Hiking the Green and Red Trails in the Castle Neck Dunes

There are over 5 miles of trails through the dunes at Castle Neck, the peninsula that Crane Beach is on in Ipswich. A sign on the far right of the main parking lot indicates the trail entrance. On this three mile hike you'll start out on the Green trail, and after a short distance will have the option to turn left and follow the trails counterclockwise. Turn right, and the trail takes you through a forest of pitch pine before coming to another fork, where you continue right onto the Red Trail. Wigwam Hill rises before you with a steady but fairly gentle climb past the top of a chimney, all that can be seen of a house long ago buried by the sand. After a wonderful steep run down the back side of the second of two large dunes, continue past a short trail that ends at the Castle Neck River. The Red Trail bears left and comes to an intersection with the Blue Trail, which goes to the far end of Castle Neck. Continue on the Red Trail, winding through sandy dunes reminiscent of a desert. Eventually you'll turn right onto the Green Trail and walk through the side of the pitch forest closer to the ocean. Toward the end of this hike turn right on a Green Trail fork that ends near the first boardwalk at Crane Beach. Make sure to spend some time along the ocean before heading back across the parking lot to the trailhead.

Read more about the dune trails at Castle Neck
Download a trail map
Visit the Trustees of Reservations site

Interactive trail map:

Trails along the Ipswich River at Bradley Palmer State Park

This is a map of a stone dust handicapped accessible trail and other foot paths along and near Bradley Palmer State Park. The map starts at the handicapped parking area near the mansion and recently restored old house. A very flat stone dust path has a nice footbridge over a wetland and continues to the recently reconstructed footbridge over the Ipswich River that connects to Willowdale State Forest. You can continue along the river on the Bradley Palmer side, using either wider uphill paths or a rougher but wonderful path that meanders through trees and past old mill foundations along the river. When you reach Winthrop Street, take a sharp turn on a trail that eventually opens into one of the park's meadows. Near that point a wide path takes you back down to the footbridge, or you may continue on one of many paths through the meadow and eventually back to the starting point. The map below includes a section where I took one of the wider trails and then doubled back when it met the meadow trail.

View an interactive map of hike


Gordon College and Chebacco Woods

Today I headed over to Gordon College in Wenham Massachusetts to do some mountain biking on their nice paths, dirt roads, and the connections to the trails in adjoining Chebacco Woods. I edited out the wrong turns on narrow marsh trails or gnarly hillocks to create the enjoyable 7 mile ride below. This best maintained trails are appropriate for beginner and intermediate cyclists and take you through through hemlock and beech forests, over glacial eskers and around two large ponds. The narrower wetter or hillier unofficial trails take you through some extraordinary wetlands and through huge glacial boulder fields.

View a trail map from the Essex County Trails Association (ECTA)

View an interactive trail map below:


Hiking the Ipswich Greenbelt

This 19 mile hike follows the Bay Circuit Trail, starting from the trail to Prospect Hill off Rt. 133 in Rowley MA. It continues south through the Dow Brook and Bull Brook conservation lands and enters Willowdale State Forest. In the middle of Willowdale the route departs from the primary Bay Circuit Trail and joins the Ipswich spur, crossing the Ipswich River and continuing on the Discover Hamilton Trail through Bradley Palmer State Park, the Pingree Reservation, Appleton Farms Grass RidesAppleton Farms, New England Biolabs and Maplecroft Farm. The map displayed continues for three miles along Argilla Rd. on the route for the proposed Ipswich to Crane Beach Recreational Trail. 

