Bonney Hill Trail

53 Pierce Ave, Hanson, MA 02341, USA

Hanson Conservation: (781) 294-4119

Owned By: Town of Hanson

The Bonney Hill Trail offers a rare glimpse of Hanson’s agricultural past. A wide, 1-mile woodland trail leads along the base of a Bonney Hill, past the former site of the Plymouth County Hospital, to a large open meadow. A loop off the main trail offers additional views of the hospital property as well as the historic Bonney home. A third trail connects The Last Meadows to a Bonney Hill Lane via boardwalk. Most of these trails are suitable for strollers and horses. The main trail is part of the Bay Circuit Trail.

Note: In the past this property was listed here as The Last Meadows.


Beginning in the 1690s, the Bonney Family and other farmers cleared Hanson’s fields for agriculture. They grew hay, produce, and other crops, and grazed their animals in places like this.

In 1920, the Plymouth County Hospital purchased this land and continued its agricultural use, to provide food for its patients. Many outbuildings still exist, and have been repurposed by the town. Portions of the property were leased back to local farmers until 1980. Now they are maintained as open space and wildlife habitat.

A little history: Known as the Hanson Tuberculosis Hospital, the facility was constructed in 1919 as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients from Boston and Plymouth County. When the TB epidemic passed, the institution was given a more general purpose, and named Plymouth County Hospital. In 1982, its purpose shifted again, providing long-term care to patients with chronic and terminal illness, such as muscular dystrophy. The 68-bed chronic care facility was known as Cranberry Specialty Hospital.

In 1991, all 60 patients were transferred to a new building in Middleborough; the following year, the old hospital was shuttered. The Town of Hanson purchased the property in 1999. Development plans fell through and vandalism and arson became such an issue that demolition of the main hospital building was required (2017). Design has been approved for the Town of Hanson to reconfigure much of the hospital property into public space, including a playground, a concert pavilion, and the headquarters of the Hanson Historical Society.

In 2020, the Town of Hanson received a MassTrails grant to create a new recreational foot trail here. Now complete, it relocates of a section of the Bay Circuit Trail away from a busy roadway into a much more welcoming woodland. Future plans include extending this trail to Wampatuck Pond. The adjacent swamp and cranberry reservoir are privately owned. Please respect private property.

Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson. The word “Mattakeeset” means “place of many fish.” Wampatuck Pond is named for the Chief Sachem of the Mattakeeset, Josias Wompatuck (also spelled Wampatuck).

To travel between the North River watershed and the Taunton River watershed, the Mattakeeset followed a trail that extended from today’s Indian Head Pond (on Main Street) to Crooker Place and today’s Indian Crossway Conservation Area, through the great Cedar Swamp (today’s Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area), through today’s Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area (Elm Street, Hanson) to East Bridgewater and the Taunton River watershed.

To learn more about local tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag share information on their websites. 

Trail Description

A parking area for this property was established on Pierce Avenue in 2022. The trail extends through a woodland and then quickly connects with some old paved roadways from the property’s hospital era. At this intersection, look for a wide gravel pathway to the right. Follow it downhill, and continue straight until you reach The Last Meadow, about 0.8 miles further. This pleasant path is partially paved, partially gravel, and occasionally covered with pine needles and fallen leaves, with a fence on one side. It is part of the Bay Circuit Trail. At the meadow there is a very short grassy loop trail and a property sign.

Between the parking area and The Last Meadow, you may notice two spur trails on the left. The first, at approx. 0.4 miles, leads uphill to a contemporary water tower, the Hanson Organic Community Garden, and a mostly-paved road that loops back around to the first intersection. There is also a parking area at this spot (252 High Street, behind the historic Bonney House). About halfway up this 0.1-mile trail, on the left, you’ll find a narrower trail that extends across the top of a ridge, through the woods. Along the way you’ll find the remains of a house (basically just the hearth and chimney). The second intersection, at about 0.5 miles, leads to private property.

Upon arriving at The Last Meadow, look for an additional trail on the left. This extends for 0.12 mile, through a wooded wetland and across a series of boardwalks, to a staircase that provides access to Bonney Hill Lane. No parking is available at this spot. For those interested in completing a loop back to the water tower, it’s a walk of about 0.6 miles, first to the top of Bonney Hill Lane, then left on High Street, past the Department of Environmental Management observation tower, to the historic Bonney House.

If you’re accessing the property from the Hanson Community Garden (next to the water tower), turn away from High Street and look for the trail to the right of the water tower — a paved roadway that leads down a steep hill. Follow the road to the bottom, and then turn left. From there, it’s about 0.5 miles to The Last Meadow. Or turn right and follow the trail about 0.4 miles to the Pierce Ave. parking lot. A few circular green metal hiker signs are posted along the way.

The stone gate at 132 High Street, and the roadway that passes through it onto the former hospital property are open to the public, but the lands that surround the road are private. Please respect all “private property” signs.

Habitats and Wildlife

This property provides valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The woods are primarily pine, maple, oak and beech, with some black walnut, cherry, black locust, sassafras, and hemlock. There are several open fields, some cultivated and some currently growing wild. On the Bonney Hill Trail, you’ll find sweet pepper bush and lots of holly.

The Last Meadows is Hanson’s name for the three meadows that abut the Bonney Hill Trail., which are among the last of the colonial era meadows that were once common on the town’s landscape. Hanson has cleared them of trees, and is managing them in order to allow them to return as meadow habitat for ground birds, turtles, monarch butterflies, blue birds, and swallows.

Wampatuck Pond is nearby. It was created by the damming of Wampatuck Brook (also known as Indian Head Brook) in 1695. Streams and wetlands on this property drain to Wampatuck Pond. Indian Head Brook flows through Wampatuck Pond and eventually into the Indian Head River.

The Indian Head River forms the boundary between Hanover and Hanson, and merges with Pembroke’s Herring Brook, a short distance downstream of Ludden’s Ford Park, to form the North River at a spot called The Crotch. The North River flows 12 miles through Pembroke, Hanover, Norwell, Marshfield and Scituate, eventually making its way to Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

  • A photograph of a large woodland parking area.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through the woods.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through the woods.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through a meadow with trees to one side.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through a wooded area.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through a wooded area.
  • A photograph of a narrow trail through a meadow.
  • A photograph of a narrow trail through a meadow.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through a meadow.
  • A photograph of a wide trail through a meadow.
  • A photograph of a narrow trail through a meadow.
  • A photograph of an interpretive sign in a meadow.
  • A photograph of a boardwalk extending through a freshwater wetland.
  • A photograph of a boardwalk extending through a freshwater wetland.
  • A photograph of a staircase leading up a grassy hill.
  • A photograph of two property signs in a forested area.
  • A photograph of an informational kiosk with grass and trees.
  • A photograph of a contemporary water tower beside a trail, with grass and trees.
  • A photograph of a mossy old foundation to a small building, in a woodland.
  • A photograph of a narrow trail through a green forest.
  • A photograph of a grassy area with a line of trees beside a trail.
  • A photograph of a trail through green vegetation.
  • A photograph of a snow-covered trail with scattered trees and shrubs.
53 Pierce Ave, Hanson, MA 02341, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Size: 56 acres

Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Parking: Large parking area at 53 Pierce Ave. Limited on-site parking at 252 High Street. No parking on Bonney Hill Lane.

Cost: Free

Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium


Informational kiosk, interpretive sign.

Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Please clean up after your pet!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: The section of the trail beginning at Pierce Ave. may be suitable for wheelchairs.

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Indian Head Brook (North River watershed)