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Hiker’s Guide to Fall Foliage in North Central Mass.

Hikers of various skill levels can discover amazing autumn views in North Central Massachusetts.

foliage

Wachusett Mountain in Westminster and Princeton, Mass. (Photo: Mirela Photography)

It’s no secret that Massachusetts is home to breathtaking foliage in the fall. Hikers can find fantastic natural views by perusing the many trails that wind around North Central Massachusetts’ mountain ranges, waterfalls and woodlands

Check out this list of some of our favorite hiking spots, and consider visiting North Central Massachusetts during the fall for an outdoor adventure and prime leaf peeping opportunities.

Brooks Woodland

Petersham, Mass.

There are tons of things to see at Brooks Woodland Preserve in Petersham. This 693-acre preserve offers miles of footpaths. Spot remnants of old stone walls from early-19th-century farmsteads as you travel through the forest. Tree varieties include hemlocks, red oaks and white pine, making for beautiful foliage hikes during autumn.

There’s plenty of wildlife to see as well. Along parts of the Moccasin Brook, Roaring Brook and Swift River, beaver dams can be found. Glacial boulders provide dens for porcupines.

Leominster State Forest 

Westminster, Princeton, Leominster, Fitchburg and Sterling, Mass.

Located on Route 31, Leominster State Forest is a nature enthusiast’s dream. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and fishing are all welcome activities.

This 4,300-acre, oak-hardwood forest features wooded roads and footpaths leading throughout, including the 95-mile Midstate Trail. A segment of the Midstate Trail traverses Crow Hill’s rocky ridge, where there are views of ponds, wooded hills and Wachusett Mountain.

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Jacob’s Hill Reservation

Royalston, Mass.

Jacob’s Hill Reservation features two vistas with panoramic views across Tully Valley and the steep cascades of Spirit Falls, which are especially picturesque after an autumn rain. Across the valley, Tully Mountain rises in the town of Orange, where ledges provide a striking view of the region, including Mount Monadnock, Wachusett Mountain and Mount Watatic.

The entrance is on Route 68 in Royalston. The reservation may also be reached via the Tully Trail from Long Pond.

Midstate Trail 

Massachusetts and Rhode Island

This scenic footpath is located in Worcester County, 45 miles west of Boston. The 92-mile hiking trail extends from Rhode Island, crossing the gentle hills of Central Massachusetts and eventually connecting to the Wapack Trail in New Hampshire. The Midstate Trail is highly accessible, easy to hike and the best way to enjoy the natural side of the region.

Monoosnoc Ridge

Leominster, Mass.

This loop hike is moderate in difficulty and home to two great viewpoints – one overlooking Pierce Pond and the other looking toward Mt. Monadnock. Hiking, observing wildlife and geocaching are all welcome activities.

Monoosnoc Ridge extends from Route 2 south to Sholan Farm in Leominster. The Blue-Blazed Monoosnoc Trail and other paths lead to views of the North and South Monoosnoc Hills, babbling brooks and an orchard. Trailheads include West Street at the north end, and Elm and Wachusett streets.

Mount Watatic

Ashburnham, Mass.

One of the most-visited mountains in Central Massachusetts, Mount Watatic welcomes a variety of non-motorized recreational activities including hiking, nature watching, mountain biking and more. Leaf peeping is great in the fall thanks to Mount Watatic’s panoramic views, encompassing the Boston skyline, Mount Wachusett, Mount Monadnock and the Wapack Range.

Mount Watatic is located at the southern end of the Wapack Mountains on Route 119 in Ashburnham. The combined Midstate and Wapack trails lead over the summit and to another vista at Nutting Hill.

waterfall

Doane’s Falls (Photo: Dorothy Miller)

Doane’s Falls & Coddings Meadow 

Royalston, Mass.

Fed by Lawrence Brook, Doane’s Falls features multiple waterfalls, including a dazzling 200-foot drop to the Tully River. For hikers, there’s also a gorgeous half-mile of woodland trail. Visitors can enjoy the sound of the water as they make their way through colorful fall foliage.

For even more natural beauty, there’s a ¾ mile-trial across Athol Road from the parking area. Paralleling a quiet section of Lawrence Brook, this trail leads to the tranquil Codding’s Meadow.

Tully River Valley

Royalston, Mass.

Royalston, Athol and Orange offer many options for hikers, bikers and paddlers. The Tully River Valley is home to a 4.5-mile footrail that loops around Tully Lake and the quarter-mile cascades of Doane’s Falls. A 7.5-mile mountain bike and hiking trail circles the adjacent Long Pond, passing by red maple trees that offer vivid foliage along the water’s edge starting in late September.

Access is available at Tully Lake Recreation Area on Route 32 as well as Tully Lake Campground and Doane’s Falls Reservation on Doane Hill Road.

Nashua River Rail Trail

Ayer, Mass.

The Nashua River Rail Trail is an 11-mile bike trail, but it is also open to walking, rollerblading and horseback riding from sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed and the trail is wheelchair accessible as well. Foliage is beautiful in the fall.

Parking and access points to the trail are located in Ayer, Groton and Dunstable.

Wachusett Mountain

Princeton, Mass.

At 2,006 feet tall, Wachusett Mountain is this region’s highest peak, boasting 360-degree views from Boston to the Berkshires. The surrounding 3,000-acre Wachusett Mountain State Reservation features a 17-mile biking and hiking trail network, including direct routes to the summit along with longer circuits combining multiple paths.

The main entrance is located on Mountain Road off Route 140 in Princeton, and other trailheads are located on nearby roads. Wachusett Summit Road is open from 9 a.m. to sunset from Memorial Day weekend to the last weekend in October.

Fans of foliage and hiking can’t go wrong with a trip to North Central Massachusetts in the fall. If you’re new to hiking, check out this essential checklist for beginners before heading out.

What are your favorite Massachusetts hiking trails in the fall? Tell us in the comments. 

Funded by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism.

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