Pawtuckaway South Mountain, NH

• 4-star hikes
• 1.7 to 6.0 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 440 to 940 feet
• Nottingham, NH | Merrimack Region
• Driving Directions: Loop, Mtn Trail

South Mountain Fire Tower

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Though the curiously circular-shaped Pawtuckaway State Park looks an awful lot like a meteor crater, it is in fact a ring dike, the result of a column of hot magma rising from the Earth that has been eroded to reveal it's perimeter and structure over millions of years of erosion. This hike climbs up the southern perimeter of the dike to it's second highest peak where we get to admire the views from the fire tower anchored to the summit.

We've mapped out the two most popular ways to reach Pawtuckaway's South Mountain, the shortest of which will have you climbing the fire tower in under a mile,. The longer route along Mountain Trail follows a mostly flat 2 mile journey from the park's southern entrance and visitor center.

Loop, Mtn Trail & Loop, Expand Map

South Mountain Loop 4★
1.7 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 440 ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Regardless of the direction you take to complete this short loop of South Mountain the gradient of the necessary moderate hill-climb is much the same. We do prefer a counter-clockwise route when beginning at Tower Road, taking the quickest route to the top via the wide viewpoint area before reaching the fire tower on the summit. Enjoy the views up there, because you'll be in the trees all the way back, though the journey is a pleasant downhill romp.

Parking at the Tower Road trailhead will fit only two vehicles but there should be more parking opportunities in either direction. Further north there's Tower Road lot, or the other way there's roadside parking along Reservation Road. Please obey posted signs of course, as parking rules may have changed.

Mountain Trail & South Mtn Loop 4★
6.0 mi, Part-Loop, Medium, Gain 940 ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

The mostly flat route along Mountain Trail from the south end of Pawtuckaway State Park is fairly easy going, with one stream crossing and welcome rock and root free sections that are sometimes even soft and carpeted with pine needles. Lush green mosses and ferns color your route as you remain in woodland throughout. Watch for the massive glacial erratic boulders along your journey. There is no parking at the south end of Mountain Trail, so you'll need to leave your vehicles at the visitor center - a right-turn just before the ranger kiosk. Unfortunately you'll need to pound pavement to Mountain Trail, but at least it's only a third of a mile.

Classic New Hampshire skyline as viewed from the fire tower.

Typical conditions on the Loop Trail and Mountain Trails.

• Trail Links: Official, Public Map at AllTrails
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