Spring is finally beginning to arrive here in Massachusetts and with that comes the excitement of planning day trips to all of my favorite state parks! I’m lucky enough to live in a state that has a little bit of everything, and have visited a number of great state parks throughout the years, and figured it’d be appropriate to share my top five favorite state parks that are well worth the visit!
I chose to start off with this one purely because it’s probably the most visited from the list, located within a very short driving distance of where I grew up and currently reside, this one is small but packs plenty to see! Located in Gardner, MA, this pond is surrounded by a walking trails through a moderately wooded area that are great for running, or even finding a spot close to the water to fish! This 20 acre pond comes complete with a beach area, a boat dock for canoes and kayaks, as well as grilling areas and picnic tables to spend the day enjoying some water and good times. Dunn’s Pond also has a visitors center as well as playground area, making it a great local spot for all ages. It’s even rumored that the island located towards the center of the pond is haunted, but you’ll have to go out and visit for yourself to find out the truth behind the mystery!
Not just for skiing, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is located off Route 2 in Princeton, MA. The way up the mountain is entirely your choice, choose from any of the seventeen miles of trails, or take a scenic drive up to the summit by ways of the main road. The summit, which peaks at 2006 feet, overlooks the surrounding New England area and on a clear day you can even catch a glimpse of the famous Boston skyline. At the top, there’s a small pond with fish and other wildlife, as well as an observation tower to extend your view even further. There is a visitor’s center at the bottom of the mountain that hosts a handful of educational pamphlets, as well as vending machines, and restrooms. The mountain itself has no bathroom facilities so be sure to plan accordingly! Take a picnic lunch to the top and enjoy an afternoon of light physical activity and beautiful sight seeing! Be sure to stop by in the fall to take in the amazing foliage!
A great place to spend a day, or a week, the Lake Dennison Recreation Area hosts not only a lake but a 150 site campground, perfect for a summer vacation close to home! As part of the Birch Hill Flood Control Project founded by the Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Dennison has 4,221 acres of land to its name. With both a beach front and expansive grass covered field, Lake Dennison is a perfect place for a game of frisbee followed by a quick swim. Great for fishing and canoeing, there is plenty to do while spending a day at the lake, and if you’re lucky you may even catch the ice cream truck that’s known for making an appearance or two during the warm summer months! So pack your tent and sleeping bag and spend a night under the stars with some family and friends on one of the many campsites the recreation area has to offer.
Located on the cusp of Western Massachusetts, this forest holds more than just a recreational swimming area and a campground. With seasonal camping available also comes a slew of park ranger lead educational activities for both campers and beach visitors throughout the summer months. A quiet area to spend some time in the sun, the access to laurel lake is not only for canoes but offers a place for motorized boats to spend some time as well. Having spent a good portion of a summer camping and visiting the lake, it’s a beautiful place to spend time with the family and spot some of the local wildlife. With a large area of forest your likely to see not only the average squirrel but keep an eye out for beavers as the wooded area acts as a habitat to the flat tailed friends. With lots of natural beauty and tons of area to explore, Erving State Forest is one of my favorite places to suggest camping out of in Massachusetts.
I saved this one for last as it is my absolute favorite place to visit when the weather gets warm, natural beauty and local history combined into a day trip of your dreams, Walden Pond State Reservation is the place to go if you’re looking to spend your day outdoors. Made famous by Henry David Thoreau’s classic work Walden, you can take a trip through the woods and see the sights that inspired his literary masterpiece, and even stand in the place where his he lived in the woods. Although the actual structure itself is no longer there, there is a historical replica at the entrance to the parking lot where you can stop and take a look at the minimal living space that yielded a maximum amount of literary genius, and even sign into the guest book and see how many different people from around the world have visited the iconic spot. History aside, the pond itself is a gorgeous place to either sit and enjoy the water, or take a walk through the woods on one of many paths around the pond, exploring the beauty that the reservation offers. Open year round, this little spot is perfect for a day of sun, sand, history, and light reading, with trees galore to sit under and a literary gift shop to peruse when you feel like beating the heat, it’s a spot you absolutely must put on your bucket list.
Well there you have it, my top five Massachusetts state parks and reservations, so grab your sunscreen and don’t forget to hydrate as you set off on your summer adventures into the great outdoors! I’ve only shared with you my take on five of the numerous state parks and reservations that Massachusetts has to offer, but you can find a total listing of all the parks in alphabetical order here, and feel free to share any of your experiences or must visit parks in any state in the comment section below!