Bradley-Palmer State Park
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
Formerly an estate, this 721-acre tract offers easy and relaxing walks in the woods within easy driving distance (about forty minutes) of Boston. In addition to miles of hiking trails, the park offers a wading pool for children, swimming, picnicking, canoeing or kayaking, fishing, limited hunting and cross country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
On our visit we concentrated on the hiking trails, treating ourselves to an extensive tour. In fact our tour was so extensive, we got mildly lost! We ended up in the back yard of someone's farm and I had to suffer the ultimate humiliation a man can suffer. I had to ask directions.
The land is gently rolling with a few small hills to climb. On top of one hill is a huge meadow dotted with wildflowers. The trails range from single track paths where hikers walk single file to paved or formerly paved roads. Mostly the trails are in very good condition. The two major hills in the park are Moon Hill and Blueberry Hill, each with a vertical climb of around one hundred fifty feet or so. The park is more or less equally divided between upland and wetland. The forest is mostly hardwoods with a few groves of pine. Old stone walls that used to mark the boundaries of farms run through the woods here and there.
We didn't see much in the way of wildlife on our visit, though seven hundred acres is more than enough to accommodate many species. There were a few woodpeckers and the usual birds and squirrels and the bee's nest we spotted just off the trail. It's not a very good picture, but I didn't want to get too close.
Hikers share the trails with occasional mountain bikers and equestrians, but on our particular gorgeous summer morning we were able to find plenty of solitude. A little too much, as I said before. Actually it was a lot of fun, even though perhaps we ended up hiking a little further than we planned. The woods is quiet and deep enough so that motorized traffic on the adjoining roads is inaudible on the trails. We were able to enjoy the peace we look for on our hiking ventures.
To get to the park, take Bradley Palmer State Park Road off of Highland Street in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Park headquarters is located off of Asbury Street in Topsfield, Massachusetts.