by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
Some trails are well marked. There are signs, and often maps, and large parking lots to direct your attention to an otherwise unassuming path into the woods. And then there are the secret trails — the ones that are just-as-much open to the public, but more challenging to find. Today I’m going to let you in on a few secrets! Keep reading to learn where to find 11 of the best secret trails on the South Shore.
Also consider participating in our Explore South Shore Contest, for which you’re invited to visit five of the secret trails on your own, and then post a photo from your adventure to Instagram with the hashtag #ExploreSouthShore. Each month we randomly select a winner from the posts to receive a prize package. We’ll also be featuring a new secret trail every day on Instagram.
Beaver Brook Playground: Last year’s best discovery for me was the trail behind this playground in Abington. It’s a nice-looking spot, situated in the back corner of a school complex, with lots of shade trees. There’s also a small pond, a dammed section of the Shumatuscacant River. If you cross the bridge below the pond, you’ll find yourself on a trail that extends in both directions. Turn right and you can follow the river to Mount Vernon Cemetery, another nice place for a walk. Turn left to explore some short trails to the woods, which also — eventually — lead into the cemetery. Last time I visited, just before sunset, I saw a whole family of deer. Limited on-site parking on Ralph Hamlin Jr. Blvd. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/beaver-brook-playground/)
Nelson Memorial Forest: This large woodland on the North River features numerous trails and outstanding views, but accessing it requires some intel. Primary parking is on Union Street, at Union Street Woodland — the same spot from which you can pick up a trail that leads to the Phillips Farm Preserve. Just follow the signs that point to Nelson Forest. Another way in is the Pasture Road Trail, which you can find at the base of the big hill on Highland Street, across from Rogers Pond (look for 2 parking spaces). I recommend visiting more than once. It will take some time to get to know these 180 acres! (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/nelson-memorial-forest/)
Hubbell Preserve: Drive slowly along Indian Trail in North Scituate and look for the Hubbell sign near #128. This varied property within the Gulf River watershed features a narrow 0.7-mile trail through a forest strewn with moss-covered granite outcroppings and glacial erratic boulders. In earlier times, this quiet corner of town was a summer encampment for Native American tribes. The Hubbell Preserve is right around the corner from the 17-acre Border Street Field, a scenic and historic landmark that the Town of Scituate is currently raising funds to preserve as open space. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/hubbell-preserve/)
Donald Flaherty Trail: On Auburn Street in Whitman, around #32, blink and you’ll miss the small sign that marks the trailhead for this 0.7-mile woodland path. There’s room for one or two cars to park at the roadside, and the trail offers a bench as well as views of woods and wetlands. The waters here flow to Meadow Brook, part of the Matfield River watershed. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/donald-flaherty-trail/)
Webster’s Wilderness: Thanks to the Marshfield Trails Committee and its volunteers, it’s become a lot easier to find this 130-acre property. Look for the informational kiosk in the parking area at Wheeler Athletic Complex, behind the Marshfield Senior Center on Webster Street. Or find the secondary access point: a detour off the paved loop that surrounds the baseball fields. Either way, you’re in for a treat. Two intersecting figure-8 trails provide views of Wharf Creek, a tributary to the Green Harbor River, and lead past some random historic artifacts and through a gorgeous grove of black walnut trees. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/websters-wilderness/)
Forge Pond Park: This Hanover park presents itself as a large athletic complex with a mile-long paved loop around its perimeter. But if you explore the paved loop, you’ll notice some side trails… And if you turn onto any of those trails, you’re in for a treat. There’s a trail to Clark Bog, another to the Old Rockland Fireworks Loop, a trail along the edge of Forge Pond, and — my favorite — one that leads to the confluence of French’s Stream and the Drinkwater River, as well as Rockland’s Summer Street Conservation Lands. All of this is part of the Indian Head River/North River watershed. Dedicate your autumn to getting to know these trails. If you time it right, the foliage will be stunning. Located at 245 King Street. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/forge-pond-park/)
Wompatuck State Park – Prospect Street entrance: Wompatuck is vast, and there are numerous ways to access it. Some entrances are better-known than others. From Prospect Street in Norwell, near the Hingham line, you can park along the roadside, pick up a marked trail at S32, and enjoy a pleasant hike around and around the Wompatuck’s highest point, Prospect Hill. This is a beautiful, quiet corner of the park, lushly green in the spring and summer. The waters here flow into the Aaron River, part of the Gulf River watershed. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/wompatuck-state-park-norwell-entrance/)
Wompatuck State Park – Leavitt Street entrance: This relatively new (2014) section of Wompatuck was acquired in 2004, but it took 10 years to prepare the 125 acres for public use. Thirteen former-military buildings have been removed, and now there are trails connecting directly with the “NN” section of the park. It’s also an excellent access for bicycles. There is a paved trail from NN3 that connects to the Whitney Spur Rail Trail (NN13), as well as to Doane Street (N26). The entrance itself is well-marked, but there are parking restrictions during the school day, as it’s also a turnaround for buses. Find it at 300 Leavitt Street in Hingham. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/wompatuck-state-park-leavitt-street-entrance-hingham/)
South River Bog: On my initial visit, this 100-acre Duxbury property didn’t make much of an impression. But then I went back, and — oh my — there were some beautiful sights to behold! This is an easy spot to miss — even with its unassuming wooden sign at the edge of North Street (with room for 2 cars). As its name makes plain, this property was once a cranberry bog complex. Nature has taken over, and while you can still easily discern where the bogs once stood, they are certainly not the main feature. Instead, it’s the South River, which you can view best from two different open spots along the trail. You’ll find additional (but unmarked) access at the ends of Highland Trail and Tanglewood Trail. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/south-river-bog/)
Williams Preserve and Wright Reservoir: I love the moment of discovery. All of a sudden, because it certainly wasn’t there the last time I drove by, there is a parking area at the roadside, and then next, some signage… And so I stop to explore and — much to my delight — there’s a new nature preserve in town, complete with blazed trails! It was last spring when I discovered the Wright Reservoir. Just last month, the sign was installed and I learned the official name of this spot just-off Church Street (Route 139) in Duxbury: the Williams Preserve. Go check it out. There are 3 miles of trails and some lovely water views. The Wright Reservoir is a headwater to the Green Harbor River. (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/williams-preserve-and-wright-reservoir/)
Great Brewster Woods: You’ll swear you’re pulling into someone’s driveway when you arrive at this easy-to-miss Cohasset property on Highland Avenue, but there are signs to reassure you that yes, you’re in the right place. The well-marked, 1-mile trail skirts a couple of private backyards, and then climbs over a rise and descends into a quiet forested valley. You’ll find a variety of trees there, including black tupelos, junipers, hickory, and hornbeam, plus lichen-covered boulders and some massive rocky outcroppings. Depending on where you are on the property, you could be in the watershed of Little Harbor (north) or Cohasset Harbor (south). Check this place out! (https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/great-brewster-woods-deans-meadow/)
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 25+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2021 Contest, visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/explore-south-shore-2021-contest/