One of my favorite little guidebooks is “A Field Guide to New Hampshire Firetowers” (privately published, 2005 edition), but sometimes the notes on access to the towers are out of date or otherwise unhelpful. So it is with the book’s directions to Loudon’s Oak Hill, which direct me to an Oak Hill Road trailhead with no parking. The city of Concord and its conservation commission provide a useful alternative: the Tower Trail, with a 10-vehicle parking area on Shaker Road about 2.4 miles from Rt. 132 in northeastern Concord. Look for the sign for Oak Hill city forest. This trail approaches the fire tower from the west.
Stop at the city’s web site (link above) to see descriptions of this trail and over a dozen others within the city limits. Print out a map of your chosen trail from the web. Tower Trail is part of a network on Oak Hill, and while the trail itself is well-blazed and easy to follow, having a map at hand is always a good idea.
All intersections are signed, and the trail is free of obstructions. The few bridges are intact. Oak Hill is still snowless, and the trail itself is ice-free except for a few small areas in the last few hundred yards leading to the tower. The frozen ground is covered with leaves that can be a bit slippery, and the surface is a bit uneven with rocks and roots. (In other words, this is a typical woods walk.) Some of the side trails lead to vistas, according to the map, but I stayed on Tower Trail, where the views are all of the surrounding forest. Not a bad view at that.
The last quarter-mile or so follows a power line straight to the fire tower, which is dwarfed by a pair of cell towers. The cab is unstaffed this time of year, of course, and locked up for the season. I was able to climb to the platform just below the cab, stopping at each landing to wonder just what the fire warden was supposed to survey. I had to get to the platform before the view and the breeze really opened up. Warner’s Mt. Kearsarge dominated the view to the west-northwest. There are hills in all directions, none of them snowcapped yet, though my view was limited by distant haze.
It’s about 500 feet of vertical rise from the trailhead to the tower, with a gentle grade. The hike took me 50 minutes each way, and a more fit walker could undoubtedly cut that time considerably. The full trail network on the hill covers about 7 miles, so a hiker could easily spend a day exploring the area. There are no facilities at the trailhead.
The trailhead is less than 15 minutes’ drive from the State House, and the trail is in great shape. I’ll be back.