Places to Explore — Central Massachusetts

Not sure where to start exploring? Try visiting one of our wildlife sanctuaries in Central Massachusetts. 


Nature Center & Trails

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Worcester
Trails: 5 miles

This large urban wildlife sanctuary and conservation center has interpretive signs to guide you along well-marked trails through woods, fields, streams, and a marsh. Details >

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Princeton
Trails: 13 miles

Wander through woodlands, wetlands, and meadows; watch the resident sheep graze; rent a canoe at the pond; or climb Brown Hill for a spectacular view. Details >

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Trails Only

Burncoat Pond Wildlife Sanctuary

Burncoat Pond Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Spencer
Trails: 2 miles

Moderate-to-rugged trails offer an opportunity for a peaceful walk through fields and hardwood-white pine forest, skirting wetlands, passing over streams, and ending at the pond. Details >

Cook's Canyon Wildlife Sanctuary

Cook's Canyon Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Barre
Trails: 1 mile

Named for the small ravine in which Galloway Brook flows, Cook’s Canyon features a waterfall that descends in a series of cascades over rocky ledges. Details >

Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Holden
Trails: 2 miles

While the canopy of mature forest provides nesting sites for scarlet tanagers, great crested flycatchers, and rose-breasted grosbeaks, the pond attracts numerous waterfowl. Details >

Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary

Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Fitchburg
Trails: 6 miles

Leave behind the city to explore various habitats such as bedrock "balds," hemlock forest, and mixed hardwoods, each home to a variety of wildlife including songbirds and large mammals. Details >

Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary

Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Gardner
Trails: 1 mile

One of the lesser visited wildlife sanctuaries, it’s easy to be alone here. That is, of course, if you don’t count the fascinating wildlife that inhabit this sanctuary including moose, bears, deer, bobcats, and coyotes. Details >

Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary

Veery in a tree at Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary © Richard Johnson
Veery © Richard Johnson

Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Leominster
Trails: 1 mile

Find a small dose of nature in the heart of Leominster. The trail system, which ranges from level to short slopes with surfaces that are smooth to uneven, traverses the mature woodlands. Details >

Nashoba Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Nashoba Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Westford
Trails: 3.6 miles

Migrating songbirds rest and feed in the fields and woodlands of Nashoba Brook, which consists of various sanctuary parcels, and the Town of Westford’s Richard Emmet Conservation Land. Details >

Pierpont Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Pierpont Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Dudley
Trails: 0.75 miles

Here, stone walls stand amidst pine groves and along the edge of meadows and valuable shrubland provides nesting habitat for Brown Thrasher and Eastern Towhee. Details >

Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

View looking towards the heron rookery at Rocky Hill in fall (Ryan Helen Dorsey/,Mass Audubon)
Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Groton
Trails: 3 miles

Located within a state-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Rocky Hill is a land of impressive ledges, beaver ponds, vernal pools, and woodlands. Details >

Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Petersham
Trails: 4 miles

Moderate-to-strenuous interlinking trails wind though cathedral-like stands of hemlocks and white pine and along boulder-strewn Rutland Brook. Details >

Other Sanctuaries - Central


Not Ready for Visitors


Cheshire Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Ashburnham

414 ACRES

Near Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary in Gardner and abutting Ashburnham State Forest, this wildlife sanctuary is situated on the drainage divide between the Connecticut River basin and the Merrimac River basin.

Conservation Features: A mix of upland forest including Eastern hemlock, maples, and birches, and wetlands that host active beaver colonies. The wildlife sanctuary's varied habitats support many bird species ranging from marsh birds and several duck species to raptors and dozens of songbird species.

Elm Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Brookfield & North Brookfield

1,080 ACRES

Elm Hill Wildlife Sanctuary straddles the town line separating Brookfield and North Brookfield. It is located north of Route 9 between the centers of Brookfield and East Brookfield. 

Conservation Features: The majority of the forest at Elm Hill is transition hardwoods dominated by red oak and including maples and birches. The sanctuary’s landscape consists of a series of hills—a drumlin cluster—that are topped by fields and former orchards; the views from the open hilltops are sweeping. Elm Hill is protected by an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) held by the MA Department of Agricultural Resources. Most of the fields are leased to local farmers. Elm Hill supports populations of many wide-ranging animals, including black bear, fisher, and eastern coyote. The sanctuary's early-successional habitats also support songbird species of conservation concern. Elm Hill is also the site of Mass Audubon's 100-year demonstration of bird-friendly forestry practices.

Laurel Woods Wildlife Sanctuary, Holden

15 ACRES

This small property, consisting of a riparian swamp and adjacent upland forests, is located in Holden. The property has boundary signage and frontage on Broad Street.

Conservation Features: As the name implies, much of Laurel Woods Wildlife Sanctuary contains a dense shrub layer of mountain laurel. The upland forest is a mix of eastern white pine and eastern hemlock along with a variety of hardwood species. The remaining forest is primarily red maple swamp. Due to the density of vegetation and absence of a trail system, it is best to observe this site from along the road edge abutting the property. 

Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary, Wendell, Orange, & New Salem

~2,580 ACRES

Mass Audubon's largest sanctuary sits at the junction of Wendell, Orange, and New Salem in North Central Massachusetts.

Conservation Features: Much of Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary is typical of forests in Massachusetts that grew following farm abandonment: a mixed forest type that provides habitat for a variety of species, including birds, amphibians, and mammals. Surrounded by significant public and private conservation lands, the sanctuary is a central link in the conserved land network that includes the Quabbin Reservoir and the Wendell State Forest. It provides an important corridor for wildlife to travel safely through this region. This landscape function is one reason that the sanctuary is managed strictly for the protection of wildlife.