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Places We Protect

Manchester Cedar Swamp

New Hampshire

Looking down on bright green fern fronds.
Ferns Ferns are abundant in Manchester Cedar Swamp in Manchester, New Hampshire. © Eric Aldrich/The Nature Conservancy

Giant rhododendron and lush ferns are abundant at this urban preserve, which is home to a universally accessible trail.

Overview

Description

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We are excited to announce that the All Persons Trail is now open! We hope you enjoy your visit. Please note that to ensure the safety and comfort of all visitors, as well as to protect the wildlife and rare habitat, dogs are not permitted at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve. Licensed service dogs only are allowed on the All Persons Trail.


New Hampshire’s most populated city isn’t where most of us think of going to explore nature. But nature abounds here at the 640-acre Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve, the largest conservation area in the city—providing residents and visitors alike with opportunities for a peaceful escape, outdoor recreation and nature study close to home.

Visitors to this preserve will encounter 1.8 miles of trails, including the universally accessible Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail, featuring a spacious parking area, inclusive, informational signage, immersive interpretive points of interest, a non-gendered, family-friendly, ADA-compliant portable restroom, and an audio tour available in both English and Spanish. Along the way you'll find shady hemlock groves, giant rhododendron patches and the globally rare Atlantic white cedar swamps that are the preserve’s namesake. Mingling in are black gum, another long-lived tree species that occurs in the Manchester Cedar Swamp wetlands. Some of these trees are over 450 years old.

When you’re down on the accessible boardwalk in the cedar swamp, the stillness and sense of solitude can feel like a remote wilderness. Amazing to think that in 10 minutes’ time you can be off the trails and in downtown Manchester getting ready for your next adventure!

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

While compacted, the parking area is yet to be paved. Please, leave dogs at home.

Hours

Open dawn to dusk every day.

Wheelchair Accessible

The All Persons Trail is designed to be used by those with assistive and adaptive devices such as wheelchairs and strollers. Bicycles are prohibited.

Highlights

Hiking, snowshoeing and bird watching are fun activities at this preserve. The All Persons Trail is suitable for all abilities and includes interactive, immersive experiences for all visitors. A free audio tour is available in both English and Spanish.

Size

640 acres

Explore our work in New Hampshire

From Campus to Conserved

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. In April 2015, we once again partnered with the City of Manchester to add another 40 acres—known as "the thumb"—to the preserve.

After three years of listening, planning and construction, the Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail opened to the public on Earth Day 2022, bringing people of all abilities and backgrounds closer to nature in the city.

The Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail
A trail for everyone

A man and his friend push another man using a wheelchair down a flat, winding path in the woods.
Built to Explore Max Morelli of Opportunity Networks enjoying the All Persons Trail with his clients, Drew and Kevin. © Jerry Monkman/EcoPhotography
All Persons Trail Community Celebration (28:13) The All Persons Trail officially opened on Earth Day 2022! Watch the livestream recording of the community celebration.
Map of the All Persons Trail at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve.
On The Map The Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail is an out and back trail measuring a total of 1.2 miles and dotted with resting benches and interpretive points of interest. © Jon Ferland for The Nature Conservancy

The Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail is an out and back trail measuring a total of 1.2 miles and dotted with resting benches and interpretive points of interest.

Just minutes from the bustling streets of downtown Manchester lies another world: the peaceful, calm and earthy silence of the Manchester Cedar Swamp—a place of ancient trees and giant ferns, a natural treasure in the midst of New Hampshire's largest city. Unfortunately, for too many, the wonders of places like the Manchester Cedar Swamp have long been inaccessible. The reality is: not everyone can equally access our natural public spaces. For some, standard trails do not offer a sufficiently level surface, gentle slope or secure footing. Others may feel unsafe or uncomfortable being in the woods or navigating traditional trails. Still more may be limited by transportation, unable to even reach these locations.

We believe equity and diversity are laws of nature.

New Hampshire State Director

Breaking Down Barriers

Breaking down these barriers is a vital step in ensuring that the outdoors is truly accessible for all. It is why The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire has constructed a universally accessible trail at the Manchester Cedar Swamp, with the hopes of introducing this hidden ecological gem to visitors of all abilities and comfort levels. This universal trail offers a tangible opportunity for more people to experience the power of nature, one more affirmation of inclusivity, one more declaration that nature is here for all of us. We are thrilled to provide a trail that is truly inclusive and accessible.

