Forest Trails

Cow Tent Hill Preserve

1280 Tremont St, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA


Owned By: Wildlands Trust

A 32-acre woodland property with a 1/3 mile loop trail, on a hillside overlooking the Duck Hill River.

For up-to-date information and real time trail conditions, visit


According to Dorothy Wentworth’s Settlement and Growth of Duxbury 1628-1870, the first grist mill in Duxbury was established here in 1640. At the time, the Duck Hill River was known as Stoney Brook. In 1746, a textile factory was erected here, and the name of the waterway was changed to Mill Brook. The neighborhood, Millbrook, shared its name. During the War of 1812, the textile mill manufactured sailcloth for the American Navy. Later that century, after the textile mill had become obsolete, the name of the waterway was changed once again, this time to Duck Hill River. The name refers to the fact that only ducks used the river at that time.

In the 1800s, the lands along the Duck Hill River were used as grazing pasture for cows. It was a common practice to set up canvas shades for the cows, to help them keep cool in the hot sun. Thus this particular hillside became known as Cow Tent Hill. It is forested now, but it used to be an open field. Look for cedar posts and bits of wire fencing — evidence of the property’s agricultural past.

In the late 1800s, Dr. Hermon C. Bumpus purchased the property. It remained in his family until a descendent, Bernice E. Bumpus, bequeathed it to the Wildlands Trust in 1999.

This land is within the region of the Patuxet Wampanoag tribe, who for centuries have inhabited the area around the Jones River now known as Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth.

Trail Description

The short gravel trail that begins on the northern side of the parking lot leads to an informational kiosk, with a map of the property and the beginning of a 0.3-mile loop trail. For an easy walk, go left, and head downhill, where you will find an overlook, with a bench and a picnic table, on the banks of the Duck Hill River. If you’d like a more challenging walk, go to the right first. The trail leads up and over Cow Tent Hill, offering additional views of the river. Remain on the trail, as poison ivy is abundant.

Habitats and Wildlife

The Cow Tent Hill Preserve includes land on both sides of the Duck Hill River, but there is only trail access in the southern portion. The uplands are composed of White Pine forest, with some oak and holly, plus ferns and greenbrier. There are tidal marshes along the river, and on summer days, you might feel a breeze coming off the water.

Look and listen for red-wing blackbirds and marsh wrens. You might see a Great Blue Heron fishing in the marsh areas.

The Duck Hill River finds its source in West Brook and North Hill Pond. After flowing through the Cow Tent Hill Preserve, it meanders through the Duxbury marshes for quite a distance before flowing into Duxbury Bay.

1280 Tremont St, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 31.75 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Small on-site parking lot on Tremont Street (Route 3A).

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium


Informational kiosk, 3 benches, picnic area.

Dogs: Dogs must be kept on leash. Scoop the poop!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Duck Hill River

Other Things to Do at This Site