Where are the best places to run in the greater Manchester area? Well that all depends on what type of terrain you’re looking for, how long you’re looking to run, and how lonely you want to be. But one thing is for sure, Manchester really is one of the best places to run in the area. There are great routes for those who want to run roads, picturesque trails, and of course a great track. Today I’ll explore and give a little more detail about three of the best trail systems in the area. You can always find much more info on our Where We Run page.
We’ll start with the classic – you guessed it – rail trail. Now it’s called something different in just about every town. I believe Manchester calls it the Hop River Linear Park, Vernon names it the Rails to Trails, it turns back into the Hop River State Park in Bolton, and after that I think it’s just land. In any case, I’m calling it the rail trail because that’s what we used to call it back in high school. This is a classic run for literally any distance. The trail lies on top of, or in lieu of, an old rail road bed. In Vernon, they have turned it into historical sites so you can read all about the old rail road, it’s actually a pretty interesting read when you’re stretching or waiting for your running buddies. This trail goes on for miles (I think it’s over 15 miles in one direction) and it is entirely a wide crushed gravel path. Safe for bikes and families and great for running. The soft surface gives your legs a break from the roads, there are no roots or rocks to jump over, it is very flat and the best part about it in the summer it is completely shaded! The only time the rail trail is not really run-able is in the winter as it is popular for xc skiers, they tend to get to the trail first and even if the snow is melted elsewhere the ski tracks remain iced up for awhile.
Here are some of the best parking spots for the rail trail:
Manchester – Colonial Road (up the street from Big Y and on the other side up the street from the post office). Good size parking lot right off the road.
Vernon – Church Street. A very popular place on Saturday and Sunday morning so if you want a prime parking spot get there early. You’ll see all sorts of runners and walkers.
Vernon – Valley Falls. Off of Valley Falls Rd. Heads up though in the summer on the weekends I believe you have to pay to park in that lot.
Bolton – Off of I-384. This one is tricky, you have to take a right off of Interstate 384 West. You can’t get to it going east and yes you have to make a right turn off the highway, as in going 65 mph down to about 10, fortunately there is a shoulder you can slow down in. This is very easy to miss so be prepared, it’s right before Exit 5.
Bolton – Steele’s Crossing Road. Down the street from Bolton Green and up the street from Route 6.
Moving on to a spot that is a little less known and a little more adventurous. One of my favorite place to get in a 30-60 minute run is the Howard/Porter Reservoir situated between Porter St. and Finley St. in Manchester. Heretofore shall be referred to as “Porter Reservoir”. Porter Reservoir is a hidden gem for all sorts of runners and walkers in town. If you’re looking for mildly rugged terrain it has that, if you’re looking for a flat path, it’s got that, and if you’re looking to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere it has that too! There is a small parking lot on Porter St. in Manchester (it’s easy to miss) or you can park along the street on Finley St. There are some hills in the recreation area but there is also a perfect 1,000 meter loop around one of the reservoirs that makes for a relaxing break from the uneven terrain elsewhere. You can follow several paths that loop you around the grounds, some are much less used than others and you can probably spend north of an hour in the place without running on the same path twice. The only time to really avoid this spot is during the early evening hours on hot/humid days in the summer, it can get a little buggy.
For those who are looking for a real adventure there is always Case Mountain. I actually know Case Mountain quite well because I’ve been lost in there on more than one occasion, once for a few hours. So first off, if you’re not familiar with the area and the trails, you should probably go with someone, be very trail/direction savvy, and bring some food/water with you. If you do know the area and the trails you can have a great time but the trails are very typical of a New England woods. There are rocks and routes all over the place and it can get quite hilly. The best times to run in Case Mountain are in the spring and fall. The summer is nice but there are bugs and it can get humid. If you’re looking for a spot to park you can find small parking lots on Line Street, Spring Street and Birch Mountain Road.
Stay safe and happy trails! (Get it!?)