View an interactive map of this trail

Pan-Ipswich Challenge

The 3nd Annual Essex County Trails Association Pan - Ipswich Challenge is a 20 mile walk that will be held on Saturday May 5th, 2012. Start on the trail from Hood Pond to Linebrook Road where you join the Bay Circuit Trail. Depart the main trail on a spur that crosses Topsfield - Ipswich Road . Cross the Ipswich River on the footbridge and continue, following the Discover Hamilton Trail. This will take you through Bradley Palmer State Park, crosses Highland Street and continues through the Pingree Reservation and Appleton Farms Grass Rides. From there the route passes through Appleton Farms, New England Biolabs' Proctor Estate, Maplecroft Trail and continues along Argilla Road to Steep Hill at Crane Beach.Read more and sign up at the ECTA site.

Pan Ipswich Trail walk start: dirt parking lot off Rt. 97 on the right just before Hood Pond

View a map with turn by turn notations by clicking here 
Interactive Trail Map:


A hike at the Pingree Reservation

The Pingree Reservation is 136 acres of preservation land in Hamilton MA, located on the grounds of one of the 'Great Estates' of the early 20th century. The trail is a part of the Bay Circuit Trail and connects to Harvard Forest. This walk is a loop on wide paths past streams and over several eskers, beginning at the Pingree Reservation entrance on Cutler Rd. in Hamilton MA, directly across from the last gate into Appleton Farms Grass Rides. There is no parking at this trailhead, but just past the commuter rail bridge on Cutler Rd. is a pull-in for one or two cars, near the entrance to Harvard Forest

Just before the end of this hike I turned right and crossed the commuter rail tracks for a short time in Harvard Forest, 100 acres of conifer plantations and upland forest owned by Harvard University and said to be the oldest continuously studied ecosystem in the country. To access the Pingree trails from this location, follow the trail from Cutler Rd. and take a right where it crosses the commuter rail tracks to join the Pingree trails.
Pingree Estate trail map from the Essex County Trail Association (ECTA.
Harvard Forest trail map from the Essex County Trail Association.
Continue reading to view an interactive Trail Map


Boston's Emerald Necklace

In 1877 Boston  park commissioners endorsed a continuous linear park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (creator of New York's Central Park) along the Charles River to Franklin Park,; from Back Bay through Brookline, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Eventually roads and highways divided the Emerald Necklace necklace into six unconnected parks with often very dangerous crossings. Today the Emerald Necklace is being protected by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy

The Emerald Necklace includes:  Boston Common Public Garden Commonwealth Avenue Mall Back Bay Fens The Riverway Olmsted Park Jamaica Pond Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park.
View an interactive map of Boston's Emerald Necklace


Boone and Dow Park

Daniel Boone Park is at the top of Spring St. in Ipswich MA. Turn left into the park entrance and park at the designated parking area. In 1957 the park was established by Ipswich Rotarians as a testimonial to the Rev. Daniel Boone, rector of a local church and tireless worker for the residents of Ipswich.

You may first wish to walk back down the hill and cross the road to a short trail that takes you to a plaque on a bolder honoring artist Arthur Wesley Dow, who gave fifteen acres to the Town. The boulder reads: “I give to the Town of Ipswich Bayberry Hill (so called by me) within said town with a commanding view which is dear to me over the marshes, creeks, river and hill to the ocean to have and to hold by said town and its inhabitants forever for the use of the public as a place of recreation and enjoyment.”

Return to the parking area and follow the trail clockwise around the pond. Continue behind the town water storage tank and take the trail down to a small secluded older section of the town cemetery. The trail then joins with the; Old Coach Trail and ends up back at the park entrance.


Bay Circuit Trail

The Bay Circuit Trail is an evolving 200 mile recreation trail and continuous greenway extending through 34 towns in Eastern Massachusetts from Plum Island and Ipswich on the North Shore to the Duxbury / Kingston shore south of Boston. A total of 180 miles of multi-use recreational trail now exist, created by hundreds of volunteers. The trail concept originated in 1929 and is managed by the Bay Circuit Alliance. The northern section ends at Plum Island in Newburyport, with an Ipswich spur from Willowdale State Forest. to the Crane Beach. Sections of the Bay Circuit Trail in Ipswich are maintained by members of the Ipswich Bay Circuit Trail Committee, which gathers at the East Street Town Landing at 9:30 on Wednesday mornings for group hikes from September to June. View a map of the entire Bay Circuit Trail

View details of  Bay Circuit Trail Section 2 - Rowley, Ipswich, Hamilton, Topsfield, Georgetown, and Boxford.  View a detailed map of this section.

