Land Trust Hiking Locations in The Last Green Valley

Land Trust Hiking Locations in The Last Green Valley

Here in The Last Green Valley we are blessed with many different types of outdoor recreation. We certainly do not lack in trails to hike, bike and run, and we can thank the numerous land trusts active in the National Heritage Corridor for many miles of trails and some of the most unique locations. Recently, I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with two land trust properties and explore two others for the first time.

Two of Wyndham Land Trust’s properties have welcomed me in the past. Yet, I had never visited two nearby Opacum Land Trust properties. Wyndham and  Opacum both work to conserve land in the northern part of the corridor. I plan to visit and write about other land trust hiking locations in the central and southern sections of the corridor in the future.

Both the Wyndham and Opacum land trusts manage exceptional wildlife preserves that are open to the public and usually less crowded than our larger state parks. They are perfect for a quick getaway in the great outdoors.

Wyndham Land Trust – Bull Hill Project in Thompson and Woodstock

The Bull Hill Project has been getting publicity in the region, especially among those involved with land conservation. What started in 2016 as an initial effort to conserve 254 acres at the top of Bull Hill is now more than 1,000 acres of protected land. The crowning glory of this property is literally the top of Bull Hill with its majestic vista of Thompson and Woodstock.

I hiked up Bull Hill last week on a perfect day for viewing the horizon. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was what some folks call a “bluebird day.” If you park at the end of Bull Hill Road in Woodstock, it is a short 20-minute walk to the summit up old logging roads to the top.

When I want to go to a publicly accessible vista in The Last Green Valley I usually head over to Old Furnace State Park for the view from the top of Half Hill or to Pachaug State Forest for the view from top of Mount Misery. While both are spectacular vistas they are limited and only face in one direction – east. The Bull Hill vista offers an almost a 360-degree view of the horizon.

The Bull Hill Project is more than a vista. It is also one of the more successful land conservation projects underway in The Last Green Valley thanks to the valiant efforts of the Wyndham Land Trust.

Here is a link to the Wyndham Land Trust website with more information as well as directions to the Bull Hill Project.

Wyndham Land Trust – The Linda J. Rapoport Memorial Preserve & Paul and Avis Spalding Preserve in Woodstock

It was during a Walktober hike a few years ago that I first hiked the Rapoport and Spalding preserve. The hike includes a discontinued town road and forest trail with views of deep woods and a beaver pond. There is also a trail up through a pretty hillside farm field. There are two parking areas for accessing the preserve in Woodstock, either at Pulpit Rock Road or Calkins Road (a discontinued road just off Joy Road).

The two preserves encompass 144.2 acres and include four distinct properties donated to the Wyndham Land Trust between 2008 and 2012.

Here is a link to the Wyndham Land Trust website with more information about this special property:

Opacum Land Trust – Claire Birtz Wildlife Sanctuary – Southbridge

I must have driven past the sign for the Claire Birtz Wildlife Sanctuary on Rt. 169 in Southbridge, MA, just over the town state line from Woodstock, hundreds of times. This week my wife Julie and I turned in to the parking area to check it out. We were surprised to discover there are two parking locations for this Opacum Land Trust property, and the one we were at on Route 169 is specifically for launching canoes or kayaks on Morse Pond. We didn’t have our kayaks with us, so I grabbed the trail map from the kiosk, located the other parking area on the map, and drove just under a mile north on Rt. 169 to Tipton Rock Road and the trail head.

Julie has grown accustomed to these last minute explorations with Ranger Bill and was happy to come along. She is quick to notice unique natural features along the trail and just as “two heads are better than one” for making decisions, “four eyes are better than two” when it comes to exploring woods trails. She pointed out woodpecker holes in standing dead trees, spotted the large beaver lodge right away in Morse Pond, and an interesting moss formation on a meandering stone wall. What we both discovered is a most enjoyable woods walk through various habitats, a beautiful trail with views of the pond, wood ducks, Canada geese and red-winged blackbirds.

The folks at Opacum Land Trust have worked hard to create three well-marked trails that can be done in one or two nice loops of just over a mile in length. The combination of habitats creates a sense of peace and solace of being in beautiful forested land with pond views.

Here is a link to the Opacum Land Trust website with additional information on this special property.

Opacum Land Trust – Thompson Family Forever Wild Preserve

A second Opacum Land Trust property that I have driven past many times is the Thompson Family Forever Wild Preserve on Route 198 in Southbridge. I stopped there this week and discovered a peaceful one-mile loop trail through mature forests with views of deep woods, two ponds and varied topography. The trail map is excellent, and, like the Claire Birtz Wildlife Preserve, the trails are very well marked.

I was on a scouting mission to discover what the property and trails were like, so I moved pretty quickly, took some pictures, made a few notes, and pretty much covered the loop trail in about 20 minutes. I want to return when I have more time to take in the beauty of the property, to sit for a spell in the mature forest, look for birds and aquatic waterfowl in the ponds and spend quality time in nature.

Here is a link to the Opacum Land Trust website with additional information on this special property:

We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. There are countless locations where we can get out and experience nature with more than 500 miles of trails waiting for our us to go wandering. I hope you’ll join me as we experience again and again what makes living here so very special. Together let us care for, enjoy, and pass on this special place we call home.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at





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