All the News from the Salem Inn and In Salem

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Salem Woods- Another Hidden Gem

If you find yourself longing for some significant green space and think you need to travel out of Salem to find it, I'm going to let you in on a secret: the Salem Woods.

The Salem Woods are not easy to find unless you know they are there- they are quite well-hidden. They consist of a considerable tract of land (248 acres) and include several different ecosystems.  The woods are home to red-wing blackbirds, turtles, geese, ducks, swans, beavers, frogs, and river otter, among other critters.

The 2.8 mile trail takes about an hour to hike.  This looped trail will take you past birch groves, apple trees left from an old orchard, up and down rocky hills.  The trail is fringed with beautiful golden grass and, at the apex of the loop, the view opens to the gorgeous marsh known as Thompson's Meadow, where you can overlook acres of unspoiled wetlands and hear the unmistakable call of red-wing blackbirds.  My kids and I lay on our bellies one sunny spring day and peered over the cliff into the very clear water below, where we counted hundreds of turtles either swimming or sunning themselves, just as we were.  It's also not unusual to find a cache of turtle eggs dug up and the shells left behind after someone had their dinner.

I have hiked the Salem Woods for years in all seasons, during the day, by moonlight, and it is always changing.  The trails shift, the woods burn, different flowers are showing themselves off.  There are creeks, marshes, fields of fern.  If you are visiting and need a quiet break from the busier pace of downtown, or are a local who would like a respite, visit Salem Woods with some sturdy walking shoes.

Directions from the Salem Inn: when you exit the West House