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Follow miles of footpaths and old farm roads through a massive expanse of diverse forest, pristine streams, and wetlands.
What makes Brooks Woodland Preserve a special place?
Brooks has more than 13 miles of trail accessible from different street locations throughout the town of Petersham. Once home to Nipmuc Indians, then cleared for open pastureland, the Brooks Woodland Preserve is now largely covered by a forest of towering red oaks, hemlocks, and white pine. Old stone walls, reminders of former agricultural use, cross the forest floor, passing through patches of maidenhair ferns, winterberry, and partridgeberry. Six early–19th-century farmsteads can be rediscovered here.
Along parts of the Swift River, Moccasin Brook, and Roaring Brook, beavers have dammed the streams, creating wetlands. A cascade of glacial boulders near outcrops of granite ledge provides dens for porcupines.
The Preserve is named for James Willson Brooks, who set aside more than 2,000 acres of Petersham’s forest for conservation purposes, including Harvard Forest with its renowned research center. Adjacent to the Preserve is the 1500-plus acre Rutland Brook Sanctuary of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
13.5 miles of trails and woods roads. Moderate hiking.
When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 2 hours, longer if also visiting North Common Meadow or Swift River Reservation. Winter access to the parking area on Quaker Drive is restricted between the months of November and April.