Mt. Watatic to Wachusett Mtn. on the Midstate Trail

Mountains:  Mt. Watatic (1832'), Fisher Hill, Blueberry Hill, Mt. Hunger (1450')
Trail:  Midstate Trail
Region:  MA - Central North  
Location:  Ashburnham, MA
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summits, views, backpack, ledges, lakes, ponds
Distance:  Approximately 27.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2700 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 15:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  04/07/2000 (Friday) (3 days)  
Last Updated:  04/06/2008  
Author:  Art O'Leary
Companions:  Four scouts, three leaders

Route Summary   

This was a 3-day 27-mile backpack covering the Midstate Trail from Mount Watatic to the base of Mount Wachusett. The Midstate Trail is blazed with yellow triangles.

Day 1 - 8 miles:
  • On Friday, we set up camp at Camp Split Rock on Lake Winnekeag.
  • We did a night hike to Mount Watatic starting after sundown.
  • From the camp, we skirted the lake to pick up the Midstate Trail.
  • We followed the Midstate Trail north across Blueberry Hill and Fisher Hill and ultimately arrived at the summit of Mount Watatic.
  • We then retraced our steps back to Camp Split Rock.

Day 2 - 16.5 miles:
  • From Camp Split Rock, we hooked up with the Midstate Trail.
  • We headed south on the Midstate Trail and traversed Mount Hunger.
  • We eventually reached Muddy Pond and enjoyed lunch at Muddy Pond Shelter.
  • After lunch, we continued south and finally set up space blanket/tarp shelters in the woods just south of the Crow Hills climbing area.

Day 3 - 2.5 miles:
  • From our camping area we resumed our trek southbound on the Midstate Trail.
  • We soon reached the Wachusett Mountain ski area which was our end point.
 



  Map of hike route on the Midstate Trail from Mt. Watatic to Wachusett Mtn. (map by Webmaster) Trail Guide   

Four boys (ages 12-17) and three leaders from Troop 11 had a "wicked cool" hiking adventure the weekend of April 7-9, 2000 going about 27 miles from Mount Watatic to Wachusett Mountain. We camped over on Friday night at Camp Split Rock (NVC) and Saturday night at Crow Hills in the Leominster State forest. This also allowed the rest of the troop to have a "regular" campout at Split Rock.

This is a rather physically demanding hike (e.g. one leader dropped out Saturday morning). We opened it up to anyone who had completed the 2nd class hiking requirement and had a "good attitude". This was one of our "grand events" for the year. In planning our program, we did a 5-mile hike to a Wilderness Survival overnight at the local gun club in the fall, and hiked from Camp Split Rock to Mount Watatic and back (about 8 miles) in December during our Winter Fun Cabin weekend. These outings sorted out who liked hiking and who didn't.

Before going we acquired written permission (faxed) from the Tower company and phone permission from the Forest manager.

We also got a copy of the 1993 edition of the Midstate Trail Guide (NE Backpacker in Worcester). (This booklet has a lot of details, but a few things have changed over seven years.)

Basically, all you have to do is follow the yellow triangles ("Doritos"?). The route is well marked most of the way (except where you get lost). It's amazing how this trail goes deep in the woods - away from civilization - except at roads. This makes for easy planning of emergency pick-up/drop-out points. About 3/4 of this stretch is through heavy mountain laurel shrubs - it will be beautiful in June when all the flowers are out!

Friday we planned on a "Flashlight Hike" between Watatic and Split Rock after sundown. (One of the guys had a "Nightrider" bike light - it was like a train headlight - great for finding the yellow triangles). We lost the trail amidst the cart paths just north of Camp Winnekeag (across the lake from Split Rock) and ended up coming out in somebody's backyard "hog wallow" at 9 p.m. - complete with grunting pigs - p.u. - it wasn't all mud we walked through!

Saturday we went Southward about 16.5 miles. We lost the trail for a few minutes on the hill south of the Mount Hunger in a brush fire area. (burnt-up triangles??) and the gravel pit area just north of Route 2. Also, it looks like they moved the trail off the roads and into the woods near the Route 2 exit (about 50 yards south of Route 2, cuts through to just opposite Stone Hill Road). We set up space blanket/tarp Shelters in the woods just south of the Crow Hills climbing area.

Sunday we only had to go about 2.5 miles to the ski area parking lot for pickup.

Now, the above long-winded story might not sound like a big deal if you're part of a hiking club, but this was the furthest our guys ever walked. Usually, we're a "city kid" troop that backs the cars up to the campsite, chucks the gear out, and yippee! we're camping.

