Date Of Visit: June 25, 2017
Location: 305 Middleton St., No. Andover, MA (about 30 minutes north of Boston and about 1 hour southeast of Concord, NH)
Cost: There are several parking stations to pay per the hour or you can park at the headquarters which is what I did. There wasn’t a charge to park at the headquarters the day I visited. The charge to park at Berry Pond is $5 for MA vehicles; $6 for non-MA vehicles
Hours: trails are open sunrise to sunset. Berry Pond Beach is open 10am-6pm from June 25- Sept 5.
Parking: There are several parking lots throughout the automated pay stations.
Trail Size/Difficulty: 35 miles of logging roads and trails/easy with some challenging inclines
Handicapped Accessible: Yes, the main paves trail is and Berry Pond has several handicapped parking spaces right near the beach.
Dog Friendly: Yes
Highlights: wildlife, beach, lakes, extensive trail system, campground area, rock climbing
Website: Harold Parker State Forest
Trail Map: Harold Parker State Forest Trail Map
One of the more vast state forests I have visited to date, Harold Parker State Forest boasts over 35 miles of trails and roads, a beach (Berry Pond), several ponds and lakes and a variety of wildlife. I spent over 6 hours there and, while I did cover a lot of ground, there was surely some a lot I didn’t see. Tip of the day: if you do go, bring a trail map!
The trails at Harold Parker are generally easy with some moderate inclines. Due to the various streams and wetlands, there are also several boardwalk trails.
Harold Parker is a popular spot for cyclists. According to the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) the single track riding rates at Harold Parker State Forest are: 30% easy, 30% moderate, and 40% difficult with some rocky sections.
It is a little difficult finding the exact entrance to Harold Parker (I found 3 different addresses but I included the address of the headquarters at the top of this post). It’s not a bad thing, though, because you can park in any of the various parking areas. Just to make sure to pay at the pay station when you do park. You can also drive to each different parking area as the main road is paved and fairly wide enough for traffic, cyclists and hikers to share the road.
I began my day at Stearns Pond, one of the many ponds in the area. Fishing is allowed and I met a friendly fisherman who goes there regularly to cast his lines. They also allow non-motorized boating in the ponds. There is an annual fishing festival held in September at the state forest.
Stearns Pond is only one of the many ponds, rivers and streams at Harold Parker State Forest. In fact, it’s hard to keep track of which pond or river you are at, even with the aid of a map. But, there were some amazing views from the various bodies of water.
Unexpectedly, I came across this huge rock. I bet there’s a good story about this rock. I couldn’t find anything about in my research, though. It’s one big rock, though! Right!?
One of the highlights of Harold Parker is Berry Pond which is essentially a beach area and playground for children and families. It was a perfect beach day and the beach was packed. But, with photographic trickery I was able to photograph the beach without showing the sun bathers and swimmers. After all, not everyone wants to be seen in their Speedo.
Walking along the SKUG Reservation Trail, I came across the site of an old quarry and soapstone mill, the Jenkins Mill. There’s not much now to indicate it was once a quarry. If not for the marking on the map and a few rocks dispersed around the area, I would not have known it was once there. It’s kind of a shame that something that meant so much to so many people and was once such an important part of the area is now little more than a blip on the screen.
There are lots of birds, chipmunks, frogs and other critters visible along the trail and in the water at Harold Parker.
Harold Parker State Forest is a dog friendly park. However, I didn’t see as many dogs as I thought I would. I did manage to see these three cuties, though!
Suzie is a 7 month old English Setter. She is hearing impaired. So, she can hear some sounds. Her dad uses signals to help him communicate with her.
Bella (or “Bell”) is a 9 year old Beagle and Lab mix.
Herbie is a 1 year old Pit mix.
Below is a video of one of the brooks that runs through Harold Parker State Forest. Enjoy!
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