Trails and a woods road wind through tranquil state forest.
WALKING TIME 1 HOUR
SIZE 228 ACRES
OWNER COMM. OF MASSACHUSETTS, TOWN OF NORTH ANDOVER
MILES OF TRAILS 1¾
Two trails begin at the end of Molly Towne Rd, and a 1½-mile loop is possible. The Woodchuck Trail starts at the end of the cul-de-sac as a wide woods road with stone walls on either side. The western face of Woodchuck Hill rises up steeply on your left, and blue paint markers denote the state forest boundary on your right.
Along the stone wall to your right, a primitive cellar hole can be found at a natural rock outcropping. Another cellar hole can be found just over the rise on the opposite side of the trail.
As you continue down the trail, watch for a trail on your right, the Muskrat Trail, with orange markers. This newer trail crosses a stream and connects to the Eagle Trail.
Turn left on the Eagle Trail to come to Sterling Lane, or turn right to complete the loop. Marked with green trail markers, the Eagle Trail winds along the forest’s western border, crossing a stream and exiting the forest back at Molly Towne Rd.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The forest here contains stands of pine, hickory, ash, oak, and the occasional cedar, usually along old stone wall boundaries.
Much of this area was part of the Carleton farm, with a homestead on Summer St. The Woodchuck Trail is an old road, appearing on the 1830 map of Andover, and referred to as “the road to Woodchuck Meadows” or “Moll Towne Rd” in some old documents. The lane ended at a pasture and the peat meadows of Boston Brook. Today it ends at a power line corridor.
Like much of Harold Parker State Forest, the Woodchuck Hill parcel was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1934 from dozens of pasture and woodlot owners under a provision authorizing the purchase of “waste” woodlands at a rate “not exceeding an average cost of five dollars per acre”.
The state forest once extended uninterrupted from Woodchuck Hill to Campbell Rd. In 1944, the state sold the land around Boston Brook for use as a cranberry bog.
More recently, three parcels were transferred to the town as part of Planned Residential Developments (PRDs). North Andover’s zoning bylaws include this special cluster zoning provision. Rather than distributing houses evenly throughout a subdivision, PRD houses are grouped close together. A sizable area of open space is left undeveloped and either transferred to the town or a land trust, or retained by a homeowner’s association. At Woodchuck Hill, this provision has been used to conserve 78 acres of ecologically important forest, hillsides and wetlands abutting the state forest.