Little River Conservation Area - Exeter
The 2 mile route. Only 1.7 if you do it right
With a 69 degree beautiful spring pre-bug season afternoon off my in-laws asked if we could all go on a little hike somewhere. As the ring leader when it comes to this activity I decided to try out one of the local areas I've been eyeing for a while that is right in town so we wouldn't waste much time driving. We went to the Little River Conservation Area right here in Exeter.
The trail starts out across the street from someones house with a sign and parking in a small field. It then crosses the road and starts in their driveway. For the first few hundred yards you follow the path through their property passing lots of old tires, junk and even a rusting old car in the woods before reaching the actual conservation area. There are several side trails, one of which willl bring you to a small bridge at an old mill site where the river flows through a stone lines channel where the water wheel must have been a long time ago, int a beautiful shady glen where the water pools up before moving along the slow moving Dudley Brook.
Crossing the old mill site bridge
What the main trail does is go right just before the bridge, although on the map, which is actually rather good, it appeared the trail crossed the brook before splitting. We therefore (I'm throwng my father in law under the bus here) followed him down a couple side trails that dead ended before we realized this was the wrong way and went back to find the right one, which if you ever do this loop is well blazed in white and easy to follow the entire way. We didn't get far before figuring it out so no big deal but we did end up in a brushy swampy area that was full of ticks! We all, except him starngely, had a couple of them crawling on us which made none of us too happy, especially my wife. We tried to make sure they were all off our clothes and almost called it a day, but once we regrouped and realized the main trail was wide, clear and not in prime tick territory we decided to continue with the original plan and walk the main loop.
Another view of the mill site from where the trail actually goes just downstream of it
From there it was a very enjoyable walk along the brook/river. I believe it's always the same waterway but somewhere along the trail turns from Dudley Brook into the Little River, although I'm not exactly sure where. At any rate it's one of the nicer little walks I've done in the area. The woods are mature with with large pines and hemlocks. The river is small, slow moving and scenic. I don't know if there's fish in it but it seems there certainly should be. There were beaver felled trees, lots of mussell shells from raccoons feasting I'm guessing, salamanders and turtles in the lazy little river.
Fresh cut beaver trees
Trail following the riverbanks
Somewhere around here it turns from the Dudley Brook into the Little River
After a half mile or so of the river you come to the Little River Footbridge, where a side trail goes elsewhere ( to a NH Fish & Game conservation area I think) but the loop trail heads away from the river and into the Dolloff Easement. It heads back through more of a hardwood dominated forest, passing a few more side trails along the way which you'd want to be careful not to take or you'll have a bit of a walk back to your car. Along that way at a small stream crossing there was a deer spine and leg bones hanging in a tree. At least I'm assuming that's what it was. Kind of interesting but a bit unexpected to just stumble across out in the woods like that.
Little River reflection
Little River Footbridge you don't want to cross, but your kids may want to play on
Deer (??) skeleton
The trail rejoined itself shortly after that back by the brook and heads back out the way you came in past the nice little shaded pool at the old mill site. Then it's back past the house, across 111A and you're back at your car. Other than the ticks and wrong turns it was a great way to spend a few hours in the warm sunshine. There was a mosquito or two but for the most part bugs were not around yet and the riverside walk was shaded well by big evergreens. If the mosquitos aren't bad in summer it's probably a nice cool spot to go for a stroll. There was only 250 feet of ups and downs so nothing hard and overall very enjoyable for a little local town spot. As usual it's not a destination spot, but if you're close by or in the area for some reason it's definitely worth the time.
A few more pics...
If you want any more info or the maps/guide to the area you can find it here