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Climb to the top of a 168-foot coastal promontory and from an open field enjoy panoramic views of the Great Marsh and New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals.
What makes Old Town Hill a special place?
We think it’s the spectacular mix of tidal river, salt marsh, open fields, and woodlands that define the hill and lands to the west. From the 168-foot hilltop, you can see as far as Mount Agamenticus in southern Maine.
A three-mile network of trails and pathways leads you through thriving wetlands and up to landscape-level views of this corridor of protected open space along the Parker River. The Ridge Trail climbs moderately to vistas to the south, east, and north. The River Trail, a short and especially scenic family friendly trail, passes an old pasture along the marsh's edge and then loops into an oak forest along the banks of the Little River. Old Town Hill is a link in the Bay Circuit Trail.
In the upland, second-growth forest and fields support ground-nesting birds and serve as hunting grounds for hawks and owls. Salt meadow grass, cord grass, seaside goldenrod, and sea lavender thrive in the salt marsh. Mud snails, green crabs, and ribbed mussels live in the tidal creeks and provide food for wading birds, such as egrets and great blue herons.
Glacial action from 12,000 years ago helped create the extensive salt marsh. Today, the ebb and flow of the Parker and Little rivers – freshwater streams with sources miles inland that become increasingly tidal as they approach the coast – are critical to keeping the marsh healthy. The tidal flows nourish the salt meadow twice a day. This tide-dependent environment is part of the 25,000-acre “Great Marsh,” New England’s largest, which stretches for more than 20 miles between Gloucester and southern New Hampshire.
Salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and support a great diversity of marine life; act as nurseries for shellfish and finfish; and attract wading birds including egrets, glossy ibis, and herons.
3 miles of trails. Moderate hiking, strenuous in places.
When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.