What an extraordinary find this was! Charlie & I started out walking the the “front side” of the park until we discovered the “back” entrance. The “front side” is what I refer to as the portion of the park you access from the main parking lot (where the fair is held). It starts out with a steep hike to the fire tower which is great in the winter time to warm you up but is not so great in the summer when you have to deal with heat, bugs, and lots of other people. I like talking to others but not when I’m chugging up hill. OK, OK, it’s not THAT steep but it’s enough for a moderately active person to get a little winded. Charlie had no problems with the hill. The view from the top of the hill is absolutely worth it though. You can see the church tower in Portsmouth, the bridges to Maine, and the expanse that is Great Bay. You don’t even need to climb the fire tower to see the view. From there you’ve got a few choices of trails to take. In the winter these are marked as cross-country trails so keep an eye out for skiers and snowshoers.
At some point we made our way to the “back” part of the park. This is almost an unofficial dog park. To enter, turn onto Jack Rabbit Lane just before or after the “front” entrance, depending on which direction you’re coming from on Rt. 33. Follow this past all the ball fields on your left until you see the dirt parking area at the end of the road on the right. The walking paths will be easy to see from there. You’ll almost certainly meet a fellow dog and owner along your route no matter which one you choose.
I was a little intimidated by all the paths at first but I quickly learned the routes. The Old Tote Road path is great and takes you through the woods and up a little hill. You can extend this walk by going all the way up to the firetower or by taking a tributary path that runs close to Rt. 33 (this is OK in the winter but I get nervous about going so close to the road in the summer). Without walking the extensions, this route takes us about 15-20 minutes to complete. The other path I often take is the Long Hill Loop. This takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete depending on how far Charlie decides to wander that day. I recommend walking this path with someone who is familiar with it for the first few times or taking this path when you aren’t in a rush. My sense of direction is terrible and I’ve ended up in someone’s backyard on more than 1 occasion.
The best part about the park is that you get to meet so many other dogs. There is a ton of space for the dogs to run, play, and tire themselves out. I think the official ruling is that dogs must be leashed but friendly, obedient dogs are very seldom seen wearing a leash. I promise, after your first visit, you’ll become a regular in no time!
If I find a map of the park, I’ll post it here. In the meantime check out the website: http://www.seacoastnh.com/Travel/Scenic_Walks/Stratham_Hill_Park_Trail/
The NHSPCA also holds their annual Paws Walk here. This year’s has passed but check it out here: http://www.nhspca.org/events/PawsWalk2010/PawsWalk2010_Info.htm