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  Cross-country biking in the Willowdale forest
Cross-country biking in the Willowdale forest

What to Bring

Helmet   Bike/Lycra shorts
Bike gloves   First aid kit
Windbreaker   Repair kit
Water   Snacks


From Boston, take Route 128 North
Take exit 20A for Route 1A North
Continue straight on Route 1A until you
reach Wenham
When you see Wenham's white church
straight ahead, prepare to turn left on Arbor road; the intersection is right after the
Arbor becomes Highland Street
Continue straight at intersection with
Asbury Grove
Continue for 1 mile until you see Bradley
Palmer's unpaved parking on the left (smal
"Parking" sign). If you reach the large sign
for Bradley Palmer with a gate barring a
side road, you have gone too far – the
parking in about 100 yards before that
  Good to know in advance
Bradley Palmer map online at:

Willowdale map online at:

Paper maps also available at the Visitor
Center in Bradley Palmer (small box in
hangar to the right of main building)
Restrooms near the park headquarters on
the north side of Bradley Palmer
Willowdale State Forest: Bradley Palmer
State Park, Asbury St., Topsfield, MA
01983, 978-887-5931
Stay on trails at all times
Do not skid - skidding increases trail erosion
When passing pedestrians, slow down and announce your presence
When encountering horses, slow down or
walk your bike
Bring back your trash

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 3/5
  Time from Boston: 1 hour
  Duration: Half day


  Main activity:


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Located in Topsfield, about an hour northeast of Boston, Willowdale State Forest is one of the best places for mountain biking around Boston. This ride offers easy, fast and well-maintained trails rolling through an exceptional scenery.

The ride starts in nearby Bradley Palmer State Park, with its meadows and open spaces – a great destination in itself for walking or just relaxing in the sun. From Bradley Palmer, you will cross the Ipswich river on a narrow bridge to reach the towering pines of Willowdale State Forest. Despite its attractiveness, Willowdale is far from crowded – even on summer weekends you are unlikely to share the trails with more than a few fellow bikers.

This ride is made of good unpaved roads and single-track trails, with little technical difficulty. The few challenging sections are short, rocky descents that can easily be taken at low speed, and the occasional tree trunk across the trail. Most intersections are marked with numbers also identified on the map, making navigation relatively easy – though as usual in this environment it can be easy to miss a trail or an intersection.

Depending on your speed and number of stops, the ride will take you between 2 and 3 hours. Note that Bradley Palmer State Park has several nice areas for relaxing near the north and south ends of the park, so that this ride can be extended into a full day outing, with a picnic before or after hitting the trails. There are numerous trails beyond those mentioned here, and you could spend an entire day exploring the place.

If you want to further explore this area, check our walking in Bradley Palmer destination and if you have kids, our Bradley Palmer for families page

Riding directions:
To make your ride easier, download the maps (see "Good to Know" section) and mark your itinerary on them using the directions below, before hitting the trail.
From the parking lot, take the single-track trail to reach the main paved road across Bradley Palmer and turn left
Turn right through the wading pool entrance and continue on the paved road
Bear right on the parking lot and continue straight on the trail across the meadow ahead
Continue on the trail past several intersections
About a mile after leaving the pavement, in a large left curve, look for a trail branching right under the tree with intersection #5
Continue down this trail and take the footbridge over the Ipswich River
Cross Topsfield Road and continue ahead on the trail entering Willowdale State Forest
At intersection #22, take right , then left at #21 on the large unpaved trail
Continue right on the large trail at #20
When reaching #18, prepare to turn right at #13 (just a few yards after #18)
Continue on the trail until a fork where you bear left to immediately reach a paved road that you follow on the left
Ride past the Private Property sign (that applies to the houses on the right on the road) and continue down for about half a mile
When the trail flattens, look out for a trail branching left just before two concrete blocks half buried in the undergrowth; turn left on that trail
At the next intersection (#2 on the map but unmarked on the field), take right; the trail narrows to become a single track
When reaching #24, take right, then left at #25 and left again at #26
Continue left at #27 and be on the lookout for a large trunk barring the trail just after a sharp left curve
Take right at intersection #28
At the next major intersection (#8 sign visible on the right), take left and continue straight through #47 and #48
At a large intersection, follow the wooden sign for Bradley Palmer on the right
A final fork where you take left brings you to #22 and Ipswich Road, that you will cross again
Continue straight past the bridge over the Ipswich River to re-enter Bradley Palmer State Park
When you reach the open fields again, take right and ride down the large trail. At the far end of the meadow, you reenter the woods on a paved road (closed to traffic)
In a right curve, continue straight on a narrow trail at intersection #44, then turn right to reach the main park access road (ride safely, as this road is open to traffic)
Take left on the road, towards the gravel parking lot, and left again; ride past the closed gate for about 1 mile to go back to your car.
Paddling Biking Mountaineering