If You Like This, Try That
This article was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of Explore, our quarterly magazine for members.
With more than 60 Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries across the state, there are hundreds of trails to explore.
Yet, more often than not, we tend to visit our go-to sites time and time again.
Looking to discover a new path? We can help!
If You Like Drumlin Farm, Try Habitat
If you like the farm animals and diverse trails at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, try Habitat Education Center in Belmont, where you can observe a small flock of goats at work as ecological managers, controlling invasive plant species in the sanctuary's meadows.
Located just seven miles from downtown Boston, Habitat's three miles of gentle trails wind through deciduous and evergreen forests, across meadows, and around ponds and vernal pools, many of the same kinds of habitats as those found at Drumlin Farm. You can also meander through the historic estate's beautifully maintained formal garden, designed by the famed Olmsted Brothers.
If You Like Broadmoor, Try Waseeka
Broadmoor in Natick is renowned for its picturesque waterways and diversity of birds, but the smaller Waseeka in Hopkinton is a great destination for birders, wildlife watchers, and artists in search of a new, yet similar, setting. With its forest that opens up to a secluded pond, Waseeka offers the opportunity to observe both woodland birds and waterbirds, wildflowers, and a fire-enhanced forest with a diverse tree population.
The standing dead trees and snags in the pond provide nesting sites for Eastern Bluebirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, and an occasional Great Horned Owl. The roughly two miles of trails run through pitch pine and mixed oak-pine forests and lead to a dike that impounds Chicken Brook. A variety of ferns, orchids, and other understory plants can be seen along trail edges.
If You Like Ipswich River, Try Rough Meadows
Though dwarfed in size by the nearby Ipswich River in Topsfield, Rough Meadows in Rowley supports an equally astonishing array of wildlife, especially bird species, as both sites are part of designated Important Bird Areas.
Encompassing spectacular coastal woodlands, salt marshes, tidal creeks, and salt pannes, Rough Meadows offers five well-marked trails through magnificent coastal woodlands to several viewpoints that offer panoramas of the Great Marsh. Sawyer's Island is a one-mile hike from the parking area and boasts spectacular vistas from every direction and a view of an active Osprey nesting platform.
If You Like Broad Meadow Brook, Try Rocky Hill
Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester and Rocky Hill in Groton are not only similar in size (the former at 430 acres and latter at 441), they both feature similar wooded and powerline habitat.
At the more remote Rocky Hill, cross the powerline and the trails branch out in "choose your own adventure" fashion. Take the Rocky Hill Trail to granite ridges draped with rock tripe and rock polypody fern, and traverse exposed ledges and smaller outcrops of boulders that provide protective cover for porcupines, nesting turkey vultures, and snakes. The Heronry Trail leads to a rocky outcrop that overlooks an active beaver pond and provides a unique, eye-level view of numerous Great Blue Heron nests.
If You Like Allens Pond, Try Great Neck
Fans of the extensive trail network and dramatic coastal views at Allens Pond in Westport and South Dartmouth will want to give Great Neck in Wareham a try. Wander through pine forest on old carriage roads and deer paths and you may encounter a roosting Great Horned Owl or a wading heron at the marsh edge.
For views of the marsh and Cape Cod Canal, hike out to Osprey Overlook, where a pair of Ospreys may be seen providing for their brood during spring and summer. The four miles of trails at Great Neck crisscross a network of protected forestland, and you'll even find a large glacial erratic, a massive boulder deposited here by glaciers in the distant past, much like those found at Allens Pond.
If You Like Daniel Webster, Try North River
North River in Marshfield has a small, open field complete with Osprey nest platforms reminiscent of Daniel Webster's larger grasslands. It also offers a woodland experience via the aptly named Woodland Loop Trail.
Listen for Wood Thrush and Ovenbirds among the magnificent American Holly and Witch Hazel trees, pause at the bridge to enjoy the peaceful babbling of the Hannah Eames Brook, and meander through shaded mixed forests and a verdant glen of lush ferns. Or, take a walk down to the sanctuary's namesake river on the River Loop Trail through an enchanting Red Maple swamp to the riverside platform where a wide variety of birds and seals are often visible.
If You Like Wellfleet Bay, Try Long Pasture
If you're looking for examples of coastal maritime habitat on Cape Cod, this pairing is perfect. Faithful devotees of Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet will enjoy discovering the subtle but fascinating similarities and differences between the ecosystems of the outer and inner Cape at Long Pasture in Barnstable.
Sandy beaches, butterfly-filled meadows, woodland trails, and farm animals combine to make Long Pasture a unique experience. Gentle, varied trails lead to what some have called a "million-dollar view," with Barnstable Harbor flanked by the dunes of Sandy Neck Barrier Beach. Explore expansive tidal flats on your own or join a guided kayak tour, boat cruise, or family nature program, when available.
If You Like Felix Neck, Try Lost Farm
If you like Felix Neck on Martha's Vineyard (and don't mind a ferry ride to get there, either from the mainland or from the Vineyard), the five miles of trails at Lost Farm on Nantucket provide just as many opportunities for exploration and quiet contemplation.
Escape the beach crowds and appreciate the sights and sounds of Nantucket's largest pitch pine forest, replete with songbirds like Pine Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Black-capped Chickadees in the morning and Barn and Saw-whet Owls at dusk.
Here you'll find ample shade on a hot day or a break from the island winds on cooler days. Enjoy a stroll to Hummock Pond where many feathered friends, such as Great Blue Herons, Northern Harriers, and Great Crested Flycatchers, await your arrival.