Let it Snow
- Visit North Central
There’s snow on the ground and it’s a sunny day. Time to dig those snowshoes or cross-country skis out of the closet. Johnny Appleseed Country has a wealth of open space and woodland trails for winter exploration.
When ponds and wetlands are solidly frozen and covered with snow, you can visit nooks and crannies of conservation land and state parks that are unaccessible in the other three seasons.
For groomed trails and rental equipment, there are X-C ski centers at Saima Park in Fitchburg, as well as Northfield Mountain on Route 63 north of Route 2 in Northfield.
But there are endless options in virtually every community for people with their own equipment. Most Audubon sanctuaries allow snowshoe or X-C ski enthusiasts all winter. State parks are also an excellent choice. Long distance trails such as the Midstate and Monoosnoc offer lengthy sections for winter use–the key is knowing where to park, because hiking trailheads along the roadside may not be plowed.
The Monoosnoc Trail stretches for ten miles in the forested western half of Leominster, and much of it is gentle enough for X-C skis. The southern trailhead is behind the Samoset Middle School, 100 DeCicco Drive, off Union Street. Drive to the parking area that is farthest behind the school–parking lots are plowed all winter.
Also, Sholan Farm apple orchard is city-owned land that incorporates the Monoosnoc along with other trails, and some parking should be available along Pleasant Street at the Sholan farmstand.
Leominster State Park has wintertime-cleared parking areas along Route 31 in Westminster. At Wachusett Mountain, the visitor center is open with parking all winter, and several access roads around the mountain are plowed for access at the gated cart roads.
For information about winter parking at either Leominster or Wachusett state parks, call the Department of Conservation and Recreation at 978-464-2987, where staff is on duty all year around.
Contributed by Marie Auger
So Many Trails …
No matter where you are in Johnny Appleseed Country, there’s a Massachusetts state park or reservation nearby. Here’s a quick list of some parks that offer cross-country skiing.
Leominster State Forest, in Westminster, has trails for cross country skiing and snow shoeing.
Cross-country skiing is also available at Rutland State Park in Rutland, Dunn Park in Gardner, Wachusett State Reservation in Princeton, Lake Dennison Recreation Area in Winchendon, Otter River State Forest in Baldwinville and Willard Brook State Forest in Ashby & Townsend.
Information about the state properties, including directions, can be found at the Department of Conservation and Recreation website, www.mass.gov/dcr.