Trails Less Traveled

  • Vicky Tippawong
  • Posted on September 6, 2022

Fall MassachusettsSometimes you’re in the mood for a quick bike ride between cities on a rail trail. And there are times when you might want to plan a long hike along the popular Wapack or Midstate Trails.

And then, there are days when you just want a quiet getaway, a stroll through a serene forest, a spot where you can enjoy nature and your own thoughts. Well, in addition to being home to a host of familiar hiking and biking trails — even trails leading to spectacular vistas, like the summits of Mount Watatic or Wachusett Mountain — this region is also rife with trails running through lesser-known recreation areas.

Looking for some quiet time? Consider these spots:

The Brooks Woodland Preserve in Petersham. Follow miles of footpaths and old farm roads through a massive expanse of diverse forest, pristine streams, and wetlands at this property managed by The Trustees of Reservations. There are more than 13 miles of trails available for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in this preserve that is adjacent to Mass. Audubon’s 1,500-acre Rutland Brook Sanctuary. You can download a map at thetrustees.org/place/brooks-woodland-preserve.

The South Athol Conser-vation Area. Relax at this 198- acre property nestled between South Athol and White Ponds, featuring trails, old cellars, and wetlands teeming with wildlife. The land, managed by the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, also features a portion of the former Rabbit Run rail bed, which now serves as a lovely trail through wetlands. It’s open to the public for non-motorized recreation including hiking and nature watching. Visit mountgrace.org to learn more.

Kirby Conservation Area. Located along the Ashby /Ashburnham town line, this property owned by the North County Land Trust offers a looped trail system that allows visitors to explore the beautiful and remote woodland consisting mostly of white pine and oak. Trails meander through low bush blueberry, stands of mountain laurel, along stone walls, past a hidden pond and across small streams. Trails are open for hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. More information, including a map, can be found at northcountylandtrust.org.

Lane Conservation Area. Lunenburg has over 25 miles of trails on over a dozen Conservation Commission properties that are permanently protected open space dedicated to conservation and passive recreation. Among them: The Lane property, with a 4.2-mile loop trail, generally considered an easy route, with modest elevations and a few babbling brook crossings, including two over Mulpus Brook. This trail is great for birding, cross-country skiing, and hiking. Maps can be found at lunenburgma.gov.

Royalston's Doanes FallsDoane’s Falls on Lawrence Brook in Royalston tumbles from under a picturesque stone bridge in a frothy frenzy to Tully Lake. A half-mile trail leads down both sides of the stream, offering great vantage points as Lawrence Brook drops and swirls, its water continually rushing over and along mid-stream boulders, flat granite slabs, and small islands. Visit the trustees.org for directions and to learn more.