An image of a QR code directing to a TravelStory.
You Won't Believe Your Ears! You can experience the Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail in a whole new way with our free audio tour, available in both English and Spanish. © Clifford Puliese via Canva Pro

Your Visit

We developed the All Persons Trail to be an inclusive, immersive experience. You can expect:

Accessible Parking Area

  • Our upgraded parking area includes accessible parking spaces and a family-friendly, nongendered, ADA-compliant portable toilet.

Public Transportation

Informative, Inclusive Signage

  • Kiosk signs clearly display information about the preserve, the All Persons Trail and what users can expect during their visit.

Interpretive Points of Interest

  • Seven beautifully illustrated interpretive panels take visitors on a colorful journey down the trail and provide insight into the sights and sounds of Manchester Cedar Swamp.

Raising Indigenous Voices

  • Manchester Cedar Swamp is within N'dakinna, the unceded ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook and Wabanaki people. We are filled with gratitude and respect for the lands, waters and people of N’dakinna and are deeply thankful to the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People for their thoughtful collaboration to elevate their voices and highlight their historic and continuing connections to this land. Watch for the Wisdom Curl symbol on interpretive panels along the trail where Indigenous wisdom from our Abenaki friends is being shared.

Audio Tour in English and Spanish

  • Our TravelStorys—a free, app-based, GPS-triggered audio tour—provides an immersive experience for all visitors including kids, adults, Spanish speakers and those with visual impairments. Instructions for accessing the audio tour are available in both languages on the kiosk panel.
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They say it takes a village. In this case, it takes a whole community.

We are on a mission to build outdoor spaces that offer tangible opportunities for more people to not only experience the power of nature but also feel included and actively welcome. That's why we've created a universally accessible trail in New Hampshire's largest and most diverse city.

Cover of the All Persons Trail Guidebook.
NH All Persons Trail Guidebook A guide to what we learned during the creation of the Manchester Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail. © The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire

All Persons Trail Guidebook

We learned so much building this trail, and we want to share it with you! We explore our whole process—from community engagement to fundrasing and construction to communications—in this beautiful guidebook.

× Cover of the All Persons Trail Guidebook.
A wide, accessible path winds through woods.
A traditional hiking trail through woods.
A Common Path The All Persons Trail at Manchester Cedar Swamp provides a whole new journey through this globally rare habitat. An existing, traditional trail (left) was upgraded to allow more diverse users, including those using wheelchairs or pushing strollers, to enjoy nature. © Joanne Glode/The Nature Conservancy

The first step toward a more inclusive experience at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve is to listenlisten to the many, diverse voices that make up the vibrant fabric of our community. To gather input on how we could best ensure the trail was built in a way that serves everyone in the Manchester community, we held five virtual, community-led conversations. The events focused on identifying barriers that individuals from the Black, LGBTQ+, disability and senior communities face when looking to access nature and recommendations we received to help shape our efforts at the preserve.

And we're still listening and learning! Curious to hear more about what's been discussed thus far? Check out the recordings of our Access for All Community Discussions (see Past Events below).

A wood thrush, a small bird with a brown back and white chest, perches on a branch in the forest.
Wood Thrush One of the species found at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve © Jonathan Pierce

Thanks to the incredible funders and supporters who are making this trail possible:

  •     AARP
  •     Anna B. Stearns Charitable Foundation
  •     Appalachian Mountain Club
  •     Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People
  •     Disability Rights Center New Hampshire
  •     Fields Pond Foundation
  •     Madelaine G. von Weber Trust
  •     NAACP of Greater Manchester
  •     NH Council on Developmental Disabilities
  •     NH Parks and Recreation, Recreational Trails Program
  •     Norwin S. & Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation
  •     Opportunity Networks
  •     RiverWoods Manchester
  •     Samuel P. Hunt Foundation
  •     Southern New Hampshire University
  •     The VF Foundation
  •     The Manchester community 

Past Events

Community Listening Sessions

  • Physical Access to Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The Disabilities Rights Center NH and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Physical Access to Nature & 30th Anniversary of the ADA at the end of July 2020. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the disability community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire—like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve—are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Stephanie Patrick: Executive Director of the Disability Rights Center
    Joanne Glode: The Nature Conservancy
    Kim Thibeault: Granite State Independent Living
    Carrie Duran: Parent advocate
    Joyce Craig: Manchester Mayor
     

