On a recent cold, blustery, but sunny day I decided to check out Ward Reservation. I have heard of this Trustees property but hadn’t taken the drive up to Andover before to check it out. At 704 acres Ward has many trails ranging from 1 mile to 3 miles, with other trails linked throughout to make many different loops possible.
As a history buff I was curious about this property, as it has signs of past and current use including cleared areas and the usual stone walls crisscrossing throughout. According to the Friends of North Andover Trails website, Holt Hill (420 ft) is the highest point in Essex County. Nicholas Holt was an early settler, and his family used the land for farming many generations. In 1917 Charles Ward purchased the land, and then in 1940 his widow, Mable, donated the property to the Trustees. (https://www.fonat.org/ward).
When planning this hike, I have been trying to decide between sunny and very cold, or cloudy and not quite as cold. I decided on sunny and brisk, and after layering up for the single digit wind chills I headed out. First thing I noticed was the icy trails, the second thing I noticed – I forgot my micro spikes. While this limited my hiking a bit, I was able to get a good taste of this property.
I headed up to Holt Hill via the Yellow Trail. The trail shares a paved access road with the Red Trail for a bit, then heads into the woods. Here I had some protection from the wind and was treated to a bright sunshine filled trail. After a short, steep climb I was on the top of Holt Hill with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, including the Blue Hills.
View of Boston skyline
On the summit of the hill is a grouping of stones assembled by the Wards forming a solstice circle. There is also a fire tower that is closed to the public.
I was able to enjoy the amazing view from the top for a while before the wind drove me back into the woods. I wandered down the Blue Trail for a while but turned back as the wind seemed to be a bit worse on this side of the hill. Crossing back over Holt Hill, I wandered down Rachel’s Path and down the Yellow Trail to the Red Trail. The Red Trail on this end follows a private road and runs along some fields affording some nice views.
Once again, I back tracked, and this time headed toward the Yellow Bog Trail. On my way I passed a very active Blue Bird community. Bluebirds have rebounded nicely thanks to conservation efforts, and it was nice to see some overwintering. These pretty birds add a nice splash of color to the otherwise drab winter woods.
After taking some pictures of the birds, I headed down the Yellow Trail and enjoyed a rest on one of the benches overlooking a pond. It was a very nice spot to rest up and listen to the birds and enjoy the sun. From there I continued down the Yellow Trail but stopped when I saw how icy the boardwalk was. Climbing the steps back up to the Red Trail I headed back to the parking lot.
While I only scratched the surface of what the Ward Reservation has to offer, it was a pleasant, relaxing 2 mile walk and I will be returning to further explore this property.
Ward Reservation is located on 65 Prospect Road in Andover and a trail map and directions can be found on the Trustees website. The Reservation is in a residential area, so please be aware of and respect the property boundaries, park only in the Trustees parking lot.
Nearby along Rt. 114 are places to stop for a bite to eat after a day of hiking. If you are looking for some longer miles, the Bay Circuit Trail crosses the Reservation on its way to the Harold Parker State Forest.