Old Town Hill
Find Your Place
Old Town Hill Newbury, MA
531 acres

About Old Town Hill

Climb to the top of a 168-foot coastal promontory and from an open field enjoy panoramic views of the Great Marsh and New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals.

What makes Old Town Hill a special place?
We think it’s the spectacular mix of tidal river, salt marsh, open fields, and woodlands that define the hill and lands to the west. From the 168-foot hilltop, you can see as far as Mount Agamenticus in southern Maine.

A three-mile network of trails and pathways leads you through thriving wetlands and up to landscape-level views of this corridor of protected open space along the Parker River. The Ridge Trail climbs moderately to vistas to the south, east, and north. The River Trail, a short and especially scenic family friendly trail, passes an old pasture along the marsh's edge and then loops into an oak forest along the banks of the Little River. Old Town Hill is a link in the Bay Circuit Trail.

In the upland, second-growth forest and fields support ground-nesting birds and serve as hunting grounds for hawks and owls. Salt meadow grass, cord grass, seaside goldenrod, and sea lavender thrive in the salt marsh. Mud snails, green crabs, and ribbed mussels live in the tidal creeks and provide food for wading birds, such as egrets and great blue herons.

Glacial action from 12,000 years ago helped create the extensive salt marsh. Today, the ebb and flow of the Parker and Little rivers – freshwater streams with sources miles inland that become increasingly tidal as they approach the coast – are critical to keeping the marsh healthy. The tidal flows nourish the salt meadow twice a day. This tide-dependent environment is part of the 25,000-acre “Great Marsh,” New England’s largest, which stretches for more than 20 miles between Gloucester and southern New Hampshire.

Salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and support a great diversity of marine life; act as nurseries for shellfish and finfish; and attract wading birds including egrets, glossy ibis, and herons.

Trails
3 miles of trails. Moderate hiking, strenuous in places.

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.

Regulations & Advisories

No advisories at this time.

Directions

Newman Road
Newbury, MA 01951
Telephone: 978.356.4351
Email: cward@ttor.org

Latitude: 42.769
Longitude: -70.857

Get directions on Google Maps.

From Rt. 95 Exit 54, take Rt. 133 East for 4.5 mi. Turn left onto Rt. 1A North and follow for 4.8 mi. Shortly after passing over the Parker River, turn left onto Newman Rd. and follow for 0.5 mi. to parking (10 cars) on left. Look for trail heads along Newman Rd.

Admission

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.

Admission
FREE to all.

Property History

Native Americans called this site "Quascacunquen," meaning waterfall, referring to the falls on the Parker River. In 1634, Newbury's first Meeting House was built on the Lower Green at the base of the 168-foot "Great Hill" and, shortly thereafter, a sentry box was erected on the crest of the hill. At one point, approximately 12,000 cattle and 3,000 sheep grazed the area, many on cleared parts of the Great Hill.

Colonists were clearing and planting at Old Town Hill by the late 1630s – only several years after the Puritans landed at Boston. But indigenous people had seasonal settlements in this area for many centuries before the colonists arrived; some researchers believe there is a Native American burial ground on Old Town Hill, although its location is not known.

The 168-foot elevation of what the settlers called “Great Hill” gave the landscape strategic importance. The settlers cleared a route to the top where they constructed a shelter for sentries, who had commanding views of the surrounding area. For more than three centuries, Old Town Hill has been a landmark for mariners, guiding them along the Massachusetts coastline.

Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a gift, with endowment, of Mrs. George A. Bushee in 1952. Additional land given by Mrs. Bushee in 1960 and 1966; Prof. and Mrs. Elliott Perkins in 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1978; Mrs. Mary P. Barton and Dr. Storer P. Humphreys in 1978 and 1995 in honor of the Plumer, Humphreys, and Barton families; Susan Page Little in 1995 in memory of Justin, Silas, and Margaret Little; an anonymous donor in 2000, and Robert Barton in 2001.

Programs

Little River Quest
Use rhyming clues and a map to find a hidden treasure and story at Bird Park. Along the way, you'll have fun and learn to see (and read) clues about how this place has been used over time. At the end of the Quest, you'll find a hidden treasure box where you can sign your name and collect a copy of our Quest's stamp before leaving the box for the next visit. Download the Quest.

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 Old Town Hill management plan (part 1).
View Old Town Hill management plan (part 2).

 

 



The grasslands that The Trustees maintain on the hill support a large population of bobolinks, a field-nesting bird that is declining across New England as more and more fields are lost to development and returning forest. These open spaces also attract numerous butterflies of several species, which utilize the diversity of flowering plants supported by late-season mowing.

Maps and Resources

Printed trail maps are distributed free from the bulletin board in the parking area. Please understand that supplies periodically run out. We recommend that you download a trail map before you visit.



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 3greekkids on: April 11, 2010
Beautiful day there today (4/11)! We participated in the Quest. We made it to the "treasure box". When we opened it, a very angry Mama flying squirrel lept out and her 3 babies fell to the ground. My husband, being careful not to touch them, put them back in the birdhouse. We did watch the Mom return to move them, one by one, to another location. We just wanted to let someone know, and hope we did the right thing.



Submitted by Local on: February 27, 2010
The recent storm (Feb 25) has caused significant damage to the top of the hill. The final 100+ yards of the main trail to the summit is obliterated: massive trees are uprooted, snapped in half, and toss about like straws. The devestation is impressive. It appears that the other trails leading to the summit are accessible, though I did not climb them. Looking to the east, you can see what seemed to be a large break in one of the dunes mid-way along the reserve on Plum Island.



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Announcements & Alerts

Advisory: Authorized bow hunting is allowed on portions of this reservation. See Regulations and Advisories at left for more information.

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