City-dwellers need fresh air too!
Unfortunately, the Coronoavirus has made getting some fresh air a bit more complicated. My usual stomping grounds are too crowded for comfort, making an escape into nature suddenly seem unsafe. But with the walls of my apartment closing in around me, I know just how important it is to escape into the woods for some exercise and mental health. So for your sanity, (and my own) I’ve put together a short list of publicly accessible lands with established trail networks within 40 minutes of downtown Nashua. Each property has enough space to spread out comfortably, but please use your best judgement and give others a wide berth out on trails. You can also find a complete guide to land and trails, organized by region, here: FInd a Local Hike. Stay tuned for future guides to trails near the state's cities. Enjoy exploring a new place, and hike safe!
The Leslie C. Bockes Memorial Forest in Londonderry/Hudson has 226 acres nestled in a suburban setting located less than ten miles from the center of Nashua. It is a well forested areas that serves as a natural habitat for small wildlife, providing views of the southwest when less tree cover is present. An easy trail network 3.6 miles in length follows old logging roads, allowing for opportunity to spread out while walking. There is limited parking at the trail head so please be cautious of overcrowding.
The Heald Tract is a Forest Society property covering territory in Wilton, Temple, Greenville and Mason. It is a farther drive from Nashua clocking in at about 40 minutes, but offers visitors the opportunity to spread out over its nearly 1500 acres. It is an ecologically diverse habitat, so keep your eyes open for wild animals like deer and otter, and your ears open for bird calls. There is also a magnificent beaver dam on Castor Pond which is accessible on the Camp Tail Loop. The three trails on the property range from 1.6 to 4.5 miles, and each are accessible from the Main Kiosk Parking Area. If the first small lot is full there are other parking and entry opportunities throughout the reservation. *Note that there have been reports of downed trees on trails recently so use caution.*
The commission has two great sizable properties for hiking, all with marked trails and plenty of space to spread out.
-The most well-known locally is the Horse Hill Nature Preserve, located off Amherst Road in Merrimack. The property has 563 acres of gently rolling to fairly steep terrain peppered with wetlands and wildlife, and old logging roads make up the network of trails throughout the grounds. With two 400 foot hills it is an excellent destination for getting in a little altitude locally.
-The Grater Woods off of Madeline Bennet Drive is another good option for immersing yourself in a diverse natural environment of both forest and wetland. The varied terrain has encouraged a wild variety of wildlife, and allows animals to freely migrate in and out of the forest. Once again old logging roads create the good sized trails that crisscross the property.
The Massabesic Audubon Center is an ecological oasis outside of Manchester in the town of Auburn. A 25 minute drive from North Nashua brings you over five miles of trails marked by rolling fields and wooded wetlands. Take one of the two marked walking loops for beautiful shoreline views of Lake Massabesic, surrounded by thousands of undeveloped acres of Manchester Water Works land. The Audubon Center (closed during COVID-19 regulations) is located on a historic farm site, and its immediate grounds have been designated a wildlife sanctuary. There is a good-sized parking lot at the trailhead, so if all spaces are full it may not be safe to hike.
The Londonderry Trailways feature 25+ miles of conservation area trails spread out over three different routes. The largest recreational space is found at the Musquash Conservation Area, which has over 20 miles of managed trails spread out over 1,000 acres. Terrain ranges from easy flat walking to surface roots, ruts, and rocks with up and downhill grades, with plenty of wetlands mixed in. The other two areas are smaller and may be better for an easy family walk. The Adams Pond Trail circles the water and is bordered by two apple orchards which bloom in the spring. The Kendall Pond trail is two miles of easy walking in a pine forest along the pond and Beaver Brook.
Maria Finnegan is the manager of individual giving at the Forest Society.