3 beautiful hikes on the North Shore

Travel

Explore these three hikes recommended by Mass Audobon.

The Rockery Trail
The Rockery Trail at Mass Audobon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. Ipswich Wildlife Sanctuary

The North Shore is an excellent place for hiking due to its variety of habitats, said Carole McCauley, regional director of Mass Audobon North Shore.

“There’s traditional New England forest land,” McCauley said. “And a substantial portion of the North Shore includes landscapes that are influenced by our proximity to the ocean — so tidal creeks and the Plum Island Sound and the estuaries.”

Mass Audobon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. 

Ahead, McCauley recommends three great hiking trails at North Shore Mass Audobon properties.

Rockery Trail at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield

For a unique, family-friendly hike involving rocks, head to the Rockery Trail at Ispwich River Wildlife Sanctuary, McCauley said.

The 1/2-mile trail, the most popular hike at the sanctuary, features a rockery built by Thomas Emerson Proctor in 1905.

The rockery is “a large stone structure that you can climb to the top of and you can also walk through a little tunnel underneath it,” McCauley said.

The wide easy trail, which is great for all ages, is near a pond, McCauley said.

“The pond and the adjacent river is prime beaver habitat,” she said. “And so it’s almost impossible not to encounter the presence of beavers.”

The trail offers plenty of variety, she said.

“You are walking over boardwalks in some sections to get down to the Rockery and this pond area,” she said.

The sanctuary also has a nature center, restrooms, an outside nature play area, and picnic tables, she said.

The panoramic views are stunning at Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, McCauley said, and visitors can’t go wrong on Professor Chandler’s Long Walk, she said.

“It’s just exceptionally scenic,” she said. “There’s this vast vista of open sky and salt marsh.”

The .65-mile easy trail is great for all ages and perfect for bird watchers, she said.

“It takes you right out into the salt marsh on trails where you can experience the Great Marsh, which is the largest salt marsh in New England,” McCauley said. “At this time of year, in particular, it’s just absolutely stunning with greens, and golds, and reds.”

Visitors can look out across the salt marsh at Plum Island and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, McCauley said.

The trail is named after Professor Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., who donated much of the land.

Hikers should plan accordingly because the salt marsh portion of the trail floods at high tide, according to Mass Audobon.

Woodland Loop at Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Wenham

Mass Audobon just opened its 16th universally accessible trail — and the first on the North Shore — at Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, McCauley said.

The trail is called Woodland Loop.

These All Persons Trails are ADA compliant and include universally accessible interpretive features. Visitors can expect handrails, braille and tactile features, wildlife viewing boardwalks and platforms, audio tour stops, seating, and more, according to Mass Audobon.

“The trail has a rope fence that borders it for its entirety, so if you have low or no vision you can follow along with your hand,” McCauley said.

The .09-mile trail offers a loop through deciduous and pine forest and opens up to a small meadow at the midpoint.

“Some of the signs will have tactile elements where someone with low or no vision can feel what a pine cone feels like,” McCauley said.

The trail is easy and great for all ages, she said.


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