A landscape that once supported Colonial-era farming has returned to a natural environment of forest, swamp, fields, and uplands, laced by nine miles of trails and old roads.
At Swift River Reservation, the East Branch of the Swift River—the largest tributary of the Quabbin Reservoir—links three unique, exploration-friendly tracts of land. Varied topography and flora support an abundance of wildlife, including deer, beaver, raccoon, porcupine, bear, bobcat, and coyote as well as numerous songbirds, owls, and birds of prey. With majestic old pine and hemlock lining its banks, Swift River is one of the most scenic trout streams in the Commonwealth and a favorite for sport fishermen.
Start your journey on the Nichewaug Tract, which includes extensive rocky ledges, a moist ravine, open fields, a beaver-dammed swamp, vernal pools, riverside habitat, and forest edges along woods roads. Get a glimpse of butterflies, birds, and dragonflies as you walk a grassy path through pasture brimming with seasonal wildflowers. At the forest edge, the path gives way to a woodland hike leading to a beautiful view of the surrounding valley.
At the Slab City Tract, you’ll find a series of open grass paths leading through cellar holes. At the woods line, separate trails abut Harvard Forest land and traverse the Swift River. A third trail takes you uphill from the reservation with views of granite outcroppings that were quarried for use in local structures—thus the name Slab City for the stones once gathered from here.
Free to all.
Please note that parking lots are infrequently plowed in the winter.
Nichewaug Tract: Nichewaug Road
Slab City Tract: Route 122
Davis Tract: Glen Valley Road
Petersham, MA 01366
Nichewaug Tract: From Rt. 2, take Exit 75, Rt. 32 South. Follow through Petersham Center. Go straight through the intersection of Rts. 122 and 32 onto South St. Follow for 0.9 mi. Turn right onto Nichewaug Rd. and proceed 0.6 mi. to entrance and parking (8 cars) on left.
Get directions to Nichewaug Tract on Google Maps.
Slab City Tract: From intersection of Rts. 122 and 32, take Rt. 122/32 South for 2 mi. to Connor’s Pond. Entrance and parking (6 cars) on right.
Get directions to Slab City Tract on Google Maps.
Davis Tract: From intersection of Rts. 122 and 32, take Rt. 122/32 South for 3.3 mi. Turn right onto Nichewaug Rd. in Barre (becomes Glen Valley Rd. in Petersham) and follow for 0.4 mi. to entrance/parking (8 cars) on right.
Get directions to Davis Tract on Google Maps.
We recommend that you take a photo of the map on your phone so you can refer to it during your visit, or download a trail map before you head out.
Not sure whether you can mountain bike or bring your dog? You can search our reservations based on these and many other criteria.
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Seeking, protecting, and caring for Massachusetts’ most special places
In the late 18th century, much of the reservation was cleared for farms that conducted small-scale agriculture, subsistence livestock grazing, and fuelwood collection. Later, when new local industries placed greater demand on the area’s natural resources, the forest was largely cut. In the early 20th century, the forest returned, only to be decimated by a major hurricane in 1938. Today most of the reservation’s white pine and mixed hardwood forest date to after this hurricane.
Ledge views of central Massachusetts
Porcupines are among the abundant wildlife at Swift River Reservation
Well-maintained trails, beautiful setting! We took amazing family photos there! Old rock walls, a river, so beautiful!
– Kristie Barry, Google Review
Woodlands & Parks
Petersham | Central MA
Follow miles of footpaths and old farm roads through a massive expanse of diverse...
Woodlands & Parks
Petersham | Central MA
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