Art O'Leary
Scoutmaster Troop 11 (St. Leo's)
Leominster, MA

"Safety" points to help in planning a Midstate Trail hike   

  • If you're approaching the Crow Hills in Leominster State Forest (from North or South) DON'T do a flashlight hike on the Midstate Trail - you don't want to fall off the cliffs, stepping off into oblivion, after dark! This is where everybody rappels and rock climbs - in several places the trail is only about 10-15 feet from the edge. Instead take the other trail down to the foot of the cliff - they meet up on the other side.
  • The toughest constraint we had was drinking water - you sweat a lot. We all toted about a half-gallon each, mooched some off of friendly "natives", had some dropped off at supply points, and used iodine pills (NE Backpacker in Worcester) in brook water (tastes yucky and smells like something from chemistry class, but there's lots of beavers around these days - you don't want to get "beaver fever" - they say Kool-aid mix helps).
  • We stopped at the Muddy Pond shelter on Westminster Conservation Land for lunch - it's a small adirondack - primitive - made of logs - the wind was whistling through it - some broken glass around. You could probably squeeze six guys in if you had to. It's about half the size of the ones at Wanocksett.

Contact Info   

Crow Hills:
Leominster State Forest, Princeton Road, Westminster MA 978.874.2303.
Talk to Jeannie (the forest manager) - She said no problem as long as we followed "Leave no Trace" camping (i.e. no fires or trash... )

Mt. Watatic:
Industrial Communications and Electronics Inc., 40 Lone Street, Marshfield MA
781.319.1111 (Fax 781.837.4000)

We had planned this trip since last year. When the tower issue and posting came up on the SNE, I contacted the company and talked to Don Cody - he seemed like a "fair and square" guy - he had no problem with supervised scout groups on the trail - he said they were worried about soil erosion from ATV's and people wandering off the trails into cellar holes, etc. This worked into a little side lesson on citizenship - getting landowner permission before entering posted land (although we saw no signs up there), and obeying the rules even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

Camp Split Rock:
41 Stowell Road, Asburnham, MA 01430
Camp Phone: 978.827.5551
For camping reservations call the Council at: 978.534.3532

Nashua Valley Council BSA:
1980 Lunenburg Rd, Lancaster MA, 01523-0128
Phone: 978.534.3532 or 978.632.1670
FAax: 978.534.4618
Council E-mail Address: nvc@bicnet.net
 

Stay overnight in a tipi
Gift Certificates Available



 


MA - Central North

  Driving Directions   

To Camp Split Rock:
  • Take Rt. 12 North out of Fitchburg, MA to Ashburnham Center.
  • Take Rt. 101 North about 1 mile and then turn left onto Stowell Road.
  • The parking lot is just beyond the Dining Hall building.

To Waschusett Mountain ski parking area:
  • Follow Rt. 140 (accessible from Rt. 2 to the north; or I-190 to the south) to Westminster, MA.
  • Turn onto Mile Hill Road. Traveling northbound, the turn will be about 9 miles from I-190 on the left; traveling southbound it will be 2.2 miles south of the junction between Rt. 2 and Rt. 140 and will be a right-hand turn.
  • Follow Mile Hill Road for a mile and then turn right into the ski area.

To hike just Mount Watatic:
  • The trailhead and parking are located on Rt.119 in Ashburnham, MA, 4.9 miles west of Ashby center.
  • Look for a brown sign on the right which says "Midstate Trail". The trailhead is near the information board.
 
 
Midstate Trail logo (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee)

  About Midstate Trail   

Midstate Trail map (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee) The Midstate Trail is a 92-mile hiking trail traversing Massachusetts from Rhode Island to New Hampshire. It runs through Worcester County, 45 miles west of Boston. Although it is close to populated areas, it manages to wind through scenic and wild segments of the state, climbing gentle hills and mountains and encountering lakes, ponds, streams, meadows, and woods.

To the south, the trail connects with Rhode Island's North-South Trail which extends the hiking possibilities 75 miles all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. And to the north, it connects to the Wapack Trail in New Hampshire which covers an additional 21 miles and ends at North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield.

The Midstate Trail crosses the 2,006-foot peak of Wachusett Mountain which is the highest point on the route. On a clear day the Boston skyline is visible to the east, Mount Monadnock to the north, and the Berkshire Hills to the west.

Another notable peak is Mount Watatic which reaches 1,832 feet. This is the last undeveloped mountain in the state east of the Connecticut River. The peak provides views in all directions including Boston, central and western Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the mountains of southern New Hampshire. Both Watatic and Wachusett are great spots to watch hawk migrations.

