadows and woodlands and even a bit of water could be glimpsed. There was a granite bench here for sitting and relaxing. I continued across the field on the mowed path, sticking to the outer perimeter.

At the bottom of the open fields, I entered the woods and followed a trail that made a small loop and touched upon the shoreline. At a corner, I walked down the embankment to get an open view of the water and found myself close to the picnic pavilion area that I had visited earlier.

Bridge over a channel near the bottom of the meadows (photo by Webmaster)
Bridge over a channel near the bottom of the meadows (photo by Webmaster)

I returned to the mowed path to continue the walk and soon encountered a somewhat wide channel of water meandering through the meadow. When I reached a trail junction in an area with cattails, I turned left to cross this channel on a bridge, and then turned left again upon reaching the other side.

I soon came back out at the wide-open area near the pavilion. I checked out the waterfront one last time, then headed back on the main trail. I first passed the cemetery on my right and then the footway changed to gravel. The road quickly led me back up to the parking area that I started from.

Waterway and Little Bay / Oyster River (photo by Webmaster)
Waterway and Little Bay / Oyster River (photo by Webmaster)
 
Woods trail
(photo by Webmaster)
Woods trail (photo by Webmaster)



Bluets blooming by the graveyard (photo by Webmaster)
Bluets blooming by the graveyard (photo by Webmaster)


Wild geranium bloom
(photo by Webmaster)
Wild geranium bloom (photo by Webmaster)

Wild geranium buds
(photo by Webmaster)
Wild geranium buds (photo by Webmaster)

Hollow tree trunk
(photo by Webmaster)
Hollow tree trunk (photo by Webmaster)

 


NH - Southeast




  Driving Directions   

Wagon Hill Farm is located in Durham, New Hampshire directly off of Route 4.

Pitch pine cone (photo by Webmaster)
Pitch pine cone (photo by Webmaster)
From Durham:
  • From the junction of Routes 108 and 4 in Durham, travel on Rt. 4 East for about 2 miles.
  • Turn right onto the signed access road.
  • There is a lower lot on the left, about 0.05 mile in, with room for about twelve cars.
  • Or continue for another 0.05 mile to arrive at the upper lot, also on the left, where there is room for about eight cars.
  • Parking is not permitted on Rt. 4.

From Dover:
  • Cross the bridge on Rt. 4 West which brings you into Durham.
  • From the lights at the 4-way intersection with Rt. 4, Black River Road, and Cedar Point Road, travel 0.5 mile.
  • Turn left onto the access road, immediately after passing the field with the wagon perched on its hilltop.
  • There is a lower lot on the left, about 0.05 mile in, with room for about twelve cars.
  • Or continue for another 0.05 mile to arrive at the upper lot, also on the left, where there is room for about eight cars.
  • Parking is not permitted on Rt. 4.

Facilities   

Toilets at the upper parking lot.

View of the fields from one of the mowed meadow paths (photo by Webmaster)
View of the fields from one of the mowed meadow paths (photo by Webmaster)

About Wagon Hill Farm   

Anyone driving along Route 4 in Durham (near the Dover end), New Hampshire is familiar with the hilltop wagon for which this property is named. There is a crumpled stone wall near the road with a grassy hill rising above it, upon which is perched an old-fashioned wagon. In winter, it's this hill that is very popular for sledding.

The landmark wagon at Wagon Hil Farm
(photo by Webmaster)
The landmark wagon at Wagon Hil Farm (photo by Webmaster)
Wagon Hill Farm covers a total of 140 acres on parcels on both sides of Route 4. About half woods and half meadows, it offers year round recreation and exploration. The lesser known 40-acre parcel is undeveloped with just a couple trails to explore. The out-and-back trip over both trails is about a mile.

The southern 100-acre piece includes an old farmhouse and more meadows than woods. The open fields provide nice vistas across the park. A network of about 2 miles of trails leads through the open areas, a small apple orchard, woods, and down to and along the shoreline where Little Bay and Oyster River meet. Horseshoe crabs and other interesting sights can often be found along the shoreline of this tidal estuary.

Although the trails aren't marked, they are easy to follow. Since the wooded areas aren't large, it is hard to get lost. The traverse of meadows is done by way of nicely mowed, wide paths. There is a wide gravel road that leads directly from the upper parking lot to the shoreline that sort of divides the property in half and it can be used to make two wide loops.

If you walk down the gravel path to the river, then turn right into the woods, following the widest perimeter when offered an option, you will eventually loop back to the parking lot in about 1.0 mile. Starting from the parking area, but heading out across the meadows to the wagon, and again following the widest perimeter available, and returning via the gravel road once you reach the
Little Bay and Oyster River Tidal Estuary
(photo by Webmaster)
Little Bay and Oyster River Tidal Estuary (photo by Webmaster)
shoreline, enables you to complete a loop of about 1.2 miles. There are many connecting trails so if you're inclined to explore them all, you'll find you can amuse yourself for a surprisingly long amount of time.

The property was farmed until 1960. In addition to the wagon, which is only a 2-minute walk from the upper parking lot, there is another piece of old farm equipment right next to the parking area. Down near the water, along the main path, is an old cemetery. The Town of Durham bought this farm in order to save it from development and it has proved to be a very worthy and popular acquisition.

There are a few picnic tables and a small pavilion at a large open area along the river. This is a great place to picnic and enjoy the water views with nearby woods that offer some shade and scenic interest. There is also a carry-in boat launch area here (0.3 mile from the upper parking lot). Swimming is allowed although there is no lifeguard.

Benches are scattered throughout the property and there is a picnic table on a small peninsula. This little piece of land is lightly wooded with lovely trees and provides excellent water views.

Wagon Hill Farm offers activities for all seasons: walking, swimming, picnicking, paddling, sledding, and cross-country skiing. It is accessed directly off of Route 4 in Durham and has both a lower and upper parking lot along its access road. The lots aren't very large and on busy days, you may find yourself waiting for a spot.

Wagon Hill Farm Property Use Guidelines   

  • Open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk
  • No hunting
  • No alcohol
  • Dogs must always be on a leash
  • Dogs must be cleaned up after

More Wagon Hill Trail Reports   


View of Oyster River from the woods trail.
Inset is a close-up of the house across the river. (photo by Webmaster)
View of Oyster River from the woods trail.  Inset is a close-up of the house across the river. (photo by Webmaster)
 


Channel of water leading to the river, seen from a footbridge (photo by Webmaster)
Channel of water leading to the river, seen from a footbridge (photo by Webmaster)


Old farmhouse
(photo by Webmaster)
Old farmhouse (photo by Webmaster)


White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

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