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17 February 2011

Strawberry Hill State Forest (Bethlehem, NH)

This past Thursday (17-Feb-2011), I was unable to get my act together in time to join my friend Steve Smith on a hike in the Franconia Notch area. However, I eventually got moving and spent a delightful hour and half snowshoeing on the trails at Strawberry State Forest in Bethlehem. This property is one of the many NH public lands which by NH law are referred to as "reservations".  There are a total of 201,513 acres of "reservations" in NH which are randomly distributed over 221 individual properties located in 145 towns.  These include but are not limited to: State forests, State parks, natural areas, historic sites, geologic sites, recreation trails, memorial areas, fire towers, wayside areas, heritage parks, resource centers, certain agricultural areas, State Forest nurseries, fish piers, administrative facilies, information centers, demonstration forests, certain islands, and lands under lease to the department.

The Strawberry Hill State Forest property consists of about 53 acres. The most convenient access point is at the end of Strawberry Hill Road where there is a small parking lot which can accommodate about 3 cars.  This State Forest has about 300 ft of frontage on Lewis Hill Rd (0.3 mile from its junction with Rt 302), however there is no public parking available at this location.  Also, there is a road named Berkeley St. that passes through the State Forest property.  However, this is the access road to the Bethlehem water reservoir which is private property.
Although the Strawberry Hill property is public land, it is a facility that is sort of a local "secret". The hiking trails on this property are unofficially the domain of the local people, and I suspect that trail maintenance is entirely done by the locals. It would be surprising to me if there were any State funds available for trail maintenance at this facility. On an occasional basis, I've hiked the trails in all seasons of the year. It appears to me that they receive their heaviest use during the winter months. Throughout most of the snow season, the trails are broken out by snowshoers.

The Strawberry Hill property is surrounded by private land. In many places, there are poorly marked boundaries between State land and private land. Especially in winter, I suspect (but don't know for a fact) that some of the improvised snowshoe trails might briefly cross onto private land. However, I've not seen any "posted" signs along any of these trail corridors.

My trek this past Thursday began at the parking lot at the end of Strawberry Hill Rd. It was well plowed, and I was the only one there.

The trails are not blazed. You simply follow the worn treadway during the warm-weather months, and follow the snowshoe track that is laid down during the snow season.  Once you've been there a few times, you get the "hang of it", and you know where the trails are and where they lead.
Within about 15 minutes from leaving the trailhead, I arrived at the uphill pitch that leads to a very nice viewpoint.
The viewpoint at the top of the hill is one of the places that I suspect MIGHT be outside the boundary of the State Forest. (If I can remember, I'll take my GPS with me on my next trek to this area. I'll mark a waypoint and then download it to a map to determine if this location is on public land.)  REGARDLESS, the view from this spot is quite respectable!

Cherry Mountain and a portion of the Presidential Range is visible.
There is a view toward Mt. Aggasiz.
A portion of Mt. Garfield is visible.
From other points along this little trail system, there are some tall and stately birch trees.
And, there is even a little brook to make the experience complete!

This is a delightful little hike which should remain a "local secret". I feel it's unlikely that my blog will result in any influx of "outsiders" to this location. Most likely, the few folks who read this accounting will have some ties to the local area, and they might find it interesting to read about one of the many hidden gems located within the little Town of Bethlehem.


Karl said...

Hey John,

You certainly got some great views in on this hike. Amazing how many mountains you were able to get a glimpse of from all directions. Your pictures are awesome as always! Looks like it was a perfect day to hit Strawberry Hill State Park.

Great blog, by the way! I'll be adding you to my blogroll!


Barb said...

What a great hike! (I won't tell...) I like the photo of the birches.

1HappyHiker said...

Barb . . . thank you for posting a reply to my blog about Strawberry Hill. It is a neat place, and probably my blog won't result in a sudden influx of traffic on Strawberry Hill Road! :) It is on public land and so anyone can go there.

For me at least, it took a few trips before I became acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the trail system and how to get from Point A to Point B, especially since blazing is almost non-existent, and there are no directional signs. So that alone might discourage some folks, plus it's a very short hike and most "outsiders" want to spend more time hiking than what this brief trek provides.


1HappyHiker said...

Hey Karl . . . thank you for taking a moment to respond to my new blog. Glad you found it interesting. This is a new venture for me. I'll try doing it for awhile to see how it goes. At the moment, my idea is to use the Blog to present stuff that I wouldn't ordinarily post on a traditional hiking forum (such as VFTT) for a variety of reasons.

Anyway thanks again, and it's great to see that you've become a Member of VFTT and have already become an active contributor. It's a terrific Forum, and you can get so much more out of it by being a Member and able to interact with folks.