Something to Crow About

  • Visit North Central

Tough enough for experienced climbers, but with opportunities for beginners — the formidable face of Crow Hill has it all.

Within the scenic 4300 acres of the Leominster State Forest, just minutes away from Route 2, near the area’s iconic Wachusett Mountain, is one of the best-known rock-climbing destinations in Massachusetts: the sheer face of Crow Hill.

This dramatic, steep cliff, which rises high above the west shores of Crow Hill Pond, is 500 feet long and offers climbs as high as 100 feet. It was first used by climbers from the Appalachian Mountain Club during the 1920s, then was a training area for Army troops from World War II into the 1970s. There are a number of routes that traverse the main face buttress, right, and left sides of the cliff for climbers of all abilities, plus an easier, 80-foot practice face at the far end of the ledges. In the past, a free permit was necessary for rock climbing, but none is presently required. Contact the state forest office at 978-874-2303 for updated information.

You don’t have to be a climber to reach the top of the cliff, as the state park foot trails connect with a segment of the long-distance Midstate Trail to offer a 0.7-mile (one-way) route to the top of the ridge. Hikers can make a short loop that visits both the top and base of the ledges. For a longer outing, another possible starting point is at Redemption Rock, a large granite ledge and historic site where a hostage was released during King Philip’s War in 1676. From the trailhead on Route 140, the Midstate Trail northbound winds on a pleasant path through the forests, reaching the ledges in 1.6 miles (one way).

Regardless of how you get there, the reward for your efforts is one of the finest vistas in central Massachusetts. The panoramic views include the ponds, forests, and hills of the Leominster State Forest across the valley to the east, Wachusett Mountain to the south, and, on clear days, the tall buildings of Boston on the distant horizon.

To reach the Crow Hill parking area, from Route 2 take Exit 28 and follow Route 31 south for 2.4 miles to the parking area on the right. The trail to the base of the ledges is a half-mile long and takes roughly 15 minutes to walk. The state forest’s other attractions include a seasonal swimming beach at Crow Hill Pond, a network of recreational trails, and boating and wildlife viewing at Paradise Pond, which has hosted breeding common loons.

Other rock climbing areas in the region include Rose Ledge on Northfield Mountain (off Route 63 in Northfield), and College Rock in Hopkinton.

– Contributed by John Burk
– Photos courtesy of Green Massachusetts