The Greater Manchester Area has loads of places to run, anything from great road routes to rough, rocky terrain. While we personally prefer the softer surfaces of the grass and trails, there are countless great road loops. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Degree of Difficulty – Easy
Terrain – Gravel, Flat
Scenic – Very
Distance – Out-and-back; mile markers every 1/4 mile from Church St. Parking Lot its 12.8 miles to Andover/Willimantic and 3.2 miles to Manchester. 1/4 mile markers throughout.
Safety – For the most part the rail trail is very safe, however, we always recommend running or walking with a friend. There are plenty of people riding bikes and/or walking dogs. It will be very difficult to get hurt running on this trail as it is flat and crushed gravel.
Will I get lost? – It’s an out and back from wherever you park your car, it’s nearly impossible to get lost if you stay on the main trail.
Points of Interest – You can drop into Valley Falls 2.0 miles from Church St.; Bolton Notch is about 5-6 miles out.
Directions: In Manchester/Vernon, Church St. is connected to Phoenix St. and Lake St, there are also numerous other parking lots along the trail including Tunnel Rd. in Manchester, Colonial Dr. in Manchester (next to Grand Slam USA), Bolton Notch, and Valley Falls. From 84-East take exit 64, straight at the light at the end of the ramp and right at your first light, follow to Church St.
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate – Easy
Scenic: A beautiful loop around Porter Reservoir makes for a picturesque run or walk around that particular loop, aside from that it is fairly thick woods but the scenery is fairly nice
Distance: One loop around the reservoir is exactly 1,000-meters (~.6 miles); other than that the trails vary, you can easily run for 45 minutes-1 hour without running on the same trail twice
Safety: The neighborhood surrounding the reservoir land is one of the nicest in Manchester, nevertheless it is in the woods so run with a partner just to be sure; the trails are a bit rocky/rooty in parts so watch your ankles. A moderately popular route for those who know it – has been a hidden gem for several years. No dogs are allowed in the reservoir area.
Will I get lost? – Perhaps you can get turned around a bit, but you are never more than a half mile from a neighborhood. Follow Power lines to get back to Finley St or Camp Meeting Rd., trails always lead to Finley or Ferguson St. The trails all loop together and you will find yourself at one of the reservoirs with little trouble.
Directions/Parking: Parking lot is on Ferguson St. in Manchester, just up the road from Highland Park School (corner of Porter St. and Ferguson).
Of Interest: Howard/Porter Reservoir is the home of Manchester Running Company’s Finally Spring 5k! which takes place in early spring each year.
Box Mountain Road/Risley Reservoir:
Degree of Difficulty: Rigorous
Terrain: Road, Trails- Uphill, narrow trails, rocky
Scenic: You’ll be too tired at the top to appreciate any scenery, however, the top of Box Mountain offers some scenery looking down and should you venture into the trails there is a ridge looking east (connects to the rail trail in Bolton) that is breathtaking
Distance: Starting at the base of Box Mountain Road on Lake St. in Vernon it is a 1.6 mile uphill along the roads and then a descent through the trails can take you up to 3 or 4 more miles depending on direction. Should you choose to start at Risley Reservoir there are short trails around the reservoir and many, many more branching out; you can run for up to 90 minutes in this system without too much trouble.
Safety: You should be in good running shape to attempt Box Mountain Road, she is a cruel mistress. Trails around the reservoir are manageable but rocky with some roots. Not the safest run for your ankles particularly if it is muddy. Run with a friend as it is easy to lose your bearings in here.
Will I get lost? – We’ll be honest, most likely yes you will get lost – but head downhill and you’ll come out near civilization soon enough. Stay on the roads up Box Mountain and you’ll have little trouble, you can do the small loop (a mile or so) around the reservoir which is hard to get lost on, venture out though and you could end up in many different destinations including route 6.
Directions/Parking: There is a fairly large parking lot at Risley Reservoir on Lake St. on the Manchester/Vernon line. To get there take I-384 East to exit 5 take a left off the exit, follow through one light, one stop sign, and the lot will be on your right about a mile past the stop sign.
