Harold Parker State Forest
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:305 Middleton Road, North Andover, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free

mass.gov/dcr; 978-686-3391

Bathrooms: At the park headquarters
Water/Snacks: None

This state forest comprises more than 3,000 acres where visitors can hike, mountain bike, fish, hunt, cross-country ski, horseback ride, camp, and picnic.

Kids love to climb the granite rocks at Harold Parker State Forest.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

Once you visit Harold Parker State Forest, which lies in Andover, North Andover, North Reading, and Middleton, you’ll be making plans to come back. With 3,500 acres, numerous trails, eleven ponds, and a variety of activities, one day or even a weekend is not enough time to enjoy all the forest offers.

For a first-time visit, start at Berry Pond, where you can hike to the site of an old quarry and mill, then circle around to end at the pond. Look for the Healthy Trail sign and white blazes near the parking lot to start this hike, which quickly leads to a boardwalk, then a gravel path, and finally a dirt path. You’ll come to large granite rocks where kids will want to stop and climb. This is not the old quarry, but if you have younger kids, this is a good stopping point; you can shorten the trip here and head to Berry Pond.

Another option is to take a paved, accessible path from the parking lot, which makes getting to the pond easy with a stroller. At one point, the state forest allowed swimming here and built a large open shelter and a bathhouse with bathrooms, but the pond is now off-limits for swimming due to bacteria and the bathhouse is locked up. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to fish for bass or skip rocks at the pond, or throw a ball in the field.

Overall, more than 35 miles of logging roads and trails are in the forest, including portions of the Bay Circuit Trail. Nonmotorized boating is allowed on any of the ponds. The area was once inhabited by Pentacook Indians until it was settled by English farmers around 1650. According to park materials, many of the homes surrounding the forest were used as Underground Railroad hideouts in the 1850s, and Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and William Lloyd Garrison were frequent visitors to families in the area.

Remember: If you want to make a weekend trip, the Lorraine Park Campground on the property has 89 campsites with picnic tables and grills; camping is allowed late May to early September; reservations are accepted six months in advance. The fee is $12 per night. Only camp visitors are allowed to swim at Frye Pond.

Plan B:

Martins Pond in North Reading (Trip 72) offers a more urban and easily accessible outing.

Where to Eat Nearby:

A few places to eat are south of MA 125 on MA 28.


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