On a recent day off I decided to explore Noanet Woodlands in Dover, MA. The day was overcast and cool, but sometimes you just need to get out into the woods! This particular property is a favorite as it is easy to get to but large enough to feel like a true hike in the woods. The varied terrain gives you options – a climb up a peak with a great view, maybe a gently rolling walk on old woods roads to the mill ponds, or both as I decided to do.
“Noanet” was the likely name of a leader of a group of Indigenous Peoples probably affiliated with the Nipmuc and Wampanoag, who camped on this land, fished the Charles River, and hunted along Noanet Brook Stone walls run throughout the woodlands and trail included wide former roads and cart paths. Signage near the ponds discuss the role that the Dover Union Iron company played in the area.
Dover Union Iron company history.
My hike started in the parking lot located off Powissett Road in Dover. This is a fee-based property with the pay station in between the upper and lower parking areas. There were a surprising number of cars for a cool, midweek day. After checking out the trail map kiosk I was on my way.
There are many loops and options here with a well-marked trail system. The blue Peabody Loop leads into the woodlands and connects to the other trails. There are other unmarked trails that crisscross the area, but the color-coded blazes are easy to spot. I turned left where the trail branches off into the loop to make my way up to Noanet Peak via the orange Larrabee and yellow Noanet Peak Trails.
Shortly after the Peabody trail passes the orange Larabee Trail, I came across the first pond of the day – Sawmill Pond. It was very peaceful here, with a thin layer of ice reminding me that winter is indeed on its way.
Not far from this pond I turned left onto the other end of the Larabee Trail to connect to the Noanet Peak Trail ascend to the peak. The trail passes through a stone wall during the short but steady climb to the top of the peak.
Due to the overcast day, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to see at the top, however I was rewarded with a crisp view of the Boston skyline, as well a pretty view of the sun trying hard to break through the clouds.
View from the top.
View of Boston
After the summit I headed down the Noanet Peak Trail towards the mill ponds, passing an interesting cellar hole on the way. The cellar hole is easily seen from the trail and is a reminder of the history and varied use of the property.
View of the former cellar hole.
Shortly after this I rejoined the Peabody Trail and was treated to the sight of the old dam and Upper and Lower Mill Ponds. The Mill Ponds are beautiful and are able to be visited by staying on the 2.6-mile Peabody Loop if you wish to by-pass the Noanet Peak. The ponds include Sawmill Pond, Third Iron Pond, and Upper and Lower Mill Pond, and are connected by Noanet Brook. There are non-colored-coded trails that go around the ponds. Use the map from the Trustees website and follow the numbered markers at the intersections to explore!
There is a nice picnic table and bench where the Peabody Trail crosses the dam, a great place to rest and enjoy the view. Just over the dam, I took a short detour on the red Caryl Loop Trail to get to the bottom of the old mill dam. On my way I passed an interesting glacial erratic/table rock, and a very tall pine tree.
Glacial erratic/table rock.
Very tall tree.
Leaving the Caryl Loop Trail at intersection 29, I followed a brook for a short distance until I was rewarded with the sight of a beautiful waterfall tumbling from the old dam.
Waterfall from the old dam.
After a short scramble I was back up on the Peabody Trail which I followed back to the parking area. Along the way I startled a Great Blue Heron, the only wildlife I saw this trip. All in all, a very enjoyable couple of hours in the woods.
While in the area, the Trustees also has a property called Powisset Farm, where you can stop by the farm stand (in season) and hike the trails around the fields.