Tag Archives: trails

Turtle on a rock at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary

5 Hidden Gems in the Metro West

You never know what you’ll find when exploring Boston’s Metro West. Mass Audubon Metro West Wildlife Sanctuaries—Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Habitat in Belmont, Broadmoor in Natick, and Waseeka in Hopkinton—host miles of trails meandering through wetlands, fields, animal exhibits, and a few surprises. Don’t miss these hidden gems on your next visit.

1. For When You Want to Go on an Adventure

This hidden gem isn’t off the main parking lot at Habitat Education Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont. You’ll need to follow Lees Way trailhead off of Somerset Street in Belmont to the Weeks Trail area. Along Lees Way, look for what’s known to staff as “The Tree of Resilience”—a tree whose main trunk is dead and hollowed out, but still has two branches very much alive growing outside of it.

Continuing down the trail, you’ll come across Weeks Pond, where you may find a mother duckling leading her young, bullfrogs peeking through the tiny floating leaves, or damselflies skimming the surface. In the meadow, you may even catch our small herd of goats grazing.

2. For When You Need to Relax

With more than 600 acres, Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick is filled with spots that, when you find them, make the rest of the world melt away.

The red circled binoculars indicate where this hidden gem is. See full the full trail map here.

Relax on the log bench perched on top of a rock outcropping overlooking the Indian Brook Marsh. When entering through the parking lot, cross the boardwalks, and turn right at signpost #3, instead of hopping onto one of the main loop trails.

This spur trail, made specifically for this scenic outlook, offers a wonderful view of Indian Brook Marsh. Look and listen for Belted Kingfishers, Wood Ducks, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and more. The longer you linger, the more you’re likely to see.

3. For When You’re Feeling Mysterious

While not on Drumlin Farm’s property, and definitely not natural, if you travel to the outskirts of the crops fields where we grow our food, you can find yourself next to one of Lincoln’s most mysterious and unexplainable pieces of local lore. Ponyhenge—as it’s known to the locals—is a collection of broken-down rocking horses, plastic ponies, and other horse figurines that have spontaneously started holding court along Old Sudbury Road, since sometime in 2010.

How did all these ponies get here?

The collection has grown steadily since then, and stranger still, their configurations are known to change periodically, as if by magic. You may visit and see them in a circle, lined up like racehorses, or strewn about haphazardly. To see for yourself, take the Boyce Field Loop trail down to Old Sudbury Road. Along the way, you’ll see where Drumlin Farm’s CSA and farmstand vegetables are grown.

*Please note Ponyhenge is on private property but can be viewed from the fence on Drumlin Farm’s edge. Please stay on the trails and do not walk through growing fields during your adventure.

X marks the spot! Follow the Boyce Field Loop through our crop fields to Ponyhenge. See the full trail map here.

4. For When You Need a Turtle Fix

There is a place in the Metro West where turtles can go to just get away from it all. Understandably, sometimes you just want soak up the sun, and our turtle rafts at Habitat do just that. Take the Pond Loop Trail around the aptly named Turtle Pond for a glimpse at these sunbathing reptiles.

Painted Turtles sunbathing on a log at Turtle Pond ©Justin Miel

In reality, they’re doing more than just lounging about—sun-basking serves many purposes, including helping to promote muscle activity and digestion, encouraging leeches and other parasites to drop off, and triggering the production of vitamin D, which is essential for strong shells. A pair of snapping turtles were recently at the pond, a new sighting among all the more usual painted turtles that enjoy their favorite basking spot.

5. For When You Want to Take the Trail Less Traveled By

Have you been to Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton before? This little-known sanctuary offers all the benefits that come with being off the beaten path: limited trail traffic, spectacular views, and the ability to take your time and make your own adventure. The sanctuary features a hidden pond with standing dead trees and snags that provide nesting sites for Eastern Bluebirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, and the occasional Great Horned Owl.

View of the Pond at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, Hopkinton

Unlike the other Metro West wildlife sanctuaries, this site can be easy to miss. Look for the small parking lot along Clinton Street in Hopkinton, on the right about 2 miles up from turning onto it via Route 135.

What’s your favorite hidden gem at one of our Metro West wildlife sanctuaries? Share in the comments.

Walking on a All Persons Trail

Access Nature Through These ADA-Accessible Trails

If you, or someone you care about, has had trouble accessing scenic outdoor areas via traditional trails in the past, our ADA-Accessible All Persons Trails may be your key to unlocking the great outdoors.  

What is an All Persons Trail? 

What began in 2008 with the construction of a pilot “sensory trail” at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, has evolved into Mass Audubon’s Accessible Interpretive Trails Project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The project has yielded the installation of 12 Americans With Disabilities (ADA)-accessible All Persons Trails throughout the state.  

The trails are typically 0.5-1 miles long and meander through some of Mass Audubon’s most scenic wildlife-watching areas in the state. They’re designed to meet ADA compliance for trail width, slope, and surfacing, and are typically made of crushed gravel material, or wooden boardwalk, suitable for wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers.

All Persons Trails Features

Post & Rope Guiding Systems: About half of our All Persons Trails have post and rope guiding systems that provide navigational support for visitors with low vision. Hanging from the guiding ropes along the trails, round beads are placed to indicate an interpretive stop marker is within an arm’s reach. Square beads indicate seating is nearby, with specific directions explained in tour booklets or audio recordings. 

Sensory-Supporting Features: You can take advantage of tactile maps, and interpretive booklets in regular print, large print, Braille, and audio formats. Audio tours, available on cellphone or audio players, provide sensory-rich interpretations of the sights, sounds, and nature found along your route.  

Stops Along the Way: If you need a break along your journey, or want to pause to soak in your surroundings, accessible wildlife observation structures, specialized gardens, seating, play areas, and picnic areas, can be found along your route.  

Service-Animals: Service animals are, as always, welcome to accompany your visit. Due to the nature of our wildlife conservation mission, we ask that those bringing their service animal familiarize themselves with our service animal statement prior to your visit.  

Find Your Trail 

With over 12 All Persons Trails throughout the state, you’re sure to find something close by. Whether it’s strolling through the farmyard loop at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, by the Frog Pond at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester, or over the boardwalk at Arcadia in Easthampton & Northampton, we hope to see you out on a trail soon! 

Search All Persons Trails

Please note some sanctuaries require reservations to visit at this time.