Wachusett Mountain to Ware River
Midstate Trail

Destinations:  Wachusett Mtn. (2006'), Ware River East Branch
Trails:  Midstate Trail, Balance Rock Trail, Old Indian Trail, Harrington Trail, Dickens Trail, Chapman Trail, Beaver Bend Trail, Pasture Trail, Fern Forest Trail
Region:  MA - Central North  
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
Location:  Westminster, MA
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, river
Distance:  20.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1430 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 11:50  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 11:00   Typical: 15:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  06/10/2001 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  04/09/2008  
Author:  Art O'Leary
Companions:  Four scouts, two leaders

Route Summary   

This was a dayhike on the Midstate Trail starting at Wachusett Mountain's ski area parking lot, going over the summit and down the other side, through Audubon's Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, and then onward to the East Branch of Ware River in Rutland. Once reaching Rutland, we turned around and retraced our steps back to the parking lot on the far side of Wachusett Mountain.

  • Start on Balance Rock Trail located in the northwest corner (behind and to the right of the lodge) of Wachusett Mountain's ski area parking lot.
  • Follow Balance Rock Trail until it ends at Balance Rock Road.
  • Cross Balance Rock Road and pick up Old Indian Trail.
  • Cross Summit Road and continue on Old Indian Trail up to the summit of Wachusett Mountain.
  • Descend from the peak on Harrington Trail, following it all the way to Westminster Road (you will first cross Administration Road and then West Road).
  • Cross Westminster Road and follow Dickens Trail.
  • When you enter the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary at a stone wall, Dickens Trail becomes Chapman Trail.
  • Cross Thompson Road and continue on Chapman Trail.
  • Chapman Trail will intersect with West Border Trail twice and then it will meet Midstate Trail. At the junction with Midstate Trail, turn right and follow Midstate Trail to Goodnow Road (Chapman Trail will continue to the left).
  • Turn right onto Goodnow Road and walk for a few hundred yards, then turn left onto Beaver Bend Trail.
  • Beaver Bend Trail will become Pasture Trail.
  • At the junction of Pasture Trail and Fern Forest Trail, bear left to follow Fern Forest Trail.
  • When you leave Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Fern Forest Trail will end and you will simply be on the Midstate Trail.
  • Upon reaching Route 62, turn right, cross the road, then turn left onto Ball Hill Road.
  • Next turn right onto Hubardston Road.
  • When you see a cemetery on the right, turn left onto Bigelow Road.
  • Bigelow Road will become Bushy Lane.
  • Continue on Bushy Lane crossing Paddock Road and then Route 68.
  • Upon reaching Route 56, cross the road and follow the wide woods path on the other side.
  • Upon reaching Davis Road, turn left.
  • Follow Davis Road to its end and then turn left onto Route 68 and cross the bridge over Ware River, then turn left onto a path that goes between Intervale Road and Ware River.
  • Continue along the East Branch of Ware River and then reach the point where the Midstate Trail crosses Intervale Road which is the turn-around point.
  • Retrace your footsteps all the way back to Wachusett Mountain's ski area parking lot.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Wachusett ski area parking (1000') 0.0 0.0
Wachusett Mountain summit (2006') 2.0 2.0
Goodnow Road (1050') 3.0 5.0
Intervale Road turn-around point (840') 5.4 10.4
Goodnow Road (1050') 5.4 15.8
Wachusett Mountain summit (2006') 3.0 18.8
Wachusett ski area parking (1000') 2.0 20.8

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Map of hike route on the Midstate Trail from Mt. Wachusett to Rutland (map by Webmaster)

 




  Trail Guide   

Four Boys (ages 11-16) and two adults from Troop 11 in Leominster had a "wicked cool" hiking adventure this past Sunday, hiking over 20 miles for the big requirement of the hiking merit badge. We went on the Midstate Trail from the Wachusett Mountain ski area parking lot (where we ended last year's big hike), over the mountain, continued south to the Ware River in Rutland, and then turned around and went back up and over again Wachusett again.

To prepare for this challenging adventure, we did three 10-milers the month before. We opened it up to any scout who had completed their 2nd class hiking requirement, so they had basic hiking experience. (i.e. this is not the place to discover you don't like hiking!)

The reason for going 20 miles and up the mountain twice is to help us "Be Prepared" and get in shape for Mount Washington in a coupla weeks.

There are also other benefits:
  • You don't hafta wait around for a ride if you end up back at where you started.
  • You know where you're going on the way back.
  • You can cache some water supplies along the way (i.e. ditch your pack in the bushes and get it on the way back).
  • The scouts can brag to their grandchildren when they get old: "When I was a scout we hiked 20 miles - uphill both ways". However, the trail does flatten out farther south.

