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Maintained by: The Hockanum River Linear Park Committee (HRLPC)
Parking at the beginning of the trail:
Parking is in a parking lot located at the corner of New State Road and Hilliard Street.
The trail walk:   (Note that the HRLPC favors locating the trail as close to the river as possible when laying out and clearing trails.)
This trail is a very short segment in the woods close along the river, with good views of the waterway, a bench, boat launch and open spots for fly fishing.
The trail starts at the parking lot and proceeds upstream, following the river to the junction where Bigelow Brook enters the river. It then terminates out on Hilliard Street; or connects east on Hilliard Street past the Hilliard Mills, to the corner of Hilliard and Adams Streets. If you then follow the river upstream along Adams Street, it goes under the Adams Street Bridge, and joins Adams Mill Trail, which goes upstream along the river side of DeCormier Motors.
The Hilliard Trail, although short in length, has a wooden bench and 2 picnic tables facing the river for a tranquil view of the Hockanum, and is a convenient spot for fishing or for launching a kayak or canoe to explore the river. The trail is also a great spot for watching water birds such as pairs of Mallards and Canada geese; along with an occasional solitary Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher.
Across New State Road to the west, the New State Road Trail goes downstream along the Hockanum. North along New State Road, on the right, the Hackett Trail loops behind the Sunny Brook Village Apartments, through the woods and around the softball field, also with views of the river. Parking is available near the softball field.
In the diagram below, click on the "Boat Launch" icon to jump to the Town of Manchester's "Canoe & Kayak Access Guide" page, for information on this launch site.
Details on the boat launch icon can be found on the Town of Manchester web site's
Canoe & Kayak Access Guide pages, item #4.
The Hilliard Trail is named to recognize E.E. Hilliard, who took over the first woolen mill in Manchester, which was started by Aaron Buckland in 1794 and later owned by Sidney Pitkin. Hilliard joined Pitkin in 1832 as an apprentice, later becoming a partner and operating the mill until his death in 1881. Hilliard's son, E.C., and later his grandson, E.E., then ran the mill.
The E.E. Hilliard Company was listed as a producer of woolen goods in the Manchester Town Directories until 1941. The mill buildings, with a few additions, still stand today across Hilliard Street from the trail. In its early days the mill got its water power from dams on Bigelow Brook and, after 1893, got hydroelectric power from a dam on the Hockanum River near the Peter Adams Paper Mill. This dam burst in the 1938 hurricane. The Adams Mill Trail traverses this empty pond basin today, and is owned by the Town of Manchester
Currently, the new owners of the Hilliard Mills buildings are undertaking a major renovation for office and storage space. A new trail is also being planned along Bigelow Brook, in the rear of the buildings.
A more complete history of the E.E. Hilliard Company and the current Hilliard Mills owners can be found by clicking Hilliard Mills.
One thing which is easy to lose sight of is that, if there was no Hockanum River there would be no old mill, or at least not as large as it is today. The original mill got its water power from Bigelow Brook, which was channeled from a now-ruined dam across Adams Street, through pipes comparable in size to those in the Pitkin Trail pipe photo; then under and through the building before emptying into Bigelow Brook.
Remains of the ruined dam, the pipe, and the watercourse through the building are still visible today, on the Purdy Nature Trail which is owned by the Manchester Land Trust on the east side of Adams Street.
Following is an image of the Hilliard Mills from times past; click on it for an enlarged view.