Wachusett Mountain State Reservation - Everything You Need To Know

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation owes its claim to fame to its name sake Wachusett Mountain’s for being the highest peak (at 2,006 feet) in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River. The park is also home to the largest old growth forest in the state, east of that same river. It may not seem like much, but this ring of forest supports trees that are over 370 years old.

 

icicles wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts
As winter approaches the trail takes on another form of beauty.

 

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation has 17 miles of trails that traverse the mountain in both direct summit trails and interconnected loops and byways, as well as a 27 ski trails for unlimited fun year around. Summiting this beautiful mountain offers some great scenery and on a clear day views as far as Mount Monadnock to the north, Mount Greylock to the west, and the Boston skyline in the east.

 

Need to Know

Location

 

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is located in north central Massachusetts.  It is just south of Massachusetts Route 2, 20 miles north of Worcester, Massachusetts. 

 

Hours

 

Park: 24 hours/7 days a week.   

Visitor Center: 8am – 3:30pm.

Summit Road: 9am – Sunset (Memorial weekend – last weekend of October).

 

Cost

 

Entrance Fee: Free

Parking: $5 (MA license plate); $20 (Non-MA license plate); Perimeter parking lots outside the park are free.

 

When to Visit

 

The best times to visit Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is highly dependent on what you are wanting to do there. Fall is a great time to visit to see the Fall foliage, but it can also be one of the busiest times at the park. Winter, on the other hand, allows you to snowshoe or ski down the slopes. Spring through Fall is a great time for hiking through the park, although summer can get hot (especially during the later months).

 

What to Do

 

Take a Hike

 

leaf covered trail wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts
During the winter the trails are covered in leaves.

 

Hiking is the most popular activity in Wachusett Mountain State Reservation for a majority of the year. It has 18 different trails within its borders totaling 17 miles of intersecting loops climbs, and byways. On top of this there are another 5 unpaved roads that snake throughout the park that are easy to trek.

 

Summit the Mountain

 

There are a lot of trails on Wachusett Mountain but the most rewarding hike for most people is to summit the mountain. With 17 miles of intersecting trails in the park you can easily make your own way to the top, but there are 6 direct paths (more or less) to the top that also having parking at the trailhead.

 

foggy view from summit wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts
Make sure to check the weather so you don't get a foggy view on the summit.

 

West

 

West Side Trail (1.3 mi)

 

The West Side Trail has a parking lot at the trailhead on West Princeton Rd, about 1-mile north of the Greene Road cutoff. This is possibly the easiest of the parking access trails for the summit with an elevation of only 643 feet over the 1.3 miles. To summit from the trailhead, you will need to follow West Side Trail until it connects with Old Indian Trail and the n take that to the summit. You will cross the paved Summit Road about a 1/3 of the way into the hike.

 

North

 

Bolton Pond Trail (1.9 mi)

 

Bolton Pond Trail is the longest parking access trail to the summit (if you don’t count the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary add-on in the south). The trailhead is located on Bolton Road, about 0.3 miles from Mile Hill Road. In total, the trail has an elevation of 961 feet, so it is not incredibly hard. Along the way you will pass Bolton Pond and the glacial created Balanced Rock, as well as cross a few ski slopes. To summit from this trailhead, you will follow Bolton Pond Trail until it connects with Balanced Rock Trail just north of Balanced Rock Road. Crossing the unpaved Balanced Rock Road, the trail becomes Old Indian Trail. You will later cross the paved Summit Road about 2/3 of the way into the hike.

 

Balanced Rock Trail (1.7 mi)

 

Balanced Rock Trail is another great option to begin your hike up Wachusett Mountain. The trailhead for this trail is located at the ski lodge parking lot on Mile Hill Road, so it is a great option for days that might be busier than other since the parking lot is much greater than most of the other options. Similar to Bolton Pond Trail, Balanced Rock has a climb of 965 feet and, after Balanced Rock, covers a lot of the same trail. Along the way you will pass the glacial created Balanced Rock, as well as cross a few ski slopes. To summit from this trailhead, you will follow Bolton Pond Trail until it connects with Balanced Rock Trail just north of Balanced Rock Road. Crossing the unpaved Balanced Rock Road, the trail becomes Old Indian Trail. You will later cross the paved Summit Road about 2/3 of the way into the hike.