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Terrain: Trails – very rocky in several areas, hilly
Scenic: With miles and miles of trails there is some great scenery, fairly thick woods but some good views around the power lines
Distance: You can run virtually any distance along these trails; our favorites include a simple five mile out-and-back starting at Camp Merriwood following the blue blazes to the power lines and back. We also enjoy a 10 mile loop which spans out towards Glastonbury. Trail Map of the Area
Safety: Many people mountain bike here and bring their dogs or families for hikes. It is a safe area but there is a lot of land out there and not always easy to find civilization in a hurry – always be prepared and run with a friend and/or phone.
Will I get Lost? There are many trails and many interlock with each other, it is not that hard to get lost here but if you pay close attention to the trail you are on, they will eventually hook up with a parking lot in any direction. If you are not familiar with the area, please be careful! If you find the power lines follow in either direction to an eventual road.
Directions/Parking: Line St. parking is just past the 9th green of the Manchester Country Club in Manchester. To get there from Glastonbury follow Manchester Rd. to Line St, from Manchester follow Main St. past the Country Club and take a left on to Line St. There is also a small parking lot on Spring St. just over the bridge in Manchester and another small lot on Birch Mtn. Rd.
Gay City State Park, Hebron, Conn.
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Very muddy at times throughout the year, there are also a number of roots in some parts but overall the terrain is typical of a New England woods.
Scenic: There are a few nice scenic spots including a loop around the pond. Overall though you are in some thick woods offering some great fall landscapes.
Distance: You can easily run for over an hour in Gay City without covering the same trail twice. You can check out a trail map here.
Safety: You’re in the woods, and Hebron/Bolton aren’t exactly the most dense populations in Connecticut so if you trip and hurt yourself over a root or rock it could be a long way out. Make sure you bring your phone with you. This is a very popular place for mountain biking so be on the lookout.
Will I get lost? Probably not, the trails aren’t too long and you’ll end up near a parking lot at some point. If you are around the lake you’re not too far from the entrance/exit to the park.
Of Note: It costs $9 to enter the park with a vehicle, so if you don’t want to pay that, we suggest finding a back road in Hebron or Bolton to park on and run in. It is also incredibly buggy in there from June through August, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Manchester Road Race Course
Degree of Difficulty:
Terrain: Roads; Flat for the first mile, all uphill for the second mile and change, followed by gradual downhill and flat
Scenic: Parts of the course are nice, nothing is un-scenic.
Distance: 4.748 miles
Safety: Main St. is very busy, try to stay on the sidewalk. Charter Oak and Highland Streets are also very busy with a narrow shoulder, please run single file. There is a little less traffic on Porter St. but please try to use the sidewalks where able.
Will I get Lost? No.
Of Interest: Home to one of the best road races on the planet!
Manchester High School Track
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Track, all weather surface, eight lanes, re-surfaced in 2016
Scenic: Well the track does offer some pretty sunsets but other than that you are surrounded by playing fields and a parking lot
Distance: The track is 400 meters around in lane 1; four laps equals 1 mile and you should travel counter-clockwise
Safety: The track and neighborhood are very safe; a few days a week the track is lit after sundown
Will I get lost? Impossible.
Of Interest: During the school year the MHS athletic department has the general control of the track; usually the public can use the track after 5:00 p.m. If you are just jogging or walking please help us preserve the life of the track and use the outside lanes.
Location: The track is located in the back of MHS on Brookfield St., there is a large parking lot adjacent to the facility. There are no public restrooms.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Terrain: Grass, pavement, and trails can be found in Wickham Park; the topography of the park is a bit like a pyramid, the peak of the park is in the middle with long sloping downhills all around. There are a few marked trails but for the most part you can make your own path!
Scenic: Wickham is very scenic throughout the year. You can enjoy a view of Hartford from at the top of the hill near the log cabin which is especially nice in the fall.
Distance: The park has numerous courses as it plays host to the state’s biggest cross country meets including the state open. The possibilities are endless but you have to get creative to get in more than a half our or so without seeing the same thing twice.
Safety: The park is privately owned and is very safe.
Will I get lost? Probably not, but if you wander up some of the trails to the east side of the park you may get turned around briefly.
Directions & Parking: The park is located on the East Hartford/Manchester line on Burnside Ave. If you enter the park’s main gate you’ll have to pay for parking. You can enter the park via Tolland Turnpike in Manchester (past the I-291 on ramp) on foot to avoid a parking fee.
Of Note: The park’s gates close at sunset so make sure your car is out of there as they will lock you in. You can hang out in the park after dark but your car cannot.