  • Black in Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The NAACP of Greater Manchester and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Black in Nature at the end of September 2020. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the Black community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire—like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve—are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Nicole Jackson: Natural Leader of the Children & Nature Network, a member of the National Parks Conservation Association's Next Generation Advisory Council, co-organizer of Black Birders Week and founder of Black in National Parks Week   
    Pedro Altagracia: Local New Hampshire outdoor enthusiast and Community Organizer
    James King Jr.: Environmental and outdoor recreational leader, former Park Ranger at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Washington Wilderness Recreation Coalition 2018: Next Generation of Outdoor Leaders, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and dedicated to promoting accessibility and representation of African Americans
    Kadeine Peterson: Former genetic researcher turned biology teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH


  • LGBTQ+ in Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    The Appalachian Mountain Club and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled LGBTQ+ in Nature. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the LGBTQ+ community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire—like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve—are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:

    Richella Simard: Artist and art educator ally and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and youth working in New Hampshire
    Emmett LeBlanc: LGBTQ+ community health worker, pro-health integrated health care clinic through the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester
    Melissa Leszek: Donor Communications Associate for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire
    Yasamin Safarzadeh: Yasamin works for YWCA New Hampshire and the Currier Museum of Art, creating accessibility to the arts for, typically, underserved populations
    Yvonne Rynearson: Trip instructor with The Venture Out Project and Farm Director and Agricultural Educator for an independent middle school
     

  • Active Seniors in Nature

    WATCH THE RECORDING

    AARP of New Hampshire and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire co-hosted a virtual community conversation titled Active Seniors in Nature. The virtual conversation focused on the realities individuals in the Active Senior community consistently face while participating in outdoor recreation, both in New Hampshire and in general. The event provided space to not only discuss these inequities, but also explore concrete ways the environmental community and other allies can step up to ensure public trails in New Hampshire—like the one being built at the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve—are actively welcoming and inclusive.

    PANELISTS:
    Todd Fahey: AARP NH State Director
    Kim Murphy: Birch Hill Independent Living Facility, Manchester, NH
    Bill Foss: Birch Hill Resident and Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve enthusiast
    Elaine Schmottlach: Birch Hill Resident
     

Visit Manchester Cedar Swamp

Manchester Cedar Swamp includes 1.8 miles of trails, providing views of globall rare Atlantic white cedar, giant rhododendron, winterberry, cinnamon fern, and a large black gum tree. Experience thickets of giant rhododendron, which are in full bloom in June. Or 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. The trails are also perfect for snowshoeing in the winter!

In addition to traditional hiking trails, Manchester Cedar Swamp also includes the All Persons Trail, a universally accessible trail designed for everyone and intended for use by visitors of all abilities and backgrounds.  

Trail rating:  Easy

Enjoy the Preserve Responsibly:

Service dogs only: We love our four-legged friends, but only leashed service animals are permitted on the trails. This ensures the safety of all users and the preservation of wildlife here. Please leave all other pets at home.

• Leave No Trace: Please keep the preserve clean by carrying out your trash (and any that you find).

• No camping or open fires allowed.

• Please, for your safety and the protection of this globally rare ecosystem, stay on marked trails.

• Foot traffic only; horses, bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited. Wheelchairs, strollers and assistive/adaptive devices are permitted on the All Persons Trail.

• Hunting is allowed on the preserve, except within 300 feet of the trail. Please obey all posted signs and contact NH Fish & Game Department for dates and regulations.

• Respect the natural world around you! Do not remove or destroy plants, wildlife, minerals or cultural items.

Directions

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.
  • The parking area will be on the left.

Live in Manchester? Take public transit! The Manchester Transit Authority's Route 11 bus stops at Manchester Cedar Swamp. View the schedule.

Virtual Birding at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve (25:39) Join former AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator Charlotte Harding on a virtual tour of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire's Manchester Cedar Swamp’s trail system. She’ll be stopping in key habitats to tell you about the birds you can expect to see and hear!

What Is the Future of Nature?

Can you envision a future where people and nature thrive together? Here in New Hampshire, we have a choice to make. There are two paths forward for our state and for our world, and the choices we make today will define the legacy we leave behind for future generations.