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. Unfortunately, only a few are shown on the Myles Standish State Forest Map. The best marked trails include:
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.
Bentley Loop- 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 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)
Friends' Trail With help from the DCR, members of our group set out the Friends' Hiking trail in 2008, which starts from the State Forest's East Entrance parking lot along Alden Road (off Long Pond Road in Plymouth). After sections of the surrounding forest were cleared by the state as part of a fuel reduction and preventive burning program in 2011 and 2012, some of the trees with trail markers were removed.
We completely reset the 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) 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. (See a larger size Friends trail GPS track.)
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.