Getting to the Forest
From the Carver side(Routes 58 and 495), people come into the park via Cranberry Road (follow the signs taking Route 58 north from Route 495 Exit 2 (Carver) for 2.3 miles. Route 58 turns left but you continue straight on Federal Furnace Road /Tremont Road and then turn right onto Cranberry Road after another 3/4 mile. Follow Cranberry Road for 2 miles to the forest headquarters.
From the Plymouth side (coming from Boston or the Cape on Route 3), the headquarters are a six mile drive from the park's East Entrance off Long Pond Road in Plymouth. (Follow Alden into the park for a mile. Bear right on Lower College Pond Road and follow past College Pond and a string of very pretty ponds all the the way down to headquarters.)
There is also another entrance from Summer Street in downtown Plymouth. Find a left onto Billington Street a little west from the John Carver Inn. Billington Street passes under Route 3 and then becomes Watercourse Road (at the MSSF map's edge) before becoming Rocky Pond Road at the forest boundary and then becoming Bare Hill Road right after Rocky Pond and eventually runs into Lower College Pond Road, which takes you to headquarters. It sounds complicated but it's really just one road all the way in from Summer Street.
In June 2016, a beautiful new Myles Standish State Forest map became available (free) at headquarters.
Five great hiking trails are shown on the new Myles Standish State Forest Map:
The 15 miles of newly repaired and patched paved bike trails in the forest are also clearly shown. Major repairs were completed in 2015 on the west side trails and in 2016 on the east side trails.
It is a lot to take in in one map. Myles Standish State Forest is larger than many Massachusetts towns but it is criss-crossed by a grid forest roads which make figuring out where you are fairly easy. The state's old map (shown) clearly showed the grid of main driveable roads through the park and the many dirt roads (accessible only to fire emergency vehicles) running north-south and east-west. All of the intersections are now marked with red street signs, meaning that when you find one of these paved or dirt roads, you will soon be able to figure out where you are. Wooden signs at intersections throughout the park direct you to main locations, including headquarters, the Plymouth exit, the campgrounds at Charge Pond, Fearing Pond, Curlew Pond or Barrett Pond, the Boy Scout camps Squanto and Cachalot, etc.
Here are a couple of scans of map sections to show you some of the detail.
Headquarters and East Head Reservoir areaAll campers have to visit forest headquarters to register. The park's interpretive center is located here. (Check the DCR event listings.) There are restroom facilities, open for much of the year.
The East Head Reservoir Loop trail is shown (marked with green hearts on the map). Two main branches of the bike trails start at headquarters.
The Barrett Pond campground is less than a mile from headquarters.
The equestrian trails parking lot (P3) is just north of the Barrett Pond campground. It is reached down a semi-driveable dirt section of Halfway Pond Road from Lower College Pond Road. (It is open to all park users.)
Headquarters and East Head Reservoir area inset
East EntranceThe park's East Entrance from Long Pond Road in Plymouth is where most Plymouth residents would enter the park. There is a parking area (shown as P4 on the map) at the entrance. The Friends Loop and one branch of the bike paths start across the street from the parking area at the entrance.
College Pond is shown. College Pond has a day use swimming beach area open in the summer. Parking costs $8 for Mass residents. (All other parking lots in the forest are free.)
The northern section of the Pine Barrens Path is shown. It starts from the Friends Loop. All the roads it crosses (Liggett, Priscilla, Three Cornered Pond, Halfway Pond are dirt fire roads closed to autos).
The Bentley Loop trail is shown. (center left, just below College Pond) This trail is very well marked and signed. Start at the parking lot off Upper College Pond Road (P2).
Charge Pond, Fearing Pond, Camp Squanto and Camp CachalotCharge Pond (lower left) is the largest campground area in the park. About half of the "Charge Pond Loop" is shown. It circles the 7 camping areas at Charge Pond.
Fearing Pond (just above Charge Pond) is shown.
The two boy scout camps, Camp Squanto and Camp Cachalot are shown on the lower right. (Although the camps are outside the border of the park, the camps are only reachable by car through the park.) Camp Cachalot is open for hiking and other passive recreation because it sold a Wildlife Conservation Easement (WCE) to the Commonwealth in 1998 for $1 million. The camp remains private property but the public has the right to enjoy "passive" recreational access. (More info about Wildlife conservation easements in the area: Mass Wildlife Land Viewer shows various properties with conservation easements around Myles Standish State Forest. Mass Wildlife Land Maps Camp Squanto has not sold an easement and is only visitable by permission.
