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January 24

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3 Awesome DayTrip Destinations for Dog Hiking in Nature

By Brian Burke

January 24, 2021


I'm excited to tell you about 3 daytrip destinations for dog hiking in nature, for those who are looking to add variety to their dog hiking and dog walking routine.  And you can get in touch with nature at the same time!

The featured image of this blog shows two pictures (the swan and the Lab mix) I shot within a mile of each other...on the same day.  Dog walking delivered me a goldmine of nature and adventure--what a combination in Stow, MA that day!

As a pro dog walker for several years in the towns of Sudbury, Stow and Bolton (among others in the metrowest), I have found these three towns to offer two major things when it comes to dogs and nature.

  • Their focus on dogs and dog recreation is amazing.  These towns put out awesome info (many links are included below) to keep people informed and the trails themselves are amazing and well-maintained for dog hiking and walking.
  • They are insanely focused on conservation.  You can't help but soak up the knowledge they provide to help preserve their natural resources, and you also leave wanting to learn more.  They make it easy for this.  They care and it shows.  Plenty of links provided below for you to learn.

"Three" Close for Comfort

The best part of these 3 daytrip destinations for dog hiking in nature?  Only one daytrip is needed to hit all three of these towns!  All three are connected--right next to one another in the heart of metrowest Boston...or you make multiple RETURN trips if you want to spend more time at any given property!


No matter where you live, pack a lunch, a camera and head to Bolton, Stow and Sudbury.  It's worth the trip.  You and your dog will blown off all six of your feet!

These DayTrip Destinations are Connected on a Map and Connected to Nature!

Video Above:  An owl looks down on my dogs and me as we hike the Bolton Lime Kiln and Quarry on Rt. 117, near the junction of Rt. 495.

Why Make the Trip? ...and Why These 3 DayTrip Destinations?

Bolton, Stow and Sudbury have many things in common.  Apple orchards, stonewalls, golf courses and of course...the aforementioned focus on conservation and dog-friendly hiking trails!

One logistical reason that I chose this trio of towns is that they are quickly accessible from Routes 495, 2 and 128/95, with exit 27 off of 495 being the quickest access to the western most property--The Lime Kiln and Quarry trailhead in Bolton is just a mile and a half east of 495, on Route 117.

But most importantly, this one area is super concentrated with historical sites, glacial artwork, and of course tons and tons of great dog hiking trails.

So take an adventure trip across these three towns that will amaze and inspire you.  You will feel great that you gave your dog an awesome experience and hopefully you'll be inspired by these towns' obsession with preserving our conservation lands.

WORTH THE TRIP! And another reason why I chose these 3 daytrip destinations for dog hiking in nature, is that there are quaint coffee shops, restaurants and even places to grab a gift or an apple pie at the farm stores and orchard gift shops--maybe even a cider donut (or two...)  I've listed some of these attractions for each town in its respective section. in this post.

Town #1: Bolton, MA

Visit the Lime Kiln and Quarry.  Jaw Dropping for dogs and humans alike!

You may see this property listed when you search the internet as: The Bob Horton Loop, Phillips / Rattlesnake Core Conservation Land, and/or the Lime Kiln and Quarry.

Basically, the entire property is typically referred to as Phillips / Rattlesnake.  The Lime Kiln and Quarry, Bob Horton Loop (as well as Harris Farm) all subsets of the overall core conservation land.

A perfect example of why Bolton nails it in terms of conservation, is that part of the trail system that you'll take to get the Lime Kiln and Quarry, it's the Bob Horton Interpretive Loop.  It is lined with subtle sign posts indicating the species of the flora and fauna that flank the trail. 


You see this evidence of conservation awareness at the very start of the overall trail system--you must be in Bolton!

Mass Dog Hikes daytrip destinations Bob Horton Trail

I usually enter the property on Route 117--the main trailhead for the Lime Kiln and Quarry...it's just west of Bolton Spring Farm, just before a brown fence, on the left.  

