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Brooks Woodland Preserve Trails

Pioneer Valley Region

Wildlife / Historic
Directions & description

Location: Petersham, MA. Two hours west of Boston, and forty-five minutes north of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Length/Configuration: 14.1 miles of woods roads and trails. Design your own loop or out-and-back rides using network of unpaved woods roads.

Terrain/Surface: Wide, smooth, dirt and gravel carriage roads.

Technical Difficulty: Mostly easy, some moderate

Elevation Change: Rolling hills with no major elevation gains.

Trail Use: mountain biking, hiking
horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing. No motorized vehicles are permitted.

Caution: Ride only on designated trails, Watch out for unleashed dogs.

 

 

Local Resources: Bike shops, bike clubs, adventure travel, bike tours, bike events, trail maps, bike safety, camping, historical places, where to stay and other related sources visit our Resource Hub.

Brooks Woodland Reservation Map

Note: The free trail maps on this website have been simplified to provide an overview with approximate locations of trails and special features. Read Full Disclaimer.

Directions:

To Roaring Brook Tract: From Petersham center, take East Street .8 mile to the entrance on left (adjacent to North Common Meadow).

To Swift River/Connor's Pond Tract: From the intesection of Rts 122 & 32 (south of Petersham center) go 1.5 miles south on Rt. 122/32, turn left onto Quaker Drive and go .5 mile. Entrances on both sides of road just after bridge. Roadside parking only at either entrance.

 

General Description:

The Brooks Woodland Preserve is a property of the Trustees of Reservations, a non-profit organization whose mission is "to preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts."

Located on the western edge of the Massachusetts Central Highlands, the Preserve encompasses 600 acres of rolling woodlands, rivers and streams, wetlands created by beaver dams, vernal pools and open meadows. The Swift River flows north to south through Brooks Woodland, bisecting the reservation. It is uncrowded and minimally maintained. Due to it's relatively undisturbed nature and size, the Preserve evokes a feeling of wilderness offering plenty of peace and solitude during your mountain bike ride.

The Brooks Woodland Preserve is comprised of three distinct areas (tracts). The Swift River Tract, The Roaring Brook Tract and the Connors Pond Tract. Each area provides a different natural experience. Woodland trails and former woods roads take you through stands of towering red oak, hemlock and white pine. Originally home to the Nipmuc Indians, the land was cleared by settlers for farmland. Old stone walls, homestead building foundations, cellar holes and open fields remain to remind us of the Preserve’s agricultural and cultural history.

The Preserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Plants covering the forest floor include maidenhair ferns, winterberry and partridgeberry. Beaver dams along the Swift River, Moccasin Brook and Roaring Brook have created a network of wetland habitat. Porcupines den among the glacial boulders strewn below the granite ledges. Birdwatchers will find an incredible variety of breeding and migrating species of birds here. Adjacent to the Preserve are the Harvard Forest, a research forest and facility, and Rutland Brook Sanctuary of the MA Audubon Society, both open to the public (no bikes, please).

 

The Trails:

The intricate 14.1 mile network of old woods roads and singletrack trails can be frustrating to navigate because of a lack of trail planning and design. Be prepared for occassional wet and muddy stretches or minor hazards such as downed branches or trees that have not been cleared. There is no highlighted loop of the property and trails may be poorly marked. So, configure your own ride using designated bike trails, keep an open mind and explore. Bicycling here is certainly an adventure.

Note: The Trustees intend to return the property to the typical Central Massachusetts forest it once was. Plans are underway for an improved trail experience. Issues to be addressed include access, marking, layout & design, maintenance and creation of a loop trail around the property.

 

The Swift River Tract:

The largest tract within the Preserve. It is more popular with better parking, more trails for mountain biking, more diversified trails and points of interest. The terrain is characterized by rolling hills, steep slopes and river valleys. A network of woods roads criss-cross the area and travel along the East Branch of the Swift River, Moccasin Brook, wetlands, through woodlands and fields. Be prepared for blowdown and overgrown sections.

The tract has two major bridge crossings: The Sackett’s Harbor Bridge crosses the East Branch of the Swift River. The Fiske Bridge, originally a footbridge, crosses Moccasin Brook. Both bridges are currently undergoing repair and reconstruction (2007).

Some highlights include scenic vistas, remnants of homesteads and farms, interesting geological features such as the "Indian Grinding Stones" (see Historical Note below) and other glacial features.

 

The Roaring Brook Tract

This area links the open North Common Meadow with the rest of the Brooks Woodland Preserve. The trails in this area are used mostly during winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing due to an inconvenient parking area and often wet trail conditions. A three mile trail network, comprised of two north-south running trails and three east-west trails, offer a number of loop options through woodland and swamp, across Roaring Brook, and up, down and around a hill. The northernmost and middle east-west trail experience seasonal wetness and it's also best to stay off them after periods of rain. The southernmost trail fizzles out at a beaver pond and is currently impassable.

In 2005, additional acreage, known as the “Ganson parcel” was added to the Roaring Brook Tract. No designated trails have yet been laid out on this parcel.

 

Connor's Pond Tract

The trail system on this tract is comprised of a series of north-south trails originating on Quaker Drive and ending at an east-west trail that follows the edge of Rutland Brook and Connor’s Pond. This area is popular with hikers. The easternmost trail provides access to the Massachusetts Audubon Society property on the southern side of Rutland Brook via a bridge crossing. The MAS property contains Sherman Hill, which has the highest elevation in Petersham at 1,209 feet above sea level.

 

 

Historical Note:

The Indian Grinding Stones

The stones, located on the Swift River Tract, are not actually grinding stones but the “result of water action" on a now split boulder. The only indication of its having been used for grinding corn, acorns and other foodstuffs by Native Americans is local folklore.

 

 

 

For more information:

The Trustees of Reservations
Central Regional Office
325 Lindell Ave
Leominster, MA 01453

Phone: (978) 840-4446

Website: www.thetrustees.org

 

 

 

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