 

East

 

Pine Hill Trail (0.6 mi)

 

Pine Hill Trail is the shortest summit trail, but it is possibly also one of the hardest. This hike is mostly climb, as you cover 571 feet of elevation in just 0.6 miles. The trailhead for accessing Pine Hill is at the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation Visitor Center, so you can get a little knowledge of the park and history before setting out on you hike. From the Visitor Center, you will actually depart on Bicentennial Trail until the Pine Hill juts off to the right. About ½ way up Pine Hill Trail you will cross the paved Summit Road.

 

Mountain House Trail (0.9 mi)

 

Mountain House Trail is another fairly steep hike with a gain of 751 feet over its duration. The trailhead for Mountain House Trail is across the street from the intersection of Mountain Road and Gregory Road. The trail intersects many other trails along its assent so it would be easy to tack more miles if you wished. Along the way you will cross the paved Summit Road just a short distance before you get to the top.

 

South

 

Harrington Trail (1.4 mi) + Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary (1.7 mi)

 

The Harrington Trail, which is also part of the Midstate Trail, is a great option.  The elevation gain over the duration is 750 feet, but most of it is towards the end when you begin to summit. The trailhead can be accessed from roadside parking on Westminister Road, about 1.3 miles from Mountain Road. Along the way you will pass the Old Stage Coach Road, as well as cross two unpaved roads, West Road and Administration Road, and the paved Summit Road.

 

pond wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts
Pond on Harrington Trail.

 

If you wish to add on some miles, then I highly suggest that you begin this hike in Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. This will add 1.7 miles to you assent, but it is only 227 feet of elevation gain so it is easy. Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the end of Goodnow Road, south of the state park. From the Visitor Center you can either walk down Goodnow Road to the Chapman Trail or take the Meadow trail behind the center and connect to the Chapman Trail via a link trail on the other side of the meadow. You will take the Chapman Trail until you cross the paved Thompson Road where the trail turns into Dickens Trail. You then follow Dickens trail until it connects with Harrington Trail at Westminister Road. Both Chapman and Dickens Trails are also part of the Midstate Trail.

 

Go ‘Leaf Peeping’

 

fall leaves wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts
Leaf Peeping is a popular pastime in New England during October.

 

New England is renowned worldwide for its Fall leaves and there is no place better in Massachusetts than Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. Like most of New England, October is breathtaking in the park with the mired of colors. With 3000 acres to explore you can get your fill of Fall colors. But if you need even more, you can hike or drive to the summit to take them in from far and wide.

 

Ski the Slopes

 

ski map wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts

 

When winter comes, the slopes of the mountain are covered in snow and the winter sports come to the mountain. On the northeastern slope of Wachusett Mountain are 27 ski trails, 8 lifts, and a Base Lodge to keep you warm and feed. If you don’t have your own skies or snow board you can rent them at the lodge. You can get lessons from trained professions as well if you are in need of some training or refresher. Season ski passes can also be bought at the lodge and the price will differ depending on the pass that you buy.

 

Visit the Visitor Center

 

State Park Visitor Centers are always a great place to start when visiting any park. These centers always offer great information on the park, have trail maps, and park rangers who can suggest the best trail and sights and Wachusett Mountain State Reservation doesn’t disappoint. This center offers exhibits on the geological and human history of the park, displays explaining the ancient trees that ring the summit, and an antique collection of preserved birds found in the area.

 

Where to Eat

 

If you are wanting to have a picnic within the park you will want to bring all of your food items with you (and take them out), as there is nowhere to buy food within the park. That being said, there are a number of restaurants in the surrounding towns where you can find food.

 

Where to Stay

 

pin point map location wachusett mountain state reservation massachusetts

 

If you are living in the area, this can be a day trip from just about everywhere in Massachusetts. There is no camping or lodging within the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. If you do need lodging, there are a few hotels in immediate towns around the park or you can find more options just south in Worcester.

 

What was your favorite trail in Wachusett Mountain State Reservation?

 

Wachusett Mountain State Reservation


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8 comments:

  1. the reservation looks amazing! I am so in love with the views and the nature looks breathtaking. I like the amount of routes they offer, I would have gladly spend the day there. Lyosha

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hoang Vi FessendenJuly 1, 2022 at 6:44 AM

    This place looks so beautiful in the winter! Also, learned something new, leaf peeping!! I guess we do it here all the time during the fall!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This looks like a great spot to hike! Just looking at those beautiful autumnal pictures is making me itch to get there right now. It looks gorgeous.

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  4. The wachusett Mountain State Reservation looks so beautiful in winters. Except summers actually this place can be visited anytime. So, many trail options - wow!!. Would love to see it some day.

    ReplyDelete

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