Escape to the Concord trails

  • Concord has a collection of 31 trails throughout the city. John Winant Park and Marjory Swope Park are now joined by a connector trail. CHRIS BARNARD / Monitor staff

  • Winant Park and Marjory Swope Park are joined by a connector trail. CHRIS BARNARD / Monitor staff

  • Pictures of the trails in Concord. Chris Barnard—Monitor Staff

  • Pictures of the trails in Concord. Chris Barnard—Monitor Staff

  • Pictures of the trails in Concord. Chris Barnard—Monitor Staff

  • Pictures of the trails in Concord. Chris Barnard—Monitor Staff

  • Pictures of the trails in Concord. Chris Barnard—Monitor Staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, July 06, 2017

When it comes to stress-relief, taking a walk through the woods is one of the best options around. It’s cheap (free, in fact), relaxing and a good form of exercise. It’s also a great way to enjoy being outdoors and out of the sun on hot summer days.

Luckily, Concord has an impressive array of trails that make spending time in the woods easy and convenient.

The Concord trail system is a collection of 31 trails spread out all around the capital area that allows for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, a feature that Joe Webster has come to appreciate.

“I walk for exercise, fun, just to get into the woods,” said Webster, a Hooksett resident, “(I) get away from the sounds of the world and just get into nature a little bit.”

Webster, assistant principal and teacher at Parker Academy, frequently takes walks on the trails after school gets out. Parker Academy is just steps down the road from the Winant Park trails.

The Winant Park trails and the nearby Marjory Swope Park trail are among the most heavily trafficked routes in Concord.

“Those trails sometimes have overflowing parking lots on the weekends during the summer,” said Beth Fenstermacher, Concord’s assistant city planner. “It seems like those are the one’s most people know about.”

Fenstermacher works with the Concord Conservation Committee and Trails Sub-Committee in order to plan and maintain the forested paths throughout the city. Last fall, these two groups finished a connector trail between Winant and Swope as part of a larger plan to join individual trails together.

There are now three connector trails, which means those looking for longer hikes have plenty of options available. The longest individual trail is the West End Farm Trail, which stretches for more than seven miles, and for less-ambitious walkers, there are several trails less than a mile in length.

Although trails like Winant can sometimes get busy, with about 70 miles of trails total in Concord, finding some peace and quiet shouldn’t be too hard.

In fact, you might be more likely to run into wildlife than other hikers.

“This section, actually, three different times I’ve seen deer,” Webster said, referring to the Swope-Winant connector. “There seems to be a sort of path that they take.”

For those who need a little more motivation to get hiking, there are a couple of great options available.

One option is guided group hikes put on by the Concord Trails Committee. The hikes, which are led by volunteer members of the committee, typically take place Saturday mornings.

The guided hikes provide an opportunity to learn a little bit about the history of the trails and meet other nature-walk enthusiasts. The committee also makes sure slower walkers aren’t left behind in the dust.

“The die-hard hikers go a bit faster and beginners usually go slower,” Fenstermacher said. “We have someone stay with the people in back.”

Another reason to get out on the trails this summer is the Concord Trail Passport Program. This program, put on by the Capital Area Wellness Coalition, offers rewards for heading out on the trails.

Just by walking on at least 20 trails and filling out the passport on the coalition website, hikers can score discounts at local businesses.

No matter the reason, checking out the Concord trails should be on every to-do list this summer.

For more information on the trails, visit concordnh.gov/trails. The website offers maps, trail details, history and upcoming events (like guided hikes). More information on the passport program can be found at capwellness.org.