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Maintained by: The Hockanum River Linear Park Committee (HRLPC)
Parking at the beginning of the trail:
The parking lot and trailhead are on the south side of Routes 6 and 44, just 200 feet east of the Exit-60 ramp off Interstate-84, across from the Cheney Technical High School. The entrance sign there indicates "Laurel Marsh Trail."
The trail walk:   (Note that the HRLPC favors locating the trail as close to the river as possible when laying out and clearing trails.)
The first 3/4 mile loop is stone dust or grass and is handicapped-accessible. This loop goes off to the right or left from the trailhead, and is basically flat with 2 gentle slopes. The views include forest, meadow, wetlands, and sections of the Hockanum River and Hop Brook. There are also a boat launch down 3 steps, easy crossings on several small footbridges, close access to the water for fishing, panoramic vistas, wild flowers, and numerous opportunities for birdwatching over water and land.
The main hiking path goes off to the right from the trailhead, heads west towards the river, and then turns left through the woods. The boat launch is straight ahead before the turn. This is a good stop to put in your canoe or kayak for a leisurely, scenic, flat water 1-hour trip winding downstream through the marsh, with takeout just to the right of the Powder Mill Dam in East Hartford.
Continuing on, the path makes a right turn up and over the Hockanum's main footbridge, with the first 2 memorial White Pines on the far side of the bridge. In late April there are abundant beautiful daffodils in flower here. The trail next proceeds on a boardwalk through diverse wet woodland foliage, and turns left onto a stone dust and grassy path shielded from the adjacent Exit 60 from I-84.
You then come across your first views, to the left, of the expansive Laurel Marsh itself, with copious displays of Purple Loosestrife, purple flowering pickerelweed, and cattails in season. There is also your first bench overlooking Pond Number One, one of 12 excavated by the State DEP to enhance the diversity of the marsh mostly dominated by invasive Phragmities, or common reeds. These ponds are mostly filled with tadpoles, frogs, and sometimes small fish. Occasionally you'll also see mallards and Canada Geese, often in pairs and in spring accompanying their young. You may also see wood duck boxes, erected by HRLPC volunteers, on trees or posts near the water.
The trail proceeds through dense woodland, up and down hillsides, with I-84 off behind the trees to the right and the
marsh to the left. The path climbs to a High Point with a bench and a spectacular view of the entire Marsh below through
the mature trees. With binoculars and a steady eye, our Observation Platform can be spotted far across the river and
wetland, accessible as the loop trail navigates to that side of the marsh.
The hillside trail continues through mature Beech trees and Mountain Laurel, and then emerges out into a clearing with 3
Interstate Highway bridges ahead. The course goes under all 3 structures, going downstream, with the wide river close by.
It then curves around to the right, up several steps and onto the paved Bikeway. Here the trail goes right on
the Bikeway, over the river bridge, and curves around to the right, under the same 3 highway bridges but now on
the other side of the river and going upstream.
Be careful to bear left, OFF the Bikeway, after going under the second bridge, to go under the third bridge on the gravel path close to the river, and around past bench number 3 with more wide views of big white and pink Marsh Mallow flowers in the marsh, and forest ahead. The path now winds through the woodland, heading towards Interstate-384 off to the side, and eventually comes out onto a Pine and Spruce tree-lined long, grassy corridor, close to I-384 on the right and to the wide Marsh on the left.
At a big boulder, the path turns left, over 2 short boardwalks, and leads into deep wetland forest. Up a little slope on the right is a bench among a cluster of pines and a view of the Marsh and I-84 far away. In the forest are 2 spectacular White Pines, just to the right, and a very large Yellow Birch on the left, that escaped a timbering operation in the 1990s.
The trail goes over a series of short boardwalks in very wet terrain, curves around to the left past more evergreens, up a hillside, and then down 5 steps to a long boardwalk. A beaver lodge at the river's edge on the left, and dam under the boardwalk, are visible here, along with a wide view of the river. Next is a lower, narrower boardwalk (the first boardwalk erected in the marsh as a pilot project by the HRLPC), and then another big boardwalk with some heaved-up sections from past major floods. At the end of this second boardwalk is a short path to the left, ending at our relaxing Observation Platform, which has panoramic views of the whole marsh.
Continuing upstream the path winds through Phragmities and Japanese Knotweed, around the base of the restricted landfill (no household garbage), and then out to another boardwalk close to the river's edge, where the currents threaten its stability. Then there is another mature forest to traverse, and out past a gravel road where the grassy path on the left follows along Hop Brook.
Shortly there is a left turn onto the paved road of the Sewage Treatment Plant. Then another left,before the green gate takes the trail back into the woods and around onto the Stone Dust Loop, which returns either straight ahead or to the right and back to the Trailhead and Parking Lot.
There are a total of about 10 benches at intervals along the Laurel Marsh Trail loop and about 20 Wood Duck boxes to be found in and around the periphery of the Marsh. These ducks use the boxes regularly each spring after returning north from their long winter migration.
Canoe and Kayak: Details on the boat launch icon can be found on the Town of Manchester web site's Canoe & Kayak Access Guide pages, item #5.