There is also an often less crowded trailhead on other side of the core property--the north side at the corner of Old Sugar Road and Sugar Road (a very "sweet" place, hee hee)...but a much much further of a hike to get to the Lime Kiln and Quarry from this trailhead.

Mass Dog Hikes daytrip destinations Lime Kiln Bolton

THE LIME KILN and QUARRY

Actually, it's Quarries (plural).  There are (were) 2.  The Lime Kiln is located in between them.

I am not going to profess to know a ton about limestone mining, but I'll tell you one thing:  The old quarries sure look cool!


Click here for the Bolton Trails Committee report that does a better job explaining about these awesome attractions than I can:

But basically, the quarries held valuable limestone, and the lime kiln (looks sort of like a dungeon), was used to heat the limestone to turn it into lime.

A Dungeon, or should I say "Lime Kiln"

APPLICABLE TO DOG OWNERS: You can actually enter the lime kiln with your dog and literally feel like you're in a dungeon.  GREAT PHOTO OPP!  I have included a picture of Pepper sanding atop it, and Sophie running in front of it.

If you stay right after you enter the trail from the Route 117 trailhead, you'll end up at the Lime Kiln.  There are signs, but not super clearly marked.  But basically, stay right when you can.

Mass Dog Hikes daytrip destinations Bolton

Ridges and Caves

Mass Dog Hikes daytrip destinations

if you stay left, and then  cross a cool footbridge, you can basically stay straight ascend the hill.  It's a decently steep walk.  I typically continue on that ridge and head down by curving left at the top.

You go around a really sharp corner, and after that, be looking on your left.  Set back is a really cool "cave", often with water inside of it.  It's pictured above.

It's really cool when water drips from the top and "plops" on the pool of water at the base of the cave, making that echo sound of water dropping.

FREE ONLINE INFO GUIDE FOR SUDBURY

 DOG HIKING:

HISTORY AND BEAUTY...TAKE A DAY TRIP!!!

GET MORE DETAILS THAN ARE LISTED IN THIS BLOG....IT'S OUR ACTUAL EXPANDED ONLINE INFO GUIDE...CHECK IT OUT FOR FREE!


This online info guide details THE BEST dog hiking destination I've found as a pro dog walker--What a great day trip! 


  • Discover The Chimney ChaseThe Glacier RideNature's Classroom, and secret picnic spots at this hiking goldmine with your dog, family and friends!
  • Learn how to avoid the crowds and find the best parking spots for hassle-free access, and more.
  • Bolton Conservation, Recreation & Dog Links:

    BOLTON CONSERVATION INFO:

    Bolton Conservation Commission

    Rattlesnake Core Conservation Area info

    Bolton Conservation Trust


    DOG SPECIFIC INFO: 

    Off-Leash is permitted (during "normal" non-COVID times), with verbal control.  Read more about it in these links.


    MAP:

     There are a ton of maps online.  I've found this one to be one of the better ones.


    SOME ATTRACTIONS:

    Bolton Spring Farm is just a few seconds past the Route 117 trailhead.  Grab some apple cider or a gift!

    Bolton Bean coffee shop. Just west of 495, on the left, from exit 27.

    Slater's.  A unique barbeque restaurant, on the right on 117, if you're heading to the trailhead after getting of 495.


    Town #2: Stow, MA

    Apple Orchards, Stonewalls and Footbridges over Brooks!

    Quick note:  The property I highlight below, is not the Heath Hen on Burroughs Road in Boxboro.  This property is between Boxboro Road and West Acton Road in Stow.

    CONSERVATION NATION!  Stow, like the other two towns in this piece, has an amazing concern for conservation on its properties--and they do a great job of educating the public about it as well.


    Definitely check out some of their nature education links below.  You'll see that they (in "normal" non-COVID times) have nature scavenger hunts--sometimes to spot invasive vegetation in order to quell it, they set up animal cams in the woods to let you see wildlife on the prowl, and so much more!


    Wildlife and Plant Info

    Wildlife Sightings

    Family Nature Ramble

    I have divided Heath Hen into two sections, "The Bridge to the Orchard" and "Stonewall Alley".  These are separated by a field.

