The weather is warming up, the trees are turning green, and the birds are singing. It’s time to get outside and explore the amazing nature trails throughout the Merrimack Valley. There’s no shortage of state parks and nature reservations around here, but here are four that are worth grabbing your walking stick for.
Pearl Hill State Park
Walk beneath the stately pine canopy of Pearl Hill State Park in West Townsend. Open sunrise to sunset, this 1000-acre park is perfect for biking, camping, and of course, hiking.
A great hike for a beautiful day is the Friends’ Pearl Hill Loop. A round-trip of 2.5 miles, you begin on the Friends’ Trail (Yellow Blaze) and then connect to the Friends’ Pearl Hill State Park loop, which will lead back to the contact station. A moderately difficult trail, it has been known to get muddy depending on the time of year, so be sure to wear the right shoes.
Nashua River Rail Trail
Though the Nashua River Rail Trail is often considered a bike trail, hikers are more than welcome! An easy walk along the Nashua River, it’s a beautiful, scenic stroll perfect for beginners. The trail itself is actually 12.2 miles long, going through Ayer, Groton, Pepperell and Dunstable, but you can go as far as you’d like then turn around and head back to the trailhead.
Walden Pond State Reservation
Walden Pond State Reservation has a ton of great outdoor activities, from boating to fishing to cross-country skiing. It also has some amazing hiking opportunities. For true nature and history lovers, the Walk Around the Pond with Thoreau self-guided walking tour is a must.
This scenic route starts at a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin and continues past the site of the original modest dwelling where he wrote Walden. The easy hike is anywhere between 1 mile round-trip and 1.7 miles depending on if you take the Pond Path. It’s worth adding on that 0.7 mile as you’ll see glacially-formed coves and views of the clear waters of Walden Pond.
Speaking of Thoreau, another trail inspired by the naturalist is the Thoreau’s Path on Brister’s Hill. As you walk around the 0.8 miles of public walking trails, you’ll find his words and insights carved in granite and cast in bronze. It’s a beautiful hike and a wonderful way to experience nature as Thoreau did in the land that inspired his post-humorous essays “The Succession of Forest Trees” and “The Dispersion of Seeds.”
No matter where you choose to hike, be sure to remember a few key tips. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather and the right shoes for the terrain. Bring water and wear sunblock, even on cool and cloudy days. Pack a lunch or at least a snack, and be sure not to leave behind any trash. Be respectful of nature and other hikers. Bring a trail map and be sure to tell someone where you’re going. If hiking with a group, be sure to stick together. However, the most important tip is to have fun!