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Boardwalk through Atlantic white cedars at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve. Photo by David Martsolf for The Nature Conservancy.




Takin’ it easy
Hikes for all abilities

06/09/16
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



 If you’re looking for a quick and accessible hike to do at lunch time or a laid-back day hike to do with the family, these four easy-level hikes fit the bill.

 
Northwood Meadows State Park
755 First NH Turnpike (Route 202), Northwood
Length: Up to approximately 4 miles 
Features: According to the New Hampshire State Parks website, Northwood Meadows State Park features 674.5 acres of meadows, hills, forests and wetlands, including the park’s main attraction, Meadow Lake, created by the dammed Lamprey River on its south end. The majority of the trails are flat, wide and made of dirt or gravel, though some lead through more wooded areas. From the parking lot and information kiosk, Meadow Lake and the Lake Trail that loops around it are a half-mile down the gravel starting trail, Dashingdown Road. There are two alternate routes to the lake that branch off Dashingdown: the .2-mile wheelchair-accessible Universal Access Trail and the Huckins Orchard Trail, a wooded route that extends .7 miles before connecting with the Lake Trail on the west side of the lake. The primary Lake Trail loop is 1.2 miles and includes some picnic tables and benches at scenic vistas by the water. At the south end of the lake, a foot trail comes off the Lake Trail and continues south for .3 miles alongside Betty Meadows in the heart of the park. Dashingdown Road continues and runs parallel to the Lake Trail about halfway down the east side of the lake before veering off to Demon Pond Trail, denoted by a tall triangular stone. The trail circumvents about three quarters of Demon Pond. 
Why you should go: The trail network is full of extended and alternate routes, so you can customize your hike to fit your needs, and you can try different variations of routes everytime you go. The smooth, well-marked trails are ideal for families, dog-walkers and anyone looking for a leisurely stroll through nature or a relaxing afternoon by the lake. 
 
Healy and Terrill Park Trails
Hikers can begin at either of the Concord parks. The Terrill Park trailhead is at the northern end of the park on the west side of Old Turnpike Road. The Healy Park trailhead is at the end of Basin Street. 
Length: Two miles 
Features: Healy and Terrill Parks are opposite each other across the Merrimack River, according to concordnh.gov. Their trails are linked together by the sidewalk of the Manchester Street bridge that traverses the river. Healy Park is a natural, largely forested park where visitors can see a variety of plants, birds and other wildlife that makes its home along the river. The trail runs in a loop around the area, with a short path extending up to the river’s edge. Terrill Park is more developed, offering smooth-surfaced, handicapped-accessible paths that run directly along the shoreline, as well as a fenced-in dog park. Visitors can enjoy picturesque views of the river and of the gold-capped State Capitol Building in the distance. 
Why you should go: You get the best of both worlds: a naturalized park filled with trees and an abundance of wildlife, and a more urbanized park with groomed trails, a designated dog park and views of the capital cityscape, all while experiencing the beauty of the Merrimack River. Pack a picnic or fishing pole and spend the day, or visit for a quick walk at lunchtime.
 
Mayflower Hill and Patch Hill Trails 
Parking and trailheads for the Mayflower Hill Trail in Milford are located on Shady Lane and Falconer Avenue. Patch Hill Trail in Amherst can be accessed from Lyndeborough Road and Chase Lane (street parking). 
Length: Up to approximately 4.5 miles 
Features: This network of trails connects Patch Hill Conservation Area and Mayflower Hill Town Forest, both of which contain observable sites of past granite quarry operations, according to milford.nh.gov. The Mayflower Hill Trail leads up to the scenic “Lookout Point” with views of Pack, North Pack and Temple mountains to the west. It winds around the top of the hill, then back down to the starting point in a loop. Two additional shortcut paths run across the loop. A more challenging route stems from Perkins Street south of the hill; it’s a steep, uphill trail that runs through a pine forest, past large boulders, and eventually meets with the main loop. Another path breaks off the loop and runs down the west side of the hill, then heads north until it reaches Chase Lane. Across the street and a small, babbling brook, Patch Hill Trail officially begins. It continues north, eventually crossing the town border into Amherst before ending at Lyndeborough Road, but along the way, a loop trail branches off to Patch Hill on the east. The wooded path leads up to an open bedrock at the summit where hikers may see vernal pools, flowering plants and birds soaring overhead, depending on the season. 
Why you should go: Located half a mile from the bustling Milford Oval, Mayflower Hill is the perfect place for a midday getaway. Stunning scenery at Lookout Point is just a quick, easy walk away, and the old quarry sites are unique points of interest to explore on longer day hikes. 
 
Manchester Cedar Swamp 
Countryside Boulevard, Manchester (Park along the south side of the road) 
Length: Up to 1.8 miles 
Features: The Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve contains three wooded loop trails with varied but easy terrain, says Joanne Glode of the Nature Conservancy. Its diverse landscape is home to a multitude of plants and trees, birds, amphibians and other wildlife. The path from the parking lot leads to the Woodland Loop, the longest and central trail. Here, hikers can see common trees such as white pine, red oak and yellow birch; plant life like wintergreen, partridgeberry, trailing arbutus, bracken fern and chestnut sapling; and evidence of glacial history including large boulders and a large glacial erratic. On the western end of the loop, the Cedar Loop branches off. This is the shortest trail and runs through a cove of a swamp where the rare Atlantic white cedars reside. These trees are easily identified by their tall conical shape and twisted bark. The Cedar Loop is also home to the black gum trees, known for their thick, deep-set bark ridges and old age. One tree on the property is 450 years old and among the oldest trees in the state. The third trail, the Rhododendron Loop, extends from the eastern side of the Woodland Loop across Millstone Brook and is named for its patches of giant white and pink rhododendrons. 
Why you should go: This hike is a nature-lover’s paradise with a wide array wildlife to observe. The Atlantic white cedars are a globally rare species that can only be found in a few swamps in New England, and the Manchester Cedar Swamp is the only one north of Massachusetts. If you’re looking for an aesthetic walk, go during late spring or early summer when the huge rhododendron blooms are at their peak. 





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