Great Summer Hikes in and near Norfolk and Wrentham
By Marjorie Turner Hollman
If you are looking for Easy Walks, Norfolk and Wrentham have some great options in both towns and nearby.
My favorite local spot to get a view is at the Knuckup Hill property (also known as Sweatt Hill) in Wrentham. Parking is at the Wrentham Senior Center on Taunton Street, or next to the trail head near the Building Services Department. A fire road curves around the hill to the high point, next to the abandoned ski tow equipment. It is a bit of a climb! Look northeast to take in an impressive view of the area. The buildings of downtown Boston are visible from this spot. An additional walk right next to Knuckup Hill is Trout Pond, a pretty walk, especially in the fall.
Joe’s Rock, in Wrentham, while well-known, requires more effort, because of erosion, to reach the view at the top of the rock. Easier options include exploring the path below the rock or taking the fork to the left after crossing the small bridge over the stream near the entrance. Wander alongside the pond, a former cranberry bog, but watch for roots in the trail. Right across the street from Joe’s Rock is Birchwold Farm. We gravitate there especially in winter for the open sunny fields. Spring flowers and multiple trails into woodland areas make this a great choice in other seasons too.
Readers will most likely be familiar with Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon property. The handicapped accessible boardwalk over the Bristol Blake wetlands connected to Stony Brook is a must see for bird lovers and those who simply enjoy being outdoors.
Norfolk has other multiple open space properties, but residents may overlook the small spot at City Mills off Main Street, just west of Hanover Street. The Mill River is dammed at this spot, and eventually heads south into the Blackstone River. Look for the historical marker and learn more of your local history.
Just west of City Mills is Delcarte Conservation Area on Pleasant Street in Franklin. A loop trail follows the shoreline of the dammed pond, where wildlife is abundant. Be sure to linger at the floating bridge, a hit with visitors young and old.
Multiple Trustees of Reservations properties are nearby, from Cedariver in Millis, with views of the Charles River, to Noon Hill, and the Medfield Rhododendron Reservation.
Walpole has an abundance of open space that offers Easy Walks. The Town Forest, both east and west sections, has wide paths and provides views of the Neponset River. Adams Farm’s 700 acres on North Street has Easy Walks and more challenging trails that offer access to both sunny areas and woodland paths.
For readers looking for the most challenging hikes, the state forests nearby in Franklin (off Grove Street), Foxborough (F. Gilbert Hills off Thurston Street), Upton (off Westboro Road), and Wrentham (off Taunton Street) all offer hiking on multiple, often unmarked trails. Expect to find rugged trail surfaces, lots of rocks and roots, but very few if any real views.
The Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) presently has three local entrances. Parking is available in Franklin on Grove Street, and in Bellingham on Lake and Center Streets. Take care when crossing the handicapped accessible entrance on Center Street, which has a 45 MPH speed limit. No motorized vehicles are permitted on the SNETT. The SNETT heading back toward Franklin from Lake Street is packed stone dust up to the Pleasant Street tunnel (and tunnels are always fun!).
Besides the SNETT, area residents have access to two other great local rail trails. The Upper Charles Trail reaches from Milford, at the Hopkinton town line off Rt. 85, south to downtown Milford, then back north to Holliston. All trail surfaces are paved or packed stone dust and are great for walking, bicycling, and other non-motorized uses.
The Blackstone Bikeway starts in Woonsocket and heads south alongside the Blackstone River from Woonsocket, RI to Central Falls. Another portion of the bikeway in Blackstone, not yet linked to Woonsocket, has eight bridges in the first mile from the Blackstone parking area just off Canal Street. This trail also follows the river and is paved from Blackstone to Uxbridge. The completed portions of the Blackstone bikeway are all completely handicapped accessible.
This is just a short list of possible outdoor trails you can enjoy locally. We live in a beautiful part of the country. Travel is a great way to open our minds, but don’t overlook outdoor spaces right in your own back yard. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a freelance writer/editor who loves the outdoors, and has completed four books in the Easy Walks guidebook series. Her latest book, “My Liturgy of Easy Walks,” is a memoir, with meditations on learning to live with chronic illness. She has appeared on Boston’s WCVB Channel 5 TV news magazine show Chronicle, the Boston Globe, local radio and cable TV shows, and been published in local, regional, and national publications. Visit www.marjorieturner.com for more information.