The southern portion of the Pine Barrens Path is shown. It crosses the "Cutter Fields", passes over that road and by New Grassy Pond (worth a short side trip) before heading west towards Fearing Pond. Before it quite reaches Fearing Pond, it then finishes with a short jog south to its end on Sasemine Road (an undriveable dirt fire road road that is close to Charge Pond Road and parking lot #P5.)
MSSF Bike Trails
Two main branches of trails start at the forest headquarters:
Myles Standish State Forest has 15 miles of beautiful bike trails. While many bicyclists have been enjoying the newly repaved roads in the park, families will want to enjoy the bike paths, which stay away from auto trafficked roads. (Copies of the map are available at headquarters and at the Interpretive Center.)
East Head Reservoir Trail
The 2.5 mile Healthy Heart Trail circling East Head Reservoir is an ideal introduction to the area. Shown by the little hearts on the zoom of the DCR park map, the East Head Reservoir trail hugs the shoreline of the East Head Reservoir for most of its length. In the springtime, the loop traverses a forest "teeming with pink lady's slippers and ringing with the oft-repeated call of common yellowthroats" . The trailhead is located near the forest headquarters. Park in the lot on Cranberry Road at the headquarters.
A self-guided nature trail flyer are available online or at the park headquarters.
For more adventurous hikers, the 3.7 mile "Bentley Loop" is highly recommended. It starts from the State Forest's Hiking and Bike Trail parking lot off Upper College Pond Road. (Shown as parking lot #2 on the state maps.) It has been maintained for the last 30 years by one of our founding board members, Bob Bentley, together with help from his friends and from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
The trail is shown on the state map (get the Myles Standish State Forest map online or at the headquarters) but we think our own map (shown here) is much clearer. We remarked the trail in April 2012 with painted blue blazes and many wooden signposts (and left a few older plastic blue triangle blazes). It passes some lovely ponds and meadows and offers more hills than the East Head trail. Download the Bentley Loop Trail Map (PDF)
Hikers are reminded that Myles Standish State Forest is popular with hunters and that the area of the Bentley Loop is one of two in the forest stocked with game three times a week during the fall pheasant and quail seasons. It is a Wildlife Management Area stocked by MassWildlife. Be sure to wear blaze orange clothing if you go out during the fall hunting season. Check the Division of Fish and Wildlife website for a full list of hunting season dates. (DFW map of pheasant and quail areas in MSSF) New regulations are being proposed by MassWildlife in February 2018 that will require all non-hunting dogs to be on leash in the area and will also require non-hunting dog owners to clean up after their animals.
(See a larger size Friends trail GPS track.) We completely reset this trail in the spring of 2014. The loop itself is about 2.5 miles but starting from the East Entrance, the walk is about 3.3 miles if you include about four tenths of a mile along the bike path each way from the parking lot). The trail offers a number of excellent sections of majestic tall pines. The trail is typically hilly (a glacial moraine runs through the area) but would not be considered difficult by most standards. The trail was marked with blue painted blazes in 2014. The trail starts along the bike path and turns off into the woods about .4 miles from the bike path start at the park's East Entrance. Follow the blue blazes. A little half mile side loop is marked with purple blazes. Wooden signs are up at the major trail intersections.
Charge Pond Loop Trail
This five mile loop trail circles the campgrounds near Charge Pond. It has previously been known as the Neverending Trail.
Easiest trail access is provided by the parking lot along Charge Pond Road (which is kept closed for most of the non-camping season.) Find the trail by taking a short walk north from the parking lot on the bike path and turning west (left) on Sasemine Road, the first dirt road you will come to. (The parking lot also provides easy access to the Myles Standish State Forest bike trails.) The rest of the year the trail can be reached via a half mile walk down Charge Pond Road from its closed gate to Sasemine Road. The trail runs east and west along Sasemine. The trail blazes are easier to find if you head west on Sasemine.
