These 11 wildlife sanctuaries in Central Massachusetts feature unparalleled beauty and miles of nature trails.
Nature Centers & Trails
Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Worcester
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. Explore Broad Meadow Brook
Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Princeton
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. Explore Wachusett Meadow
Burncoat Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Spencer
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. Explore Burncoat Pond
Cook's Canyon Wildlife Sanctuary, Barre
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. Explore Cook's Canyon
Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, Holden
While the canopy of mature forest provides nesting sites for scarlet tanagers, great crested flycatchers, and rose-breasted grosbeaks, the pond attracts numerous waterfowl. Explore Eagle Lake
Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary, Fitchburg
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. Explore Flat Rock
Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary, Gardner
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. Explore Lake Wampanoag
Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary, Leominster
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. Explore Lincoln Woods
Pierpont Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudley
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. Explore Pierpont Meadow
Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Groton
Located within a state-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Rocky Hill is a land of impressive ledges, beaver ponds, vernal pools, and woodlands. Explore Rocky Hill
Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Petersham
Moderate-to-strenuous interlinking trails wind though cathedral-like stands of hemlocks and white pine and along boulder-strewn Rutland Brook. Explore Rutland Brook
Not Ready for Visitors
Cheshire Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Ashburnham
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
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
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.