We had a copy of the 1993 edition of the Midstate Trail Guide (NE Backpacker in Worcester or Midstate Trail Committee). This booklet has a lot of details, but a few things have changed over eight years, especially the directions through the Audubon sanctuary. Their trail map would have been great to have. The trail is not as well marked here as it is farther north.

The hike started (at mile #23) on the Balance Rock Trail at the base of Wachusett Mountain (in the northwest corner of the ski area parking lot - took a while to find). This goes past two humongous boulders sitting on top of each other ("Balance Rock"). The top of the mountain (2,006 feet) is at mile #25. We got a bit mixed up, but the trails headed up and we rejoined the Midstate route. We could see Boston, Mount Greylock, and Mount Monadnock from the top. Later there was a nice rainbow up there. Lotsa songbirds in the sanctuary.

Here are a few other hints:
  • The Wachusett Mountain trails run over a lotta steep rocks which would be slippery in the rain and dangerous in the dark.
  • The trail runs kinda on a north-south beeline through the Wachusett Meadow sanctuary.
  • After crossing onto the Audubon land, you're on their Chapman Trail.
  • There's a humongous "Cheese-Moose Hunt Tree" down across the trail ("can't go over the tree, can't go under the tree, can't go around the tree - gotta go THROUGH the tree" swish-swish-swish, etc.)
  • After reaching Goodnow Road, zig west a few hundred yards, then south on Beaver Bend Trail, then Pasture Trail, then Fern Forest Trail.
  • The whole adventure took 11 hours overall.
  • We brought about 1.5 gallons (about 6 liters) of water apiece, which turned out just about right for an ~80 degree day with daypacks (last year we used twice that with heavier overnight backpacks).
  • Once you go beyond the Audubon sanctuary, it's mainly on back/dirt/cart roads.
  • Turn left when you come out on Davis Street (mile #32.8), otherwise you hafta walk along Route 68 (busy) to reach the East Branch of the Ware River.
  • There is an ice cream/variety store at about mile #33.4 - yeeha!

If you wanted to, you could start/end up or camp at Treasure Valley (Mohegan Council at mile #46) or Camp Split Rock (NVC, about a mile away from mile #4). (Council info is available on the Scouting New England website.)

You can also drive up to the top of the mountain, if you want a downhill-all-the-way hike.

Happy Scouting!

Art O'Leary
Scoutmaster Troop 11 / Tiger Dad Pack 7 (St. Leo's)
Leominster, MA
 
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MA - Central North

  Driving Directions   

To Waschusett Mountain ski parking area:
  • Follow Rt. 140 (accessible from Rt. 2 to the north; or I-190 to the south) to Westminster, MA.
  • Turn onto Mile Hill Road. Traveling northbound, the turn will be about 9 miles from I-190 on the left; traveling southbound it will be 2.2 miles south of the junction between Rt. 2 and Rt. 140 and will be a right-hand turn.
  • Follow Mile Hill Road for a mile and then turn right into the ski area.
 
 
Midstate Trail logo (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee)

  About Midstate Trail   

Midstate Trail map (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee) The Midstate Trail is a 92-mile hiking trail traversing Massachusetts from Rhode Island to New Hampshire. It runs through Worcester County, 45 miles west of Boston. Although it is close to populated areas, it manages to wind through scenic and wild segments of the state, climbing gentle hills and mountains and encountering lakes, ponds, streams, meadows, and woods.

To the south, the trail connects with Rhode Island's North-South Trail which extends the hiking possibilities 75 miles all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. And to the north, it connects to the Wapack Trail in New Hampshire which covers an additional 21 miles and ends at North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield.

The Midstate Trail crosses the 2,006-foot peak of Wachusett Mountain which is the highest point on the route. On a clear day the Boston skyline is visible to the east, Mount Monadnock to the north, and the Berkshire Hills to the west.

Another notable peak is Mount Watatic which reaches 1,832 feet. This is the last undeveloped mountain in the state east of the Connecticut River. The peak provides views in all directions including Boston, central and western Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the mountains of southern New Hampshire. Both Watatic and Wachusett are great spots to watch hawk migrations.

Mount Hunger offers gorgeous 360-degree views of surrounding lakes, ponds, hills and ridges. And the Crow Hill ledges in Leominster State Park provide great outlooks to Crow Hill Pond and Crocker Pond just below. The ledges themselves are a popular climbing spot.