The interactive map below is a section of the trail from Rt. 133 in Rowley  through the 90 acre Prospect Hill conservation area, south through the Dow Brook, Bull Brook and Linebrook Woods conservation areas, continuing through Willowdale State Forest, Boxford State Forest, Georgetown-Rowley State Forest, and along local roads in Boxford. The Bay Circuit Trail is marked with white rectangular paint blazes.


Donovan / Sagamore Hill Trail

The family of John Donovan and the Essex County Trail Association have created the new 1.5 mile Donovan / Sagamore Hill Trail and preservation of 38 wooded acres with additional trails that are open to hikers and equestrians. The trail starts at the Donovan Ball Fields on Sagamore Street in Hamilton and winds through sections of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton. Professor Donovan and his son worked with the town of Hamilton to make these resources available to this community. The Essex County Trail Association will make significant improvements to the Donovan / Sagamore Hill trail and preserved land, including signage, fencing, repairs and trail work. As of early 2012 the trail from Donovan Field is open, but the Donovan Hill section of the trail is under construction.
There is a small circle at the end of the Donovan Hill section of the trail, before reversing course and continuing back the way you came.  Just before reaching the field, a short loop that takes you to the Sagamore Hill USAF Geophysics Lab Radio and Solar Observatory.  Turn right on the paved road for a few feet and you will come to the hallowed burying place of Masconomet, the Sagamore (chief) of the Agawam Indians. A narrow trail from the granite stone marker returns you to the Donovan Trail and back to the start location at Donovan Fields. 

The trail from Donovan Field is open to the public, but the gate to the field parking lot is locked. Parking and access to the trail are available sunrise to sunset from the Sagamore Hill Solar Radio Observatory, accessed nearby from Sagamore Rd.

Continue reading to view an interactive map of this trail.

Discover Hamilton Trail

The Discover Hamilton Trail begins in Hamilton MA and is continuous through Bradley Palmer State Park, the Pingree Reservation, and Harvard Forest. View a larger map

Appleton Farms Grass Rides

Appleton Farms is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, gifted to the Trustees of Reservations by Francis and Joan Appleton. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and small glacial hills.

The most easterly section is forested with several miles of carriage trails and is known as Appleton Farms Grass Rides, originally designed for horseback riding. A clearing in the approximate center of the Grass Rides section has a granite pinnacle salvaged from the former Harvard College Library stands as a silent sentry. This property connects with the Bay Circuit Trail and the "Discover Hamilton" trail system.

Note: mountain biking is allowed in the Grass Rides section on Appleton Farms but not the pastures area.


Linebrook Woods - Bull Brook hike

Linebrook Woods is a 77.56 acre parcel under the custody  of the Conservation Commission pursuant to the March 3, 1975 Annual Town Meeting. An interior trail connecting link of the Bay Circuit Trail connects northerly into the Ipswich Country Club, then continues up into Rowley and connects southerly into the Willowdale State Forest.  

Continue reading to view a hike that begins at the Linebrook Woods parking lot at 275 Linebrook Road across from Marini Farm. The trail begins at the sign and crosses the field, passing through woods behind Ipswich Country Club. The Linebrook Woods trail ends and joins the Bull Brook trail. I continued just past the power lines to the beginning of Dow Brook, then reversed and followed the Bull Brook Trail past Bull Brook Reservoir, ending at the parking lot for the Veterans Memorial ball field on Mile Lane. For a complete loop, take Mile Lane and turn right on Linebrook Road, where you may continue on-road to the start point, or detour behind Doyon School on trails through Willowdale State Forest. View interactive map