Forest Trails

Cow Tent Hill Preserve

1280 Tremont St, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA

Wildlands Trust: 774-343-5121

Owned By: Wildlands Trust

Duxbury’s Cow Tent Hill Preserve is a 32-acre woodland property with a 1/3 mile loop trail. It is situated 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. To learn more about local Native American tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mashpee Wampanoag and the Herring Pond Wampanoag share information on their websites.

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 as well as the beginning of a 0.3-mile forest 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 upland forest is composed of white pine, 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.

  • A photograph of a trail through a green woodland.
  • A photograph of a parking area beside a roadway.
  • A photograph of a trailside wooden bench within a forest.
  • A photograph of a trail leading from a parking area into a woodland.
  • A photograph of a trail through a forest.
  • A photograph of a trail with a bench and some interpretive signage.
  • A photograph of a shallow river and a green salt marsh.
  • A photograph of a trailside bench on a wooded hill.
  • A photograph of a tree limb extending down into a shallow river.
  • A photograph of a trail leading uphill through a pine forest.
  • A photograph of a bench and a picnic table beside a fence in a forest with river views.
  • A photograph of a river viewed through trees.
  • A photograph of a trail through a green woodland.
  • A photograph of a river and a salt marsh.
  • A photograph of a trail through the woods overlooking a river.
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

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