Parklands Await Exploration

  • Visit North Central
  • Posted on May 9, 2015

Lakes for swimming. Mountains for climbing, forests for meandering — the Johnny Appleseed region has everything the outdoors enthusiast could want.

State parks, offering fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping and more can be found in Ashby, Leominster, Gardner, Winchendon, Wendell—and several towns in between.  You can pitch a tent at Otter River State Park in Templeton, Pearl Hill in Townsend, and other state parks, as well as private sites like The Pines campground in Ashby, Pine Acres Camping Resort in Oakham or Lamb City in Phillipston. Other popular destinations include the 17 sites in North Central Massachusetts owned or managed by the Trustees of Reservations.  Preserves  include locations in Leominster, Phillipston, Petersham, Royalston, and New Salem, and range from woodlands and open meadows to waterways and mixed terrains with stunning views.  A “must-see” spot is Doanes Falls in Royalston, where visitors can picnic and hike alongside a spectacular waterfall.  All sites are open to the public at no charge. Trail maps are available at each location.

The scenic North Quabbin region is known as Massachusetts’ quiet corner.  With over 94,000 acres in conservation, there are plenty of trails perfect for hiking, biking, birding, and animal tracking.

Learning opportunities, too. One location to consider is the Harvard Forest and Fisher Museum, Harvard University’s ecological research site, located on Route 32 in Petersham. Established in 1907 by Prof. R.T. Fisher, the 3,000 acre site is available for exploration.  The Forest’s varied habitats are typical of those found throughout New England, including northern, transition, and central forest types, marshes, hardwood swamps, conifer bogs, forest plantations, and a 70-acre pond.  Visitors to the Forest can also view the museum’s impressive diorama exhibit, which portrays 23 three-dimensional models of the changing New England landscape over the course of time.  Entrance to the museum and forest are free of charge.

Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy a hike in the forests of Quabbin Reservoir.  Many trails are accessible from Routes 122 and 32A. At Gate 40, located on Route 32A, hikers can journey to the old town center of Dana, one of the four towns flooded in the creation of the reservoir. Other sites of interest include old stagecoach roads and stone cellar holes.  Access is free and open to the public.

Or stop by Wendell State Forest, a pristine park with nearly 8,000 acres of conservation land. Mountain bikers, hikers, swimmers, and horseback riders enjoy the many miles of trails here, and the location hosts a variety of accessible events for recreation enthusiasts with disabilities.  From Route 2A, follow signs to Wendell Center and take a right at Montague Road.  Travel three miles to the park’s headquarters.  Access to the park is available with a small parking fee.

For More Information
Visitors will find additional information on these and other recreation locations at the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2W in Lancaster  (between exits 35 and 34) and at North Quabbin Woods on Main Street in Orange (www.northquabbinwoods.org). To learn more about the Trustees of Reservations and their properties in this region, stop by the Doyle Conservation Center at 464 Abbott Avenue, Leominster, or visit www.thetrustees.org.