Manchester Cedar Swamp

Manchester Cedar Swamp

The Nature Conservancy Manchester, New Hampshire 03102

Official Website
Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve guide and map

About this Location

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.

A large portion of Hackett Hill, including parts of what is now our preserve, was slated to be the University of New Hampshire’s Manchester Campus. Plans were drawn up and funding was 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 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 the protection of rare wetlands to preserve the globally rare Atlantic white cedar swamp and giant rhododendrons located in the Hackett Hill area. The cedar swamp is 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 were added to the preserve in 2002 and 2003.

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.

Notable Trails

The TrailFinder website has a description and map of a hike at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

Content from Official Website

Last updated October 21, 2023