Ascend to where a massive granite monolith juts into the sky, then pass a swamp where another huge boulder has sat as a silent witness for millennia.
The Big and Little Rocks are dramatic examples of giant boulders plucked from bedrock and carried far away by the last glacier. As the glaciers scoured this landscape, the mass of bedrock forming the hill proved more resistant than the surrounding soil, forcing the bottom of the glacier up and over the hill. The north side was smoothed and the south side left steep and rugged as the glacier broke off chunks of rock as it passed.
Make your acquaintance with these geologic marvels by ascending the property’s 1.5-mile loop trail up Beaverdam Hill. The moderate hike leads to an inimitable sight: Little Rock, a giant granite monolith silhouetted against the clouds. A short distance away, in a small shrub swamp past the other boulders, perched on the edge of this glaciated upland, rests 30-foot-tall Big Rock. Nobody knows how far below the ground it is buried.
After long periods of rain, take extra caution: when the water table is high, the area surrounding Big Rock can be flooded.
When to Visit
Open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1 hour.
FREE to all.
Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 01944
From Rt. 128 (exit 15), take School St. north for 0.5 mi. Entrance and roadside parking (10 cars) on right.
Free trail map distributed from bulletin board in the parking area. Please understand that supplies periodically run out.
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.
February 24, 2022
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In 1874, the Essex Institute originally named the site to honor Louis Agassiz (1807–1873), the professor of natural history at Harvard University who first theorized that the rocks that dot New England’s landscape were shaped and deposited by glaciers, and not Noah’s Ark (as believed at the time). Despite this important scientific contribution, The Trustees renamed the property “The Monoliths” in 2022 because of Agassiz’s racist teachings involving polygenism–the belief that non-white races were inherently inferior and less intelligent.
Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a gift, with endowment, of Arthur W. Stevens in 1957 and 1958. Additional land purchased in 1960, 1961, and 1963. Additional land given by Doris E. Peabody and Mrs. John B. Warner in memory of William A. Stone and Charles H. Stone in 1964; Barbara Babin, Edwin F., Rowland E., and Dorothea Butler in 1965 in memory of Nelson A. Butler; Samuel Knight & Sons Co. in 1966; the heirs of Eva Rand in 1967; and Douglas DeAngelis in 2001.
Beautiful easy hike for those who are ready to get out of their car or away from being a tourist in Boston.
– KarenHawkinson, Trip Advisor Review
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