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11 Perfect Places to Picnic This Spring and Summer in the Upper Valley

May 31, 2019 03:22PM ● By Kevin
As summer approaches, time out in the sun will increase exponentially, especially on nice, weekend afternoons here in the Upper Valley. There are plenty of places to go to have fun in the sun. One common activity many local folks enjoy is the classic picnic. If you’re looking to leave the backyard and explore your region, we’ve provided a list of outdoor picnic areas with serenity, beauty, and activity.

We compiled 11 such picnic spots throughout the Upper Valley that are either well known or off the beaten path.


Erwin Clifford Park (West Hartford)

If you’re looking to earn those picnic calories, why not check out the beautiful Erwin Clifford Park Trail? It’s an easy walk, spanning just under ¾ of a mile, and you’ll find the picnic area along the way, with a great view of the White River from the banks.

To get to the trail, travel on Route 14 west out of Hartford to Quechee/West Hartford Road, making the turn onto the road. Cross the White River via the West Hartford Bridge and turn left on Westfield Drive. Take another left onto Recreation Drive. Follow the brown signs for the park. Public parking is available nearby.

The park also has horseshoe pits, restrooms, and athletic facilities.


Riverside Park (West Lebanon)

Don’t be fooled. If you’re looking from the street, you may only see the small playground and the skatepark; however, the picnic area is tucked away, along with a walk to the Mascoma River.

This community park is located on Glen Road in West Lebanon and also includes a pavilion, horseshoe pit area, and an ADA accessible riverfront trail that extends to the Powerhouse Mall. 


Colburn Park (Lebanon)

Located in the heart of the Colburn Park Historic District, you’ll be able to pinpoint the park by its surrounding landmarks, like city hall and the opera house, or the Soldiers Memorial Building, the Carter House, the library, fire department, post office, and more.

Colburn Park hosts a bandstand with access to electrical outlets for public performances as well as plenty of lawn seating for large groups. During summer months the park is abuzz with live music, yoga, a farmers’ market, storytime events, outdoor movies, and more, making it the perfect late-afternoon picnic spot when performances are playing. Picnic options include physical tables set up at the park or beneath the many shady trees.

Additionally, you can find a small playground area and the large fountain in the center of the park.  


Boston Lot Lake (West Lebanon)

Quite possibly one of the most scenic on our list, Boston Lot Lake features wildflowers worth checking out. Featuring a 2.4-mile loop, the spot is also dog friendly, so you can bring the whole family.

If you like a good view during your summer picnic, this is your spot. There is a spot right on the water to enjoy a nicely packed lunch and enjoy all the scenery along the lake.

In addition to picnicking, visitors can swim, fish, camp, or bicycle, but the possibilities are truly endless with the 493 acres that surround the lake.


Hurricane Forest Wildlife Refuge (Hartford)

Here’s another outdoorsy spot that’s filled with history. The trails within were built by volunteers and are maintained by a dedicated volunteer group. Named for a hurricane that struck the area in the late 1700s, the park was struck again in the 1930s; however, there are still plenty of ancient trees to see around the 3-mile stretch.

Right off of the Wright Reservoir, the mountain views are tremendous from both the trails and the picnic area, which is closest to the entrance. This one is kid and family friendly, so you can easily enjoy a leisurely day at Hurricane Forest Wildlife Refuge.


Moody Park (Claremont)

There are plenty of picnic spots at this park on Maple Avenue. The wooded park has a plethora of picnic tables within or you can drive up to the top of the access road and to find a picnic pavilion and a beautiful view of the mountains.

Otherwise, the 325 acres feature trails for hiking and mountain biking, fire pits, tennis courts, and a playground. There are also a number of winter options to enjoy, which we encourage you check out later this year!


Wilder Picnic Area at Kilowatt Park (Wilder)

Kilowatt Park is split into North and South sections, both featuring picnic tables and park benches, which make them enjoyable spots to have a nice, outdoor lunch; however, Wilder Picnic Area is located at the South section.

The 1.4-mile trail can be accessed from Route 5 in Wilder Village near the village store, taking Depot Street over the railroad bridge. Kilowatt South is straight ahead, which is where the more popular Wilder Picnic Area exists.

Meanwhile, Kilowatt North features natural areas, fishing access, a carry-in boat launch at the river, and grills if you’d like to cook for your picnic.

Park season runs from April 1 to Oct. 31 with parks closing at 9 p.m each night.


Paradise Park (Windsor)

Paradise Park plays host to one of the most expansive and accommodating picnic areas on our list. While there are numerous benches and picnic tables throughout the network of 5.2 miles of trails, the best part is a covered area that includes fire pits and a water source.

The other factor that makes this spot a gem is the copious amounts of wildlife available for viewing. Visitors have reported seeing deer, fox, otter, beaver, and a wide variety of native and migratory birds at this preserve. There are also great viewing spots, like the aforementioned covered picnic area and a gazebo that showcases the beautiful Mt. Ascutney.

To access (according to “from I-91 Hartland Exit 9, take VT-12/US-5 south into Windsor (3.8 miles). Take a right at the traffic light onto State Street and continue 0.7 miles to County Road. Take another right on County Road toward the hospital and follow this for 0.2 miles. At the bottom of a short hill watch for the parking area for Paradise Park on your right.”


Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park (Cornish)

The summer concert series at Saint-Gaudens are presented annually from late-June to late-August, where guests are encouraged to bring food out to the lawn adjacent to the Little Studio.

Concerts are held on Sundays at 2 p.m. Chairs are available on the pergola and in the studio on a first come/first served basis. Concerts are held rain or shine. Concerts are included with normal paid admission to the site. There is no additional charge.

There will be a special family picnic day on July 7 of this year, featuring contradance with David Millstone and music by Blind Squirrel.


Mount Sunapee State Park (Newbury)

Mount Sunapee State Park is a major recreation area in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region offering year-round activities, according to the NH State Parks website. It continues, “the 4,085 acre lake at Mt.Sunapee State Park Beach is an ideal spot for family and group outings. A boat launch is available with some restrictions. Boat rentals are available. Situated about a mile from the beach, the campground offers lean-to and platform sites for family camping in a natural setting.”

With the availability of beaches, campgrounds, and trails, there are multiple options to simply lay out a blanket and have an impromptu lunch.


North Hartland Lake Beach (Hartland)

The three picnic pavilions at North Hartland Lake can accommodate from 65 to 100 people each, according to Flush toilets are located close to the three pavilions, while portable toilets are provided at the beach area. A concrete boat launch is available for trailered boats as well as canoes and kayaks. Picnic tables and grills are dispersed throughout the park.

North Hartland Lake is a US Army Corps of Engineers day use facility located on the Ottauquechee River in North Hartland, the website says. It is a popular destination for outdoor recreation in the Upper Valley. The Day Use Area provides a sandy swimming beach and boat access to the Ottauquechee River. Shaded areas and open lawns provide a variety of picnic opportunities.


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