Travelnitch Hikes: Massachusetts
Rock House Reservation
The Rock Story
Every trail has a story to tell. Some are more interesting than others and Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield is certainly among those. This open-air cave and its surrounding beauty combines natural wonder with centuries of human history.
Its’ story began at a time when icy glaciers moved ever so slowly across the New England landscape. The remnants left behind are nothing short of miraculous. These boulders, some rising taller than the nearby Trail house, are scattered haphazardly around Carter Pond as if fallen from the sky during a hail storm.
The largest collection of boulders, aptly named Rock House, is so large it provided the perfect protection for Native Americans during harsh New England winters. In the early 20th century, it even became a tourist hot spot for travelers on the “Copper Line” trolley.
This small piece of history, situated in Central Massachusetts, is now managed by the Trustees—our nation’s first and Massachusetts’ largest preservation and conservation nonprofit. This growing network of members, friends and donors is “committed to preserving the Commonwealth’s landscapes and keeping open space open for everyone, forever.” I for one, am grateful.
All Trails rates this as an easy hike, and rightfully so. We enjoyed every minute with our 7 and 10 year old girls leading the way around Pond Trail and parts of the Outer Loop. Thankfully this is a dog-friendly destination, so our mini Aussie was also thrilled to be along for the adventure.
There are several trails to explore, none stretching more than a mile. We were having so much fun we lingered for several hours. Everything is well-marked so families need not worry about getting lost in the woods.
On that note , I should probably fess up — I’m not a wilderness expert. I’d likely suffer a slow, agonizing death if I had to find my way out of a deep, dark forest or forage for food. Fortunately, it’s a day hike so no one was going hungry. However, I still wish to mention for those who enjoy identifying vegetation, this forest is ripe with opportunity. I have never seen so many varieties of wild mushrooms and berries!
A New Discovery Around Every Corner
Thanks to the Trustees, every inch of the trail was well maintained, with an abundance of wildlife lurking around every corner. Frogs and snakes littered the shores of the pond and, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of the beaver himself, his handiwork was on display for all to see and enjoy.
Our girls were able to scale most of the rocks, making it far more entertaining than your typical walking trail. As a parent, it’s always a win when my kids can exert energy running, jumping, and climbing their way around nature’s playground.
Rock House Reservation is probably the most family-friendly hike I’ve experienced. If you’re looking for a stepping-stone to get your kids excited about the great outdoors, this is where it’s at. Don’t forget your camera!