Mount Hunger offers gorgeous 360-degree views of surrounding lakes, ponds, hills and ridges. And the Crow Hill ledges in Leominster State Park provide great outlooks to Crow Hill Pond and Crocker Pond just below. The ledges themselves are a popular climbing spot.

Other interesting features along the route include Hodges Village Dam, Moose Hill, Sampson's Pebble (an enormous glacial erratic), Barre Falls Dam, historic Redemption Rock, and Muddy Pond (an attractive, remote, and undeveloped glacial pond). Abundant stone walls scattered through the woods are a reminder that the land was used as farmland back in the 1800's.

Along the way you will explore many forests and reserves including Douglas State Forest, Four Chimneys Wildlife Management Area, Spencer State Forest, Moose Hill Wildlife Management Area, Buck Hill Reserve, Oakham State Forest, Rutland State Park, Savage Hill Wildlife Management Area, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, and Leominster State Forest.

The Midstate Trail is highly accessible and for the most part the hiking is easy with occasional steep and rugged sections. It is well blazed with yellow triangles. The route, as with any long-distance trail, follows roads for some (usually short) segments. The trail is also used for snowshoeing, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. Several primitive lean-to's and campsites are available along the route; however, camping is prohibited in most areas.

The trail is maintained and managed by the Midstate Trail Committee under the guidance of the Worcester chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. An annual end-to-end hike takes place over the summer with a patch awarded to those who complete the entire length. See the Midstate Trail's website for the hiking schedule or to purchase the latest version of the Midstate Trail Guidebook.

The southern terminus of the Midstate Trail is located on the Rhode Island border in Douglas, Massachusetts in Douglas State Forest. The northern end is on the New Hampshire border on the Ashburnham/Ashby, Massachusetts town line just north of the summit of Mount Watatic.
  Midstate Trail overview map (courtesy of Midstate Trail Committee)

Midstate Trail between Barre and Princeton (photo by Webmaster)

Stone wall along the Midstate Trail (photo by Webmaster)
 
  About Leominster State Forest   

Leominster State Forest consists of 4,300 acres of hilly, forested land. It is located in the towns of Westminster, Princeton, Leominster, Fitchburg and Sterling in North Central Massachusetts.

The forest offers recreational opportunities year round, ranging from hiking, mountain biking and swimming in the summer to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter. Nature lovers will enjoy the numerous hiking trails, the prolific mountain laurel blooms in late June to early July and the opportunity to observe wildlife.

Leominster State Forest has an extensive trail network covering a wide variety of terrain. There are three types of trails: those purely for hiking; multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing; and finally unpaved roads that may be used for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and snowmobiling.

The Midstate hiking trail, a 92-mile long-distance trail, passes through the western edge of the park. A popular day hike along the Midstate Trail begins at Redemption Rock on Route 140 in Princeton, and heads north over a scenic ridgeline which includes the Crow Hill Ledges with wonderful outlooks.

The Crow Hill Ledges are also popular with rock climbers. Permits are required (no fee) and are available at the park headquarters or at the contact station between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The terrain available to mountain bikers ranges from rolling unpaved fire roads to more technical, single track, multi-use trails. New England Mountain Bike Association has been an ardent supporter of the trail system at Leominster State Forest.

The swimming beach at Crow Hill Pond is located next to two beautiful picnic areas with picnic tables, grills, and a modern bathhouse. DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) lifeguards are on duty from mid-June until Labor Day. All other ponds in the park are off limits to swimming.

Kayakers, canoeists and fishing enthusiasts enjoy using Paradise Pond for their recreational pursuits. The numerous islands, inlets and coves provide great warm-water fishing and countless exploring opportunities. Paradise Pond is easily accessible off Route 31, where several put-ins are available.

Crow Hill Pond (swimming beach side) is stocked with trout several times a year by Mass Fisheries and Wildlife. Restricted hunting is also allowed in the park.

There is no camping at Leominster State Forest. State-operated campgrounds in the area include Willard Brook State Forest, Pearl Hill, Lake Dennison and Otter River State Forest.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, several types of interpretive programs are conducted by the park interpreter. These programs include hiking, visiting unique geologic and historical features in the park, vernal pool programs, and wildlife and birdwatching walks. Check the bulletin boards in the parking lots, local newspapers, or call the park for upcoming events.

A trail map of Leominster State Forest is available in PDF format.

Driving Directions:
  • Take exit 28 off of Rt. 2 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
  • Follow Rt. 31 South.
  • The park office will be on the right.
  • Parking is available along Route 31 in several areas.
  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day, parking fees are charged in the paved parking lots.

Leominster State Forest
90 Fitchburg Road, Route 31
Westminster, MA 01473
978.874.2303

More Midstate Trail Reports   

 
 

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