    Please know:  The names that I personally refer to them as...are not anything the town of Stow uses!

    Stonewall Alley:

    I gave it this name because of the abundance of stonewalls in this one concentrated area.  

    Of course, the entire New England landscape is peppered with stonewalls.  But this particular section of Heath Hen seem to have a bunch of them in one concentrated area.

    The most dense area of stonewalls is found closer to the more formal trailhead on West Acton Road (there are two on West Acton Rd).  The one closer to the stonewalls has a utility garage located in (the lot Flagg Hill Lot at 226 W. Acton Rd). I mainly use this trailhead to enter the property when I'm on the east side. 

    Along the stonewalls here, are much wider trails--fire/logging roads, and if you walk north, you'll be in Acton soon.

    SIGHT LINES


    REGARDING DOGS and wide / straight trails:  I love this area, because there is a very long straight away, which provides more open areas to see other dogs who might be coming towards you.


    What appeals to me about this smaller and more hidden entrance, is that there is a mini pine grove that I love sitting in or stopping at when the sun lights it up.  It's also a great picnic spot (shown in the picture directly above).

    But the trail getting to this little pine grove, right off the trailhead, is very narrow and can get overgrown in the summer...although Stow does an awesome job maintaining its trails, this part is simply narrow and thick with brush.

    I believe this tiny trailhead is an easement to the house next to it, and only has enough room for about two cars--max.  You will probably drive right by it, so look for a red house directly across the street.  


    It's about a few hundred yards heading north on West Acton Road, after the Shelburne Farms orchard (trailhead is on the left, red house is on the right).

    This area is close to the field that links you to other side of the property (the Boxboro Road side), via the lime green trail markers.

    But if you stay straight, the trail leads you to the "Stonewall Alley".  This path is narrower and can get super muddy when it's wet out--until you start to ascend the hill.

    BUG OUT!!!

    MOSQUITO ALERT:  And this is not an official declaration...just one from an experienced dog walker who traveled this path a lot:  This muddy and wet part of the property is probably the worst, or second worst, area for mosquitos that I've ever experienced in Stow.  So bring mosquito protection!

    Bridge to the Orchard:

    Parking for THIS SIDE OF Heath Hen Meadow Brook Conservation Area is located north of 143 Boxboro Rd. along the edge of the road by the sign.  I'd estimate that there is room for about 6 cars or so. 

    About 150 feet or so in from this trailhead, there is a short, but really cool boardwalk over a wet area before the stream.  Then, the footbridge over the stream is a place to stop and just listen and look!  So peaceful. Featured i in the video above.

    It leads you to the network of trails--starting with the blue trail, more stream views, stonewalls, a large pond and the apple orchard, cool!

    CONSERVATION ALERT: If you take a left after the footbridge, you will flank the pond as you walk.  There are a couple of small foot trails down to the pond's edge.  It's great to use these instead of walking over other areas of ground cover where you may be disturbing habitat and sensitive vegetation.


    In fact, the town of Stow wants you to know that this pond (Flagg Hill Pond) is private property.  So look, but don't touch!

    As a crow flies, and via the purple markers, you'll reach the field that brings you across the the West Acton Road side of the property.

    Not far from the pond, on the purple trail, there is a "tree on a rock".  I often see vegetation growing atop rocks, but not usually 100 year old huge trees! (Pictured below)

    PLEASE BE CAREFUL: There is a fence that borders the orchard.  It blends into the landscape and sometimes you can't even notice it.  Your dog (or you) might walk/run right into it.  In fact, in some spots, it is in the middle of the woods, not necessarily right on the border of the orchard, and it is much more inconspicuous at these points.

    Stow Conservation, Recreation & Dog Links:

    STOW CONSERVATION INFO:

    Make sure you also check out the "Conservation Nation" highlight green box above for crazy great info on Stow's focus on Conservation.