Other interesting features along the route include Hodges Village Dam, Moose Hill, Sampson's Pebble (an enormous glacial erratic), Barre Falls Dam, historic Redemption Rock, and Muddy Pond (an attractive, remote, and undeveloped glacial pond). Abundant stone walls scattered through the woods are a reminder that the land was used as farmland back in the 1800's.

Along the way you will explore many forests and reserves including Douglas State Forest, Four Chimneys Wildlife Management Area, Spencer State Forest, Moose Hill Wildlife Management Area, Buck Hill Reserve, Oakham State Forest, Rutland State Park, Savage Hill Wildlife Management Area, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, and Leominster State Forest.

The Midstate Trail is highly accessible and for the most part the hiking is easy with occasional steep and rugged sections. It is well blazed with yellow triangles. The route, as with any long-distance trail, follows roads for some (usually short) segments. The trail is also used for snowshoeing, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. Several primitive lean-to's and campsites are available along the route; however, camping is prohibited in most areas.

The trail is maintained and managed by the Midstate Trail Committee under the guidance of the Worcester chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. An annual end-to-end hike takes place over the summer with a patch awarded to those who complete the entire length. See the Midstate Trail's website for the hiking schedule or to purchase the latest version of the Midstate Trail Guidebook.

The southern terminus of the Midstate Trail is located on the Rhode Island border in Douglas, Massachusetts in Douglas State Forest. The northern end is on the New Hampshire border on the Ashburnham/Ashby, Massachusetts town line just north of the summit of Mount Watatic.
  Midstate Trail overview map (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee)

Midstate Trail between Barre and Princeton (photo by Webmaster)

Stone wall along the Midstate Trail (photo by Webmaster)
 
  About Wachusett Mountain State Reservation   

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is a 3000-acre parcel of land encompassing Wachusett Mountain and its ski slope. It is located in Princeton and Westminster, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston. With all its offerings it is a busy and popular place.

At 2,006 feet in elevation, Wachusett Mountain provides views to Boston's skyline, Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, and the Berkshires to the west. The summit may be reached by car or by hiking up the extensive trail network covering the reserve.

The reservation's natural resources include forests, alpine meadows, brooks, ponds, streams, fields, and an upland bog. It is also the location of the largest known area of old-growth forest in the state east of the Connecticut River, with trees dating over 350 years old. Deer and partridge inhabit the quiet woods as do pink-flowering azalea, clintonia, Canada mayflower, and bunchberry.

Evidence of the glacial activity which shaped the mountain can be seen at Balance Rock where two large boulders were stacked one on top of the other by moving glaciers thousands of years ago. The mountain itself is a monadnock which is a single mountain in the midst of a relatively flat landscape (as opposed to a range of mountains). It divides the watersheds of the Connecticut River to the west and the Merrimack River to the east.

The reservation is part of an extensive greenway area, including Leominster State Forest to the north, and Audubon's Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary and Minns Wildlife Sanctuary, both to the south.

Recreational opportunities abound at the Wachusett reservation. They include hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, running, nature study, watching hawk migrations, picnicking, visiting a windmill farm, downhill skiing, and restricted hunting.

There are 17 miles of hiking and walking trails, including 3.9 miles of the long-distance Midstate Trail which vertically bisects the state of Massachusetts. An annual footrace runs up the summit road to the peak.

Wachusett's ski area covers 450 acres of the northern slope of the mountain and consists of 22 trails serviced by seven lifts. It features 100% snowmaking and night skiing on 18 trails, as well as a terrain park and a 300-foot half-pipe. It is the largest ski area in eastern Massachusetts.

The mountain has a rich history. Three different hotels occupied the summit from 1874 to 1970. The first ski trail was cut in 1933 and more were soon added although lifts weren't implemented until about 20 years later. More history and other interesting facts about Wachusett can be found in the book, Into the Mountains, by Maggie Stier and Ron McAdow.

View the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation trail map in PDF format or pick up a free trail map at the John Hitchcock Visitor's Center near the main entrance to the reserve.

A daily parking fee of $2 is collected from mid-May through mid-October.

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation
Mountain Road, Princeton, MA
978.464.2987

Wachusett Reservation's Property Use Guidelines   

  • dogs must be leashed
  • no bikes allowed
  • no horses allowed
  • no camping allowed
  • no snowmobiles allowed

Driving Directions to Wachusett Reservation's Main Entrance   

From Route 2:
  • From Rt. 2, take exit 25 (Rt. 140 south).
  • Follow Rt. 140 south for 2 miles.
  • Turn right onto Mile Hill Road.
  • Follow Mile Hill Road for 0.5 mile to a split in the road.
  • Take the left fork onto Mountain Road.
  • Follow Mountain Road 1.2 miles to the top of hill.
  • The reservation entrance is on the right.
  • The visitor center entrance is immediately on the left after entering the reservation.

