Author Archives: Kaylin D.

The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.

10 Fall Hikes in Massachusetts

In the distance, a Red-bellied Woodpecker drums on a tree for food while a plump squirrel scampers through the browning leaf litter on the forest floor. A Broad-winged Hawk shrieks somewhere in the grasslands beyond the tree line, and a small garter snake slithers quietly through the commotion. What other sights and sounds can you experience during a fall hike? Find out by exploring these 10 trails. 

Trail with Still Waters 

See a cloudy sky reflecting off the glass-like waters of the Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in Falmouth along the Grassy Pond Trail. Walk around the entire pond while listening to birds high in the trees. Before heading back, take a break on the wooden benches of the Grassy Pond Overlook to soak in the tranquility of the site. 

Along the bank of a pond stands a mix of green pines and bare trees. Yellow Brown stick and leaf litter cover the area near the water.
Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary

Ponds, Saltmarshes, and Beaches 

On Martha’s Vineyard, almost every trail at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary passes some form of water—combine three of the trails to circle the perimeter of the Sanctuary. Start on Sassafras Trail to cross over Turtle Pond, then continue along Shad Trail to stand on the shore of Major’s Cove on Sengekontacket Pond and meander along the beach. Link back with the Sassafras Trail to rest on a bench overlooking the Pond, then discover the Marsh Trail with dramatic views of State Beach and Moffett Cove beyond the tidal salt marshes. 

Take the Boardwalk Less Traveled 

Walk along almost half a mile of boardwalks, over a marsh and a river on the River Walk at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield. Look for fall and winter sparrows like the White-throated, Field, Swamp, American tree, and Song sparrows, in the maple forest and shrubby thickets. 

Wooden boardwalk curves to the right between bare trees.
Boardwalk at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary

A Fall Sense for Sensory Trails 

Watch waterfowl like Hooded Mergansers and American Black and Ring-necked ducks cruise the shallow waters of Kingfisher Pond and Teal Marsh from the boardwalk on the Sensory Trail at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk. The boardwalk also has a deck that overlooks both the pond and marsh, before continuing to Beech Grove Trail. 

Rock and Roll 

You could easily spend the whole day wandering through the 12 miles of trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, but make sure you spend some time in the Rocky Grotto on the Rockery Trail. The narrow caves and spiraling rock pathways were built in 1905 by Thomas Proctor, who started living at the estate in the late 1890s. The loop around the Rockery Pond is surrounded by a mix of native and non-native trees, which was once a private arboretum built by Proctor.  

Two adults and a child smile as they pass under a passage made of large rocks.
Rocky Grotto at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary © Jared Leeds

Lone Wolf Legend Walk 

Massachusetts has plenty of predators like coyotes, bobcats, and black bears, but our forests are free from the howling packs of hungry wolves. According to local lore at the High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne, the last wolf that lived in the area lived at a geological feature named Wolve’s Den, found at the corner of North Trail and Wolve’s Den Loop Trail. As you travel along the trail, think of how different our wildlife and ecosystems may have been just 200 years ago, when the last wolf sighting in Massachusetts was recorded.  

Enchanted by History 

Other evidence of life from 200 hundred years ago can be seen from the Enchanted Forest Trail at Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester. Weave between remnants of stone walls built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, then make your way to the Sagatabscot Ridge Trail where a small quarry is located on the western end near the Piggery Trail.  

Looking at a path that crosses over a crumbled part of a rock wall. The treetops have some green, but the forest floor is covered with orange and brown leaves.
Stone wall at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Don’t Overlook This Spot 

At the overlook site on Fox Trail at Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan, you can feel right in the center of the wetlands by being surrounded by native cattails. Make sure to bring (or borrow) binoculars to look out across the area for any Red-tailed Hawks. 

Seven Viewing Areas, One Sanctuary 

There are seven observation sites at the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, six of which are in the first half mile from the nature center. To get to the seventh overlook, you have to get on Little Farm Pond Trail, which starts at the 3-car parking lot off Farm Road just east of the intersection with Lake Street in Sherborn. The trail leads you to a 0.3-mile loop, with benches on the eastern lookout of Little Farm Pond. 

The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.
Overlook area at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

A Special Habitat 

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet is home to some of the rarest habitats on Cape Cod. Take the Try Island trail to pass Mockernut Hickories and Black Oak trees that are nearly 100 years old. This trail is a short loop that offers salt marsh overlooks and expansive views of Wellfleet Harbor. 

To find more trails, visit massaudubon.org/trails.

A jay on the ground near a tree trunk with a leaf in its mouth.

A Blue Jay’s Favorite Snack

On the trunk of an Oak Tree, a squirrel scales the bark in pursuit of a treasured acorn, while a chipmunk nearby already has its cheeks stuffed. Squirrels and chipmunks are the usual suspects for acorn collection, but they have a formidable opponent: the Blue Jay. 

A jay on the ground near a tree trunk with a leaf in its mouth.
Blue Jay

Acorn Frenzy 

Similar to squirrels, Blue Jays cache their acorns and collect a whopping 3,000 to 5,000 acorns in one autumn. And not just any acorns. These skilled jays can determine if the acorn is infested with pesky weevils—a process that still puzzles scientists—by simply picking one up in their beaks. 

Jay popping into view with orange foliage in the background.
Blue Jay © Davey Walters

Blue Jays can hold up to three acorns in the gular pouch located in their throat, along with one in their mouth and one in the tip of their beak, for a total of five acorns per trip. They store the acorns in the ground, and the ones that don’t get eaten by the jay, or any other creature looking for a snack, are left to germinate and grow. Because of this, Blue Jays are often credited with spreading oak tree populations after the last glacial period. 

Dazzling and Intelligent 

Clever, pugnacious Blue Jays are well-known for their territorial behavior and raucous Jay! Jay! call, but they are capable of an amazing array of vocal sounds, including whistles, toots, and wheedle-wheedle calls. Blue Jays can even mimic the scream of a Red-tailed Hawk in order to scare other birds. 

Jay with head turned, displaying its blue wings.
Blue Jay © Alyssa Sklarski

Like all blue birds, Blue Jays are not actually blue! Most of the vibrant feather colors found in birds, like yellow and red, come from pigments in their food that absorb certain wavelengths of light, but no birds (and almost no species in the entire animal kingdom) can produce blue pigments. Instead, the blue color is the result of light refracting off tiny, specialized structures in the bird’s feathers. 

For more information, visit our Quick Guide and our page on Blue Jays