    Stow Conservation Lands and Trails

    Stow Conservation Land Regulations

    DOG SPECIFIC INFO: 

    Off-Leash is NOT permitted at Heath Hen, even during "normal" non-COVID times

    Local Newspaper article on "forest overrun with dogs"

    MAP:

    Very good Map of Heath Hen

    SOME ATTRACTIONS:

    Emma's Cafe - a quaint and "boutique" restaurant with great sandwiches, drinks and coffee.  Rt. 117 Stow. In the Shaw's Plaza.  A couple miles from Heath Hen.

    Stow House of Pizza - Also on 117.  Not just a typical house of pizza.  Super quality ingredients.

    Honey Pot Hill and Shelburne Farm Orchards.  Shelburne literally borders Heath Hen.  Honey pot is a couple miles away, heading south on route 62.

    Town #3: Sudbury, MA

    Haynes Meadow has quite the history, and remnants that prove it!  Signs of a once-thriving lumber mill, an old aadam and foundations of a former lodge, as well as amazing glacial formations, tell tales of a time gone by.  

    All while you enjoy time with your dog in the current setting of brooks, footbridges, pine groves, ridges amongst an abundance of nature!

    Haynes Meadow Conservation Land is property of the town of Sudbury.  It falls under the umbrella of the Sudbury Conservation Commission

    Sudbury Conservation, Recreation & Dog Links:

    SUDBURY CONSERVATION INFO:

    Since I mention Haynes Meadow being rich in history throughout these guides, here is the Sudbury Historical Commission's website, in case you want to explore the amazing history of the entire town while you're here!

    This link to the history and formation of Haynes Meadow Conservation Land, offered by the town of Sudbury is amazing.  

    The town of Sudbury's web page on Haynes.  It provides an overview, trail details and AMAZING facts about the history, geology and natural resources of Haynes--better than I can provide in this post!

    CONSERVATION ABOUND: The town's awesome web on conservation topics, from respecting the area's incredible natural resources to learning how to get involved in protection them!

    Here are two links from the town on rules:

    OVERALL COVID UPDATES FOR SUDBURY, NOT JUST LIMITED TO DOG INFO

    Sudbury Conservation Land Use Policies and Regulations

    DOG SPECIFIC INFO: 

    Off-Leash is permitted at Haynes Meadow, during "normal" non-COVID times. Haynes Meadow allows dogs to be off leash if they are under the owner's voice control.

    PLEASE KNOW THAT PROPERTIES THAT TYPICALLY ALLOW OFF-LEASH DOGS HAVE MOST LIKELY CHANGED THEIR RULES, AND NOW REQUIRE LEASHES, DUE TO COVID.

    PLEASE FIND THE MOST UP TO DATE INFO FOR SUDBURY USING THIS LINK.  Thanks to the town of Sudbury for being "on it".

    MAP: 

    NEW TO SUBURY? Here are some other spots to check out if you make a daytrip here:

    SOME ATTRACTIONS:

    Whole Foods, Oak Barrel Tavern and other shops are on Route 20. If you take Dutton or Peakham south about a mile, you'll hit Route 20.  Take a left, drive for a mile or less (depending on which road you take), and you'll be in a commercial area with these shops.

    Burke's Dog Grooming (couldn't resist the shameless plug...) is on Route 20, just over the Marlborough line.  If you head east on Route 20, you'll see in on the left, at the beginning of a row of white shops.  

    Historic Sudbury Center, mentioned above, has monuments, a quaint park and historic buildings

    And of course, the creme de la creme...The Wayside Inn property at the bottom of Dutton Rd.  This is a whole topic on its own.  Historic Martha Mary Chapel, a Grist Mill, the Inn and Restaurant itself, open fields and more.  Please "google" this and plan half a day there someday!


    TERRAIN:  On the side of the property closest to Blueberry Lane and Peakham Road, there is ridge (described below).  Leading up to it (and down it), it can get a bit steep and definitely has roots and rocks that dot the trail, so be careful.