From Route 190:
  • From Rt. 190 take exit 5 (Rt. 140 north).
  • Follow Rt. 140 north for 9.5 miles.
  • Turn left onto Mile Hill Road.
  • Follow Mile Hill Road for 0.5 mile to a split in the road.
  • Take the left fork onto Mountain Road.
  • Follow Mountain Road 1.2 miles to the top of hill.
  • The reservation entrance is on the right.
  • The visitor center entrance is immediately on the left after entering the reservation.

About Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary   

Audubon's 1,200-acre Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary is located just south of the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation in Princeton, Massachusetts. The two properties are linked together via the long-distance Midstate Trail.

The sanctuary is a farm landscape complete with sheep, barns, pastures, and a hay field. There are also mature woodlands, scenic hilltop vistas, upland meadows, and an extensive red maple swamp. Highlights include an 80-acre active beaver pond, a heron rookery with nesting great blue herons, and the 300-year-old Crocker maple which is one of the largest sugar maples in the country boasting a trunk circumference of more than 15 feet.

Wildlife includes beaver, mink, otter, wood ducks, heron, woodchucks, and abundant songbirds. The 1,312-foot high Brown Hill with its 360-degree views offers a great prospect from which to observe hawk migrations.

The sanctuary may be explored via a serene 12-mile network of trails. Walking, hiking, snowshoeing and bird and wildlife watching are encouraged.

Many educational programs for all ages are offered at the sanctuary including evening outings in the spring to view woodcock courtship rituals, fall hawk watches, and processing wool from sheep shearing all the way through creating a finished woven product.

View the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary trail map in PDF format or pick up a free trail map at the visitor information kiosk.

This sanctuary has universally accessible restrooms and a natural history center with exhibits. The Nature Center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The trails are open Tuesday through Sunday, and Monday holidays, dawn to dusk. i.e. They are normally closed on Mondays.

Admission:
  • $4 for nonmember adults
  • $3 for nonmember children (3-12) and seniors

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
113 Goodnow Road
Princeton, MA 01541
978.464.2712
wachusett@massaudubon.org

Rock Fire Pond (photo by Webmaster)


Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary Property Use Guidelines   

For Your Safety:
  • Do not feed any animals.
  • Stay on trails to avoid ticks and poison ivy.
  • Do not smoke anywhere on the sanctuary.
  • Do not pick or collect plants or crops without permission.

Avoid Conflicts with Wildlife:
  • Do not bring pets, leashed or unleashed, onto the site.
  • Picnic only in designated areas.
  • Do not bring motorized vehicles or bicycles onto the site.
  • Hunting, fishing, and trapping are not permitted.

Great blue heron rookery at the beaver swamp (photo by Webmaster)


Driving Directions to Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary   

From Rt. 2:
  • From Rt. 2 take exit 28 (Rt. 31, Fitchburg/Princeton).
  • Follow Rt. 31 south for 3.9 miles to a blinking red light.
  • Turn left at the light and follow Rt. 31 and Rt. 140 south for 1.8 miles to a blinking yellow light.
  • Great blue heron at its nest (photo by Webmaster)
  • Turn right and follow Rt. 31 south for 2.8 miles to a steep hill and a blinking yellow light (center of Princeton).
  • At the light, follow signs for Rt. 62 west by crossing the intersection and bearing right (follow the road as it curves right on the far side of the common after the light).
  • Follow Rt. 62 west for 0.6 mile, and you will see the sanctuary sign on the right at Goodnow Road.
  • Turn right on Goodnow Road, and the parking lot is 1 mile ahead on the left.

From Rt. I-190:
  • From Rt. 190, take exit 5 (Rt. 140, Sterling/W. Boylston).
  • Follow Rt. 140 north for 2.4 miles to the intersection of Rt. 62 (blinking yellow light).
  • Take a left onto Rt. 62 west and follow it for 4.2 miles to a stop sign.
  • Turn left on Rt. 31 and go up the hill to a flashing yellow light (center of Princeton).
  • At the light, follow signs for Rt. 62 west by crossing the intersection and bearing right (follow the road as it curves right on the far side of the common after the light).
  • Follow Rt. 62 west for 0.6 mile, and you will see the sanctuary sign on the right at Goodnow Road.
  • Turn right on Goodnow Road, and the parking lot is 1 mile ahead on the left.

More Wachusett Mtn., Wachusett Meadows, Ware River Reports   

 
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