Leaving the Gadgets Behind

  • Visit North Central

Has your family spent way too much time indoors during the winter? Are you looking for a way get out into the fresh air, to explore new places, and introduce (or re-introduce) the kids to


Photo by John Burke

Mother Nature?

North Central Massachusetts has just what you need: acres of forests, miles of trails, and sparkling expanses of water, all just waiting for you to explore. In fact, with all the municipal and state parks and local conservation lands, the choices can be overwhelming!

Don’t despair. We’ve got a few suggestions to make the list more manageable when you want an afternoon outdoor adventure away from the distractions of today’s technology.

Trustees of Reservations


The Trustees of Reservations manage a wide variety of properties throughout Massachusetts, including several right here in Johnny Appleseed’s back yard.

Doyle Community Park in Leominster offers more than three miles of trails, including one and a half miles of accessible trails—bringing you past woodlands, open fields, meadows, formal gardens, and parklands. For a dose of picnicking and play, pause at Pierce Meadow, a 10-acre gem with huge specimen trees and open space for the family to enjoy.

If the only sounds you’ve heard for months have come from TVs, computers, phones and game consoles, we’ve got a treat for you! Is there anything as intriguing as the sound of a waterfall? No, there’s nothing like a Niagara Falls here — but a visit to Doane’s Falls in Royalston can be an ear-opening experience.  Picture it: Lawrence Brook dropping, swirling, rushing over boulders and granite slabs, whooshing in an otherwise-quiet forest.

If you have a kayak or canoe, be sure to bring it — upstream of the falls is Coddings Meadow, a quiet clearing that serves as an easy launch site, and you might see a few beaver dams as you paddle the upper stretches of the river.


Mass Audubon


Speaking of canoeing, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary — one of dozens of Mass Audubon properties throughout Massachusetts — rents canoes (starting on Memorial Day), so you can spend some quiet time exploring its pond in a very get-away-from-it-all way.

A former farmstead, Wachusett Meadow offers spectacular scenery and supports abundant wildlife throughout woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. Historic buildings and barns are still in use for educational programming and resident sheep graze pastures. The Wachusett Meadow staff offers a variety of interesting programs for all ages; check their calendar often for opportunities to learn about everything from animal tracks and signs to the social life of owls.


North County Land Trustfindingyourway-01

North County Land Trust —whose mission is to conserve the farms, forests and landscapes that define the character of this region—continues to add new properties to its rolls. In addition to preserving the environment, NCLT conducts educational programs and other activities including nature hikes, “owl prowl” evenings and “finding fungi” walks.

Take a leisurely stroll and teach the kids a bit about colonial life at the Crocker Conservation Area at Ashburnham Road in Fitchburg. The historic Fitchburg Town Pound is part of the conservation area. Once used to impound wandering livestock, the Town Pound is comprised of a stone wall enclosure and a gate and was recently restored by the land trust. Enjoy the view at Overlook Reservoir as you follow trails and cart roads.

The spice bush is stunning on the Lower Loop trail in April, the Mountain Laurel lights up Big’s Bushwhack at the Summer Solstice and blueberries are a great snack in July!

Dwelly Farm, a former dairy farm in Templeton, has become a 68-acre conservation area, echoing the loss of many small agricultural properties in New England. Stand quietly, and try to imagine the once-familiar sounds of a dairy herd. Much of the cleared farmland has now reverted to forest, but evidence of the land’s agricultural past can be seen in the remaining cleared fields and remnants of old farm equipment still standing on some of the trails.