Last winter, my husband went away for work. I yearned to get on a hike and beat my cabin fever, but with a one and a three year old, I had no idea how I was going to manage them both on a trail. I couldn’t carry them both, and in snow, they would tire quickly and tantrum. That’s when I tied a rope to our plastic sled. Now, I could walk a trail and pull my weary toddlers when they had enough! Here’s how to enjoy Seacoast sledable nature trails this winter!
Safety and Precautions
You can’t tow a toddler on just any hike. My rule of thumb is that if it’s a wheelchair accessible trail, then it will probably be fine on a sled. Before you go, check ahead to see if the parking lot you’re accessing is plowed and accessible in winter. Dress yourself and your child in non-cotton winter layers complete with hats, mittens, and winter boots. Tell another adult or friend where you are going, and bring a pack with snacks, water, and a first aid kit. Check out my recommendations for hiking with a baby in winter for more in depth ideas. For your own stability, I recommend wearing additional traction on your boots. I personally use microspikes for almost all my winter hiking.
I’ve used a variety of sleds. My baby sled I bought used on Facebook Marketplace and it came with a towing rope and clips to attach the child. This is perfect for age four to 18 months. Note that small children can not always express when they are cold and there is little to no insulation through the plastic. You can add to baby’s comfort with a pad or blanket around them and under their bum. For my one and three year old, I added a rope to a simple long plastic sled, and would tow both or either when they got tired. It’s not super comfortable for long tows but is light and easy to pull. We were lucky enough to find a used classic toboggan sled which I also use to carry both. With the optional insulated seat and six foot length, this is perfect for anyone in the family (yes – I’ve made my husband tow me). However, it’s not easy to travel with, has a bad turning radius, and is heavy.
Four Seacoast Sledable Nature Trails
Here are four of the best trails for sledding on the Seacoast to try with your youngsters!
Peverly Pond Loop – Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This 0.5 mile loop trail is entirely on a boardwalk. The wide, flat path is perfect for a short nature walk. Tired toddlers can hop on the sled when tired. The trailhead is located at the end of Arboretum Drive in Newington, NH. To get there from the Dover area, I take 16 south to exit 3 toward route 3. At the roundabout, go straight to get on Arboretum Drive. Take this road 2 miles until it ends at the parking lot. The trailhead is well signed next to the restrooms. It is plowed in winter. Please note that dogs are not allowed on the refuge and trails.
Great Bay Discovery Center Boardwalk Loop
The 0.5 mile “lollipop” style hike is perfect for littles year round. From the plowed parking lot, you can take the sled down a slightly inclined switchback ramp to meet the trail. Follow the path past the boat replicas, through the forested trail and out to the boardwalk loop. The wide path is wheelchair and stroller accessible which makes it also a great choice. There’s also a playscape playground and covered picnic area near the parking lot when you return. This Seacoast sledable nature trail is located at the Great Bay Discovery Center at 89 Depot Rd in Greenland, NH. Note that the discovery center itself will be closed in winter, and dogs are not allowed on this trail.
Pickering Ponds Trail wraps around man-made ponds abutting woods in the Gonic area of Rochester. With options for short to longer mileage, the easiest pull-able trail is to walk the wide and open circumference of the both ponds. Want shorter? Just lap one pond! Want longer? Dip into the woods (down a hill) and walk the flat path along the Cocheco River.
To get there from Dover, take 6th street toward Rochester. Once you cross the town line into Rochester the street name changes to Pickering Road. After you pass England Road (on right) keep a lookout for the pullout on the left. It is not marked from the road- but is a long paved driveway/road with a chain link fence at the end. For navigation systems, it is opposite the house at 374 Pickering Road in Gonic. Park along the road leading up to the fence. This trail is accessible from a plowed winter road and is dog-friendly.
Willand Pond Trail is a popular urban walking trail nestled between the Seacoast towns of Dover and Somersworth. The relatively flat trail is heavily trafficked as a running, walking, and stroller friendly nature experience. In winter, it’s especially fun to see the small pond frequently dotted with people ice fishing and ice skating! Spanning a mile, I usually turn around before the end when my kids start to get tired. Although there is access to the trail from either side, I pick it up from the well signed parking lot Rt 108 on the Dover/Somersworth Line. The trail starts at the Willand Pond Boat Launch that is located across the street from Strafford Farm Restaurant. There is a parking lot at the trailhead/boat launch. Enjoy this dog-friendly trail year round with a plowed parking lot.
Enjoy Seacoast Sledable Nature Trails in Winter
It’s not as easy getting out on a trail in winter. The gear, the layers, and the unpredictable weather can sometimes make outdoor recreation a chore. However, it can be a great way to beat the winter blues and help your children build positive associations with the Seacoast outdoors in variable seasons! Make it special by packing a thermos of hot chocolate, building a snowman in the parking lot, or hitting a sledding hill after. For more ideas of local hikes and trails, follow my handle Seacoast Hikes on Facebook and Instagram.