Wagon Hill Farm

Destination:  Wagon Hill Farm
Region:  NH - Southeast  
Seacoast Region
Location:  Durham, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Views, river, loop hike
Distance:  1.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  40 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 0:35  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 2:00   Typical: 1:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  10/04/2009 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  10/18/2009  
Weather:  Cool and sunny
Author:  Mary G.

View of gravel trail and apple orchard from next to the upper parking area
(photo by Webmaster)
View of gravel trail and apple orchard from next to the upper parking area (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

Gravel trail leading to the waterfront (photo by Webmaster)
Gravel trail leading to the waterfront (photo by Webmaster)
This is a loop hike at Wagon Hill Farm. It walks along meadows and the Oyster River and visits the popular wagon landmark.

  • 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.
  • 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 right.
  • This will quickly return you to the gravel road.
  • Turn left and walk uphill back to the parking area.
  • Instead of entering the lot, continue past it to the right (when facing the lot) on a mowed path in order to reach the wagon.
  • After checking out the wagon and the views from the hill that it sits on, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Upper parking lot (40') 0.0 0.0
Picnic area at the pavilion (10') 0.3 0.3
Peninsula (10') 0.3 0.6
Upper parking lot (40') 0.4 1.0
Wagon (45') 0.05 1.05
Upper parking lot (40') 0.05 1.1

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Red pine trunk
(photo by Webmaster)
Red pine trunk (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: The photos shown with this hike report were taken on 5/11/2009 during a similar hike to Wagon Hill Farm but show only sights that could have been seen while doing the hike described here.

I wanted to share my family's experience at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, New Hampshire.

From the parking lot (feel free to use the portapotty here), we followed the rutted dirt road trail through the meadow towards Little Bay. About 200 yards from the parking lot, take a look at the grand old apple trees on your right! We enjoyed wondering who must have harvested these apples in years past. If you are tall enough, try grabbing a few for a taste. All the goodness with none of the spray!

This time it appeared as if the fields had been recently mown or hayed. A visit earlier in the summer had blowing fields of grasses. A few trails wandered off to the left, great for our toddler (and older kids as well), to explore, which eventually wound around back to the main path.

Picnic pavilion at the waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)
Picnic pavilion at the waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)

The "road" continued down into woodlands. Our toddler enjoyed picking up the various colored leaves, and the multitude of acorns from the path. Unfortunately, patches of the invasive Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) poked in here and there along the path.

About 0.3 mile down from the parking lot, the trail opens up into another field area. To you left you will see an old cemetery. We didn't have time this time around, but imagine it would be interesting to look at the family relations here.

This field area is well maintained by the town of Durham, with a couple tables and a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the views of Little Bay / Oyster River. There is a launch area down to the river but I'm not sure how you would get a boat or kayak down here. Still, a fun place to poke around, skip stones, feel the marine clay, and generally explore this tidal river.

A friend has told me that in the early summer, this is also a great place to come and look for horseshoe crabs. That's on our list for next summer!

Little Bay / Oyster River area in front of the picnic pavilion (photo by Webmaster)
Little Bay / Oyster River area in front of the picnic pavilion (photo by Webmaster)

After spending some time at the water, we followed the trail along the river to our right (when you are looking at the water). (Note – there is a trail to the left – we took that on another occasion, which will also loop you back around to the dirt road.)

The trail along the river follows the shore, and meanders back into the woods. We happened to spot some UNH crew boats out on the river for practice this morning. There are a couple short trails that cut to the water, but mainly we continued through the woods, picking up acorns and wondering what the blueberry harvest will be like next year. About a quarter-mile farther, there is a short trail to the left, with a picnic table, that leads down to a point with 360-degree views of Oyster River.

View of Oyster River from the woods trail (photo by Webmaster)
View of Oyster River from the woods trail (photo by Webmaster)

Continue on the trail, then veer right when you have the option, and you will reconnect with the dirt road, about at the edge of the forest and field.

Head back towards the parking lot, but don't forget to take a trip to the wagon perched atop the hill (visible from the road). Just before the shrubs surrounding the small parking lot, take the path to the right along the ridge of the field to the wagon. Have fun climbing aboard and wondering what it would have been like to travel this way!

We spent about two hours here on a cool, sunny fall day. I can imagine in the middle of summer packing a lunch and spending the entire afternoon. We only met two other groups – one family of three, and one couple with two dogs. Dogs are supposed to be leashed and picked up after – though I can imagine the temptation to unleash the dogs here is tough to resist.

View of fields from the wagon (photo by Webmaster)
View of fields from the wagon (photo by Webmaster)
 
Boat on Oyster River
(photo by Webmaster)
Boat on Oyster River (photo by Webmaster)

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Woods next to the waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)
Woods next to the waterfront area (photo by Webmaster)



 


NH - Southeast




  Driving Directions   

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

Picnic table and pitch pines on the peninsula (photo by Webmaster)
Picnic table and pitch pines on the peninsula (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.

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   


Old farm equipment located next to the upper parking lot (photo by Webmaster)
Old farm equipment located next to the upper parking lot (photo by Webmaster)
 


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