You are here

Hiking in and around Central Massachusetts

Printer-friendly version

Hiking in and around Central Massachusetts

One of the chief benefits of living in the North Quabbin region is the amount of conservation land. From the Connecticut River to Mounts Monadnock and Wachusett, there are numerous interesting areas which offer excellent hiking, wildlife tracking and viewing, and recreational opportunities. Below is a sampling of local favorites. Small rural towns such as Petersham, Royalston, and Oakham complement this relatively unknown piece of the New England landscape. The region's conservation land promotes a healthy wildlife population.

Quabbin Reservoir

The dominant feature is the Quabbin Reservoir, a 40 square mile wilderness area created in the 1930s to supply water to eastern Massachusetts. Over 50 trails (called "gates") offer scenic views, historical sites, and wildlife viewing.

  • Quabbin Park, off of Route 9 in Belchertown and Ware, includes an auto road, visitor center, and several scenic views.
  • This is a good area to observe white-tail deer, especially early and late in the day, and bald eagles can be seen from the overlooks.
  • Gate 40, a well-known hike including the abandoned former common of Dana
  • Gate 35, a scenic shoreline walk
  • Gate 29, a historic bridge and mix of fields and woods
  • Gate 33, Bassett Pond
  • Gate 41, an easy walk through wetlands
  • Gate 45, offers a variety of habitats
  • There are scenic overlooks behind the New Salem Fire Station
  • the summit of Soapstone Hill (via the Federated Women's Club State Forest in Petersham)


In Petersham, the Trustees of Reservations own several properties near the Quabbin watershed, including :

North of Quabbin

  • Doane's Falls in Royalston includes a dramatic series of waterfalls and cascades as Lawrence Brook empties into Tully Lake.
  • Near the New Hampshire state line, Royalston Falls is the region's tallest waterfall.
  • Scenic views can be found from Tully Mountain in north Orange, Mount Grace in Warwick, and Jacob's Hill in Royalston.
  • These preserves can be explored individually, or via the 20 mile Tully Trail, a loop hike which connects many of these areas.
  • The Bearsden Conservation Area in Athol protects 1000 acres of forest and hills near the Miller's River.
  • The Otter River State Forest, Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area, and Lake Dennison protect several thousand more acres of wetland habitat along the Miller's River.
  • The Bears Den is a unique waterfall along the Swift River Middle Branch in New Salem.

East of Quabbin

  • Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, at 2006 feet the highest point between the Connecticut River and the Atlantic Ocean; several blocks of old-growth forest and sweeping views make this a particularly interesting area.
  • Nearby Wachusett Meadows is a Massachusetts Audubon Society property with excellent wildlife habitat.
  • The Ware River Reservation protects 25000 acres of wetlands, forests, and fields in part of Hubbardston and adjoining towns, and Phillipston offers two wildlife management areas and the Laurel Reservation, which is especially pretty in June.

Connecticut River Valley - West of Quabbin

  • The more urbanized Connecticut River Valley features a number of hikes along the Holyoke Range, including Mounts Tom, Holyoke, Norwatuck, Toby, and Sugarloaf. All offer panoramic views of the valley.
  • Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary protects a floodplain forest and meadows along the Connecticut River Oxbow in Easthampton.
  • Buffam Falls, Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, and Mount Lincoln are nice hikes in the Amherst/Pelham area.