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New Hampshire

Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve

Why is this land special?

The 602-acre Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve contains 42 acres of globally rare Atlantic white cedar-giant rhododendron swamp, one of the largest and most ecologically valuable cedar swamps in the state.  Atlantic white cedar is sometimes found in association with black gum, which is another long-lived tree species that occurs in the Manchester Cedar Swamp wetlands.  Some of these trees are over 450 years old. 

Giant rhododendron thickets produce large showy clusters of pale pink and white flowers in June along the Rhododendron Loop Trail.  Milestone Brook flows through the property with several tributaries and marsh areas in the southeastern section of the preserve.  The preserve is over 600 acres, making it the largest tract of conservation land in Manchester.

How was this land protected?

A large portion of Hackett Hill, including parts of what is now our preserve, was slated to be UNH’s Manchester Campus.  Plans were drawn up and funding approved to start construction. Roads, granite curbs, underground power, parking lots and lighting were all installed.  Before classroom construction began however, the state decided to relocate the campus into the old mills along the Merrimack River.  The Hackett Hill improvements remain to this day, creating a ghost town feel. 

After the relocation of the campus, Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve was protected through an innovative settlement agreement in 1999 between the City of Manchester, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.  Under the agreement, the City of Manchester agreed to establish a $5.6 million Supplemental Environmental Projects Program in order to do environmental restoration and protection projects. In exchange the City was allowed to phase in stormwater control improvements to remove combined sewer overflow into the Merrimack and Piscataquog rivers.

The city allocated $2 million for protection of rare wetlands with a goal of preserving the globally rare Atlantic white cedar swamp and giant rhododendrons located in the Hackett Hill area. The cedar swamp is among the biggest and best quality in the state and was located in an area of several hundred acres of undeveloped land. The EPA asked The Nature Conservancy to own and manage these special lands because of our biodiversity mission and land management expertise. We received 350 acres from the City of Manchester in August 2001 and another 252 acres was added to the preserve in 2002 and 2003. 

How can I explore this property ?

You can hike through 1.8 miles of trail that includes three loop trails through the cedar swamp, white pine and red oak woodlands, and giant rhododendron thickets.  The cedar loop trail leads you through a small section of the cedar swamp where you’ll see Atlantic white cedar, giant rhododendron, winterberry, cinnamon fern, and a large black gum tree.   The rhododendron loop trail leads through several thickets of giant rhododendron which are in full bloom in June.  You can also walk along the wetlands of Millstone Brook which is a great place to see wetland birds like great blue herons and common yellowthroat warblers and wildlife like deer, mink, and beaver.

Trail rating:  Easy

Special Visitation Guidelines:
Foot travel only
Hunting allowed except within 300 ft. of the trail

Download Trail Map


Manchester Cedar Swamp contains 1.8 miles of loop trails that are rated easy.  They are perfect for hiking in summer and snowshoeing in winter! The preserve is also a fun, urban place to look for migrating birds.


The preserve is in the Hackett Hill section of Manchester, on the west side of the Merrimack River.

  • From Interstate 93, take Exit 10 and head south on West River Road (a.k.a. Front Street).
  • Go about 1 mile (crossing the town line from Hooksett into Manchester) and turn right (west and north) onto Hackett Hill Road.
  • Go 0.7 miles and turn left (west) onto Countryside Boulevard.
  • Go about 0.5 miles to where the road starts to curve right.
  • You'll see the trailhead and sign on the left.
  • Parking is along the south side of the road.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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