Brooks Woodland Preserve
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Brooks Woodland Preserve Petersham, MA
693 acres

About Brooks Woodland Preserve

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.

Trails
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.

Regulations & Advisories

  • Please note that our primary parking lot on Quaker Drive is closed in winter. Check map to find other access spots. If you have questions about alternate access, please call 978.248.9455.
  • Mountain biking is permitted only on designated trails. 
  • With such an extensive trail system, it is recommended that you call to see if maps are available, or download a map (see maps tab on left).
  • Although hunting is not allowed on this property, the surrounding properties do allow hunting so proper precautions are still advised during legal hunting seasons.

Directions

East Street (Roaring Brook Tract)
Quaker Drive (Swift River and Connor's Pond Tracts)
Petersham, MA 01366
Telephone: 413.532.1631
E-mail: central@ttor.org

Latitude: 42.473
Longitude: -72.158

Get directions on Google Maps.

To Roaring Brook Tract: From Rt. 2, take Exit 17 to Rt. 32 South towards Petersham Center. From Petersham Center, travel 0.8 mi. on East St. to entrance and roadside parking on left.

To Swift River and Connor’s Pond Tracts: From Rt. 2, take Exit 17 to Rt. 32 to Petersham Center. Continue on Rt. 122 South/Rt. 32 South for 1.5 mi. Turn left onto Quaker Dr. and follow for 0.5 mi. Entrance and roadside parking on both sides of road.

Admission

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.

Admission
FREE to all

Property History

In the 19th century, much of the forested landscape seen today was cleared for agriculture; the stone walls and woods roads that lace the again-forested landscape echo this agricultural past.

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+ acre Rutland Brook Sanctuary of the Mass Audubon Society.

Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a gift of the Trustees of Brooks Wildlife Sanctuary (Mr. and Mrs. John Fiske and John Fiske, Jr.) in 1975. Additional land given by John Fiske, Jr. in 1978, 1980, and 1990; Rosalie Fiske in 1989; and Rosalie Johnson in 1999. Additional land purchased in 1994.

Conservation and Stewardship

Management Planning for Our Properties
 


Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
 


  • Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources. 

  • Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.

  • Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.

  • Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.


View Brooks Woodland Preserve management plan (Part 1).
View Brooks Woodland Preserve management plan (Part 2).
View Brooks Woodland Preserve management plan (Part 3).

Maps and Resources

Printed trail maps are distributed free from bulletin boards in parking areas. Please understand that supplies sometimes run out. You may also download trail a map from this web site or mail order trail maps in advance of your visit.

Additional resources



Planning Your Visit

Before You Go

We encourage you to visit as many Trustees properties as you can.

Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:

  • Protect wildlife and plants.
  • Guard against all risk of fire.
  • Help keep air and water clean.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
  • Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
  • Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
  • Enjoy and share the landscape with others.

Click on links below for further visitor information:

Before Setting Out

Enjoying Trustees Reservations

Safety

About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land

Tell Us What You Think

We’d love to hear about your visit! Here are three easy ways to let us know what you think:

  1. Take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us, you can ask us in the survey and we’ll get back to you.

  2. Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.

  3. Share your experiences with other visitors on our website. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll post your comment right here on this page.


Submitted by Bob on: September 9, 2009
I found the visit quite interesting in terms of the history and topography. The one problem I encountered was when I was descending from the 'scenic vista' via trail 47a. At the end of a steep pitch, the trail just seemed to end. There was no indication of it no matter how hard I looked. To be honest, the trail was somewhat ill-used -- many fallen trees over it. If it weren't for the trampled area between green ferns I would not have been able to follow it as far as I did. I almost bushwacked my way to the clearing I saw through the trees that I had passed on the way up, knowing there was a trail along its southern boundary. But, it was late in the day, and I back tracked the way I had arrived. Also, many of the trail intersection signs were nonexistent. Fortunately I had printed out the PDF trail map from your website.



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Announcements & Alerts

Notice: Trails may be especially icy or muddy during the winter to spring transition. Use caution.

Please note that our primary parking lot on Quaker Drive is closed in winter. Check map to find other access spots. If you have questions about alternate access, please call 978.248.9455.

Mountain biking is permitted only on designated trails.

Upcoming Things To Do
No events for this reservation at this time.
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