Willowdale Dog Walking Trail

Willowdale State Forest | Hiking and Biking

Willowdale State Park has a network of dog walking trails , mountain biking, walking and hiking. We are starting our dog walk here at one of the Greenbelt Properties known as Willowdale Mill Reservation in the Town of Hamilton but this land is interconnected to Willowdale State Park and Bradley Palmer State Park.  It is also designated an Essex National Heritage Area.

 As far as Willowdale Mill Reservation, enjoy unique terrain, habitat and special features while exploring three different trails, passing through mature forests.  These trails directly link to a larger trail system of Bradley Palmer State Park.

Look for Greenbelt’s fish ladder that allows passage of migrating fish around the Willowdale Dam, which once powered a former woolen mill. The Southern Trail passes through mature hardwood forests and the Riverside Trail follows the banks of the river upstream and also leads you off property into the Bradley Palmer State Forest. The Willowdale Mill Reservation protects 1,500 feet along the Ipswich River. The woods are dominated by cedar, hemlock, hardwoods and white pine allowing for fine broad paths carpeted in layers of pine needles for walking or horseback riding.

The river is a great place to see red-breasted merganser and snapping turtles, or try your luck fishing for trout. Deer and other woodland mammals are common, as are owls in the dark woodlands.

Willowdale State Forest is across the street from Willowdale Mill on Topsfield Road there are 40 miles of trails, which include a section of the Bay Circuit Trail, and you can see people walk run, hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, and in winter cross-country ski.  These is also hood pond with is 100 acres and offers opportunities for canoeing and fishing.

Bradley Palmer State Park.  It is directly connect to the Greenbelt land but I’m going to drive around and show you two different access points.  I really love the stone and iron gates it incorporates 736 acres on the Ipswich River in the towns of Hamilton and Topsfield, Massachusetts.

The state park was once the estate of noted attorney Bradley Palmer was a prominent U.S. attorney and businessman. He was involved with the creation and development of multiple corporations, including the United Fruit Company, Gillette Safety Razor Corp., and International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation. He was also part of the American delegation at the Paris Peace Conference following the First World War. He was born in Pennsylvania but settled in the area and went to Philips Exeter and Harvard. This guy never married, which explains his donation of the property.  He had an active social life and he belonged to Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, which is known for its golf course and it’s equestrian. Periodically it holds steeple-chasing events, polo matches, horse shows and fox hunts. Bradley Palmer hosted some of these events on his estate and he passed away in 1946.

 In addition to an extensive system of multi-use trails, the park features Palmer’s restored Willowdale Mansion. The mansion is now home to Willowdale Estate, a premier event venue.

If you want to get out an enjoy the outdoor you will find meadows where blueberries can be picked, white pine and hemlock, rhododendron and mountain laurel thickets.

To jump into the water in a kayak or canoe the best place to go is off Topsfield Road but know there is a dam right at the fish ladder as I mentioned before.  You would have to pull out and put the boat in below the fall.  The fly fisherman as seen worked his way down the river as seen.    

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