Pine Barrens PathThis eight mile trail runs up the eastern side of the forest. Much of the trail passes through classic pine barrens. It also passes through some tall white pine forests and some areas that were logged in 2015 because of the red pine scale (close to Priscilla Road). The entire eight miles of the trail from its northern end along the Friends Trail to its southern end at Sasemine Road (off Charge Pond Road) was blazed with blue painted trail markings in 2016 and wooden trail signs were placed along the trail.
Typically, we walk the trail from south to north after leaving a car at the park's Long Pond Road entrance parking lot. Then, driving south along Upper College Pond Road towards Charge Pond, we park at the parking lot along Charge Pond Road. Starting from the bike trail parking lot, we walk a short distance north along Charge Pond Road, and we head east on the dirt Sasemine Road until we find the Pine Barrens Path trail head. (Note: the campground road is closed at the gate from Fearing Pond Road after camping season. Park at the gate and walk in along the road.)
Several miles can be cut from the trail by parking in the fourth parking lot along Cuttersfield Road (easiest way to get there is to follow the signs to Camp Squanto- the trail head is in the fourth parking lot along Cuttersfield Road, the first after the big curve). From Cuttersfield Road, the trail heads north through the wide open fields (the Cutter fields) for about two-thirds of a mile until it hits Webster Springs Road. Then it heads west (left) along Webster Springs Road for about one half of a mile, until it makes a right turn at the trail sign into the forest and heads north.
16 additional trail signs were produced by the DCR in 2016 to make locating the trail heads easier and installation along the Pine Barrens Path is complete. A connection from the Friends Trail is evident on the new map and the entrance has been marked with a sign.
Other trails are a bit more challenging to follow for first time visitors. Myles Standish State Forest is large but it is criss-crossed by many forest roads which make figuring out where you are fairly easy. The state's old map (shown) clearly showed the grid of main driveable roads through the park and the many dirt roads accessible to fire emergency vehicles running north-south and east-west. All of the intersections are now marked with red street signs, meaning that when you find one of these paved or dirt roads, you will soon be able to figure out where you are.
Plymouth Wishbone Walking Trail- A local scout set out the Plymouth Wishbone Walking Trail in 2007. This 15 mile trail runs from the State Forest headquarters in Carver all the way to Ellisville Harbor State Park in Plymouth. The first 5 miles or so are within the park boundary and then the trail heads through the Halfway Pond Conservation Area, passes the state fishing pier on Long Pond, runs through other conservation land owned by Wildlands Trust (the Emery Preserve) and the Six Ponds East Preserve and the last few miles are on little traveled dirt roads heading to end up on the beautiful beaches at Ellisville. The trail is marked with 20 wooden signposts with metal plaques attached. (Note: these signposts are not regularly spaced-- just at trail intersections. )
Great 8 hike- A longer 8 mile hike in Myles Standish State Forest was also highlighted in the Globe's list of the"15 Great Hikes in the Boston Area." It also starts at Forest Headquarters. It takes you past a beautiful cranberry bog into some of the less traveled areas of the forest and passes lovely ponds along Lower College Pond Road. At about 8 miles, this hike is relatively long--allow about 3 hours for the loop. (One group did it in two hours. Another took 3 hours.) The terrain is mostly flat, but the forest's fire roads can be sandy and wear you out faster than usual. We did the Great 8 hike in April 2011 and the reviews were enthusiastic. (This trail is not marked but is not difficult to follow because it follows marked unpaved roads and a section of the bike trail. Here is a full trail description.)
For those of you who want to join us on a group hike, you can find our event listings online at Meetup.com. We invite you to try one of our "First Sunday Hikes", one of the weekly "Get the Dogs Out!" walks for people with friendly dogs (those without are welcome too) or one of our many other Meetups.
One of our members, Frank Werny, has written "Hike Myles Standish State Forest", a guide to hiking more than 30 trails in Myles Standish State Forest. Color maps and photos and trail descriptions are included. We also offer it for sale at some Friends events. (Please let us know if you are looking for a copy.)
Frank has also written "Hike Plymouth" , which includes color maps and photos and full info on more than 100 hikes in the Plymouth area including eleven of the hikes hikes in Myles Standish State Forest. It is in its 4th edition by now and Hike Plymouth is available on Amazon.com or directly from Frank at HikePlymouth.com.