    PARKING:  One place to park is off of Blueberry Hill Lane, which is off of Peakham Road (near the intersection Peakham, Old Horseshoe Rd and Pratt's Mill Rd).  I rarely see more than one or two cars here.  

    LEARN ABOUT ANOTHER PROPERTY WHEN YOU PARK!  Another choice for parking is the lot for Gray Reservation.  This Sudbury Valley Trustees network of trails is adjacent to Haynes, so you get to see another property on the way in to Haynes!  It's located at the top of Old Lancaster Rd, where it meets Hudson Rd.  

    And there is yet another access and parking area.  This one is off of Peakham Rd, near the intersection with Old Lancaster Rd.  The address is 489 Peakham.  This lot is small. It's on a dirt road that leads to a house--a quite historical house by the way.

    The town of Sudbury would like us to please keep off of the building's property--the town asks that you not go beyond the parking lot.

    HERE'S THE SECTION I CALL THE "CHIMNEY CHASE":

    Well, you know...every trail has a random chimney and fireplace standing alone near a secret picnic spot in a pine grove and a former dam from a century ago, right?  So it's no big whoop.  Ummm, yes it is!!!

    DOG-RELATED HEAD'S UP!  Take care not to let your dog (like my Lab would) go down along either side of the larger footbridge (above) that crosses Hop Brook and into the rushing water!  In the 1800's, the brook was used to power a lumber mill...so it's got some kick to it!


    And I refer to it as a "chase", because the chimney and pond area is a destination--for a picnic, but also because you cross a few footbridges to get there.  I don't know..."chase" just sounded good--not that footbridges are directly related to chases.  Ok, enough out of me!

    A smaller footbridge then spans a much smaller area of water a little beyond this larger bridge.  It is very peaceful.  

    AND THEN, YOU'VE ARRIVED:

    VIDEO ABOVE: The workers at the lumber mill used to gather the lodge in this awesome part of Haynes, and sit by the fire after they went skating on the little pond next to it.  (Thanks Town of Sudbury for this information!)

    Picnic and Zen with Your Dog.  You've arrived at the "secret chimney in the woods", my favorite picnic spot, and my "Lazyboy in the woods" (a stone which acts as the perfect seat to observe all of this from--right next to the little pond!)

    These are next to yet another footbridge crossing an old dam from days gone by with a great story to it...In fact this whole spot has great history and stories.  Be sure to check out the town links above to learn more at the use of Haynes Meadow dating back to over a century ago.

    I CALL THIS SECTION THE "GLACIER RIDE":

    I know, I know, glaciers formed a lot more than just Haynes Meadow.  But all that matters for you and your dog right now is, that you'll be hiking with your dog along a ridge on this section of the conservation land that highlights the glaciers' amazing artwork.

    After enjoying sweeping views high atop this ridge formed by the glaciers, you approach the kettle holes and vernal pools along what I refer to as a "natural roller coaster" of dips and curves. 

    You can most quickly access one end of this ridge by parking at the Blueberrry Hill Lane trailhead, explained above.

    Click to visit the site for: The Glacial Features Walk--All you need to know to explore and learn about how these properties were "born"!  This is an interactive, multi-stop experience that covers many properties, including Haynes and Gray.


    Thank You to Bruce Porter and the Sudbury Valley Trustees for this amazing resource to learn about how the glaciers architected the trails that we enjoy with our dogs!

    FREE ONLINE INFO GUIDE FOR SUDBURY

     DOG HIKING:

    HISTORY AND BEAUTY...TAKE A DAY TRIP!!!

    GET MORE DETAILS THAN ARE LISTED IN THIS BLOG....IT'S OUR ACTUAL EXPANDED ONLINE INFO GUIDE...CHECK IT OUT FOR FREE!


    • Discover The Chimney ChaseThe Glacier RideNature's Classroom, and secret picnic spots at this hiking goldmine with your dog, family and friends!
    • Learn how to avoid the crowds and find the best parking spots for hassle-free access, and more.

    Please contact Brian at massdoghikes@gmail.com with any issues when signing in.

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