Discover hiking, bird watching and beauty in Princeton, Mass.
Princeton is the home of Mount Wachusett, offering fantastic views of Boston to the east, the Berkshires to the west and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire to the north. Drive the auto road or hike the steep, rocky trails to the summit (elevation 2,006 feet). There are 20 miles of trails in all, including 3.9 miles of the Midstate Trail which runs from Ashburnham to the Rhode Island border. In fall, Wachusett is one of the best hawk-watching spots in the state. In winter, the mountain also offers downhill and cross-country skiing.
Just to the southwest you'll find a hidden jewel that's easier for hiking and is itself well worth the trip from MetroWest.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary offers bucolic scenery along its 12 miles of trails on more than 1,200 acres. Step back in time inside the shingled barns that house sheep and tour the 1786 Crocker house. There's also a nature center and an 80-acre beaver pond where you might spot beavers, mink, river otters, wood ducks and great blue herons. Stop and sit on a bench and watch the frogs in the small pond along the way to the top of Brown Hill (elevation 1,300 feet). Wachusett Meadow is most colorful in fall, but the heat of late summer means you'll have many of the trails to yourself.
The Princeton Common offers a picture-postcard scene with the historic Goodnow Memorial Building housing the Princeton Public Library, built in 1882 of Milford granite with sandstone trim; Bagg Hall, built in 1884 which houses the town offices; as well as the First Congregational Church. Some of the private homes on the common were once stores or hotels offering cool breezes for summer vacationers fleeing the heat of the city.
DISTANCE: 42 miles (from Framingham Center)
DIRECTIONS: Rte. 495 north to Rte. 290 west. Take Rte. 140 north past scenic Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston, which is also a nice fishing spot. Continue on Rte. 140 into Sterling, and take a left onto Rte. 62. Follow Rte. 62 to Princeton Center.
WHAT TO DO:
Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
113 Goodnow Road, Princeton
Easy hiking, bird watching, canoeing, nature center, sheep, adult and children's programs
Admission: $4 adults, $3 children, free for Mass Audubon members
Sept. 26: Hey Day/Farm Day join farm demonstrations, exhibits and hands-on activities for all ages including cider pressing, hand-hewn beam making, pumpkin carving, nail driving contest, crosscut saw demonstrations and more.
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation
Mountain Road, Princeton
More challenging hiking, bird watching, fishing
Note: On weekends and holidays, it costs $2 per car to drive to the summit on the auto road
WHAT TO TAKE: Hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, bug spray
WHERE TO EAT:
Mountainside Market, 23 Hubbardston Road, Princeton
Soups, salads, sandwiches, baked goods and convenience items in a homey, welcoming atmosphere. Sit on the leather couch by the fireplace and enjoy a cup of coffee.
The Mountain Barn, 174 Worcester Road, Princeton
Post-and-beam dining room decorated in warm woods, antiques and old photos from Princeton's past. Menu offerings include prime rib, sandwiches, fish and chips, salads and pasta dishes at reasonable prices.