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Kids will enjoy exploring the jumble of boulders that forms this “house,” beyond which you’ll discover a small, serene pond.
What makes Rock House Reservation a special place?
Built by the glacier and blessed by indigenous tribes who hunted and worshiped here, the cave-like shelter and its surroundings are an intriguing blend of geologic and human history. Nature lovers can enjoy expanses of wildflowers, hardwood forests and pine groves, while watching for a wide variety of animals, from wild turkeys to painted turtles.
The centerpiece of the property, understandably, is the massive, 20- to 30-foot-high rock enclosure that stands guard over man-made Carter Pond. But visitors who choose to explore the 196-acre tract will find there’s plenty more to sample from this multi-faceted greenspace. Like much of central Massachusetts, the history of Rock House Reservation is that of forests transformed into farmlands, ponds and streams turned into mill power, and now all reverting to their natural states.
Over the thousands of years the glacier pushed, pulled, and scraped over the New England landscape, myriad land formations, such as the Rock House, were created. But the movement of the ice sheet also left behind boulders in the most improbable places. A striking example of these “erratics” is Balance Rock, which perches atop a large stone outcrop.
Rock House’s mammoth proportions and southern exposure made it an excellent winter camp for Native Americans. Its location near two long Native American footpaths suggests that it may also have been a trail camp and meeting place.
In the mid-17th century, colonists cleared the forests of West Brookfield for farming. In 1866, pastures around the Rock House were added to a 281-acre farm on Ragged Hill Road owned by William Adams, whose family would tend the land for more than 125 years.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Rock House was a popular stop on the “Copper Line,” an electric trolley that ran between West Brookfield and Ware. Visitors came to picnic in the abandoned pastures and explore this historic Native American landmark.
More than 3 miles of trails and woods roads. Moderate hiking, strenuous in places.
When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.
Portable toilet (open seasonally) and small trailside museum (nature center) overlooking Carter Pond.