The state has just published (March 2015) a new trails map for Myles Standish. A PDF version of the MSSF trails map is available at the states's website. If the map looks funny to you, it may be because it shows east facing the top of the map.
Myles Standish State Forest was listed first among 10 "family friendly" hiking locations in a Boston Globe Article.
There are dozens of miles of beautiful walking trails in Myles Standish State Forest. Four of the main loops are shown on the new Myles Standish State Forest Map:
The forest also has 15 miles of beautiful and challenging bike trails. (The trails are shown in brown on the new trails map.) Two main branches of trails start at the headquarters. The west side trail is about 5 miles long and runs up to Rocky Pond and is quite windy, hilly and challenging. Because of the hills and the root cracks along the trail, hybrid bikes or mountain bikes with low gears and shocks may be more comfortable than road racing bikes. Find the trail start near the forest amphitheatre behind the headquarters building.
The east side trails are easier and run all the way up to the park's east entrance and down to Charge and Fearing Pond campgrounds. The east side trails feature signposts directing riders to HQ (headquarters), P2 (parking lot 2 along Upper College Pond Road), and Charge and Fearing Ponds. To get to the start of the east side trails from headquarters, follow the signs from the parking lot down Fearing Pond Road for several hundred yards to the bike path start on the left. The east side network of trails offers a lot of choices. Headquarters is 6 miles from the park's East Entrance along the bike trails. Charge and Fearing Pond are about 4 miles away from headquarters.
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. Park maps and 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.(10/18-11/29 in 2014) Be sure to wear blaze orange if you go out during the fall season. Check the Division of Fish and Wildlife guide for a full list of hunting season dates. (DFW map of pheasant and quail areas in MSSF)
(See a larger size Friends trail GPS track.) We completely reset this trail in the spring of 2014. The trail is now about 3.3 miles (including about four tenths of a mile along the bike path each way from the parking lot at the park's East Entance from Plymouth's Long Pond Road) and offers a number of excellent views through the 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 this summer. The trail starts along the bike path and turns off into the woods less than half a mile 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. We hope to have wooden signs up soon at the major trail intersections.
Charge Pond Loop Trail
This five mile loop trail generally 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 and turning west on Sasemine Road. (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.
Work was done in 2014 by the Student Conservation Association to brush back the trail and to mark a portion with blazes. However, only about half of the trail was marked. The blue blazed portion starts with a turn south about a half mile west of Charge Pond Road along Sasemine Road (a dirt fire road) after it crosses the bike path and Haynes Road, another dirt fire road (which also carries a gas line through the park). The trail is pretty easy to follow. As can be seen, the trail passes close to the campgrounds at several points (there is a side trail leading to Charge Pond Campground C (the Equestrian area) and crosses a number of the fire roads. Until the rest of the trail is marked, it would be good to have a compass and a map with you, in case you miss a turn. In particular, watch out for when the trail crosses Haynes Road for the second time. The trail continuation is on the other side of Haynes a couple of hundred yards south of where you came out of the woods. Also, when the trail hits Stringer Road. There is a 200 yard jog to the east in the trail that is easy to miss on the map.
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 map is good to have along with you on any hike because it shows the main driveable roads through the park and the many dirt roads which are only accessible to fire and emergency vehicles.
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.
Hike Plymouth and Beyond! One of our members, Frank Werny, has written Hike Plymouth and Beyond!, a guide to hiking in the Plymouth area that includes color maps and photos and full info on more than 100 hikes in the Plymouth area including eleven separate hikes in Myles Standish State Forest. It is in its 4th edition by now and it is available on Amazon.com or directly from Frank at HikePlymouth.com.