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The Piscataquog Trail, though only about 2 miles long, provides a vital off-road link between the communities on the western side of the Merrimack River (the West Side of Manchester) to several parks and ball fields and the downtown core.
Picking up at the eastern end of the Goffstown Rail Trail northwest of Agnes Street on the Manchester town line (ample parking is available at the Sarette Recreation Complex), the trail soon crosses its namesake, the Piscataquog River, over the beautifully reconstructed Irving and Bernice Singer Pedestrian Bridge, completed in 2015. Having not carried a Boston and Maine (B&M) Railroad train car since the 1980s, the trestle was removed, and with a mix of funding sources, including a donation from the Singer family, the new bridge now carries happy commuters, families, and pets.
The route crosses under Pinard Street and then begins to loosely parallel the Piscataquog River, offering numerous connections to Piscataquog River Park. Preserving most of the stretch of river from the dam to the Merrimack River, the park offers its own system of hiking trails and is a popular retreat for fishing or just relaxing in nature. On the south side of the Piscataquog Trail, you’ll find West Side Ice Arena—a primary trail access point with further access to the water—and baseball diamonds. On the north side, you’ll find Thibault Field, which offers restrooms and convenient parking about 0.75 mile from the western endpoint.
Just after passing under Granite Street, look up and to your left for a colorful collection of birdhouses that stands guard over the trail, where you might spot a chickadee, warbler, northern cardinal, or purple finch, the latter of which is New Hampshire’s state bird.
You’ll sense the city nearby as you emerge from the trees and cross South Main Street in the Piscataquog neighborhood. In just 0.25 mile, you’ll enter the Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge, which was completed in 2008 after a conversion from an existing B&M truss bridge. The wide, wooden plank bridge takes you up and over I-293 and then the river and offers an exciting bike--pedestrian alternative to the Granite Street bridge upstream. If you’re not quite ready to finish the trail, you’ll find numerous benches and plenty of room to stop and enjoy the river views. You may even spot a bald eagle.
Once across the river, you’ll meet the bronze bull statue that was erected to “commemorate Manchester’s entrepreneurial tradition as exemplified by the founders and employees of Granite State Packing Company and Jac Pac Foods.” Here, you’ll also find the trail’s terminus in Merrimack River Park South Parcel, as well as a connection to the Heritage Trail, which you can take about 0.1 mile north to Delta Dental Stadium and the rest of New Hampshire’s Queen City.
To reach the northwestern endpoint in Manchester from I-293, take Exit 5 for Granite St. toward West Manchester. Head southwest on Granite St., and go 0.1 mile. Use the left two lanes to turn left onto S. Main St., and go 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Varney St., go 0.4 mile, and continue onto Mast Road/NH 114A 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Laurier St., and go 0.2 mile. Laurier St. turns slightly left and becomes Louis St. Turn right into the Sarette Recreation Complex, and look for parking on your left.
To reach parking at West Side Ice Arena from I-293 S, take Exit 6 for Amoskeag St. toward Goffstown Road. Turn left onto Eddy Road, and go 0.4 mile. Turn right onto Bremer St. and go 1.1 miles. Turn left onto Electric St. and cross over the trail, going 0.2 mile to the arena straight ahead. From I-293 N, take Exit 6, and turn left onto Amoskeag St. Immediately after crossing under I-293, turn left onto Eddy Road, and follow the directions above.
To reach parking at Thibault Field from I-293, follow the directions above, but take Bremer St. for only 0.6 mile. Turn left onto Boutwell St. and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Amory St., and then immediately turn left onto Cumberland St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto Putnam St. Immediately turn right onto Douglas St., and head straight into the parking lot.
To reach parking along South Commercial St. (street has a 10-hour limit) from I-293, take Exit 5. Head east on Granite St., and turn right onto S. Commercial St. in 0.2 mile. No designated trail parking is available at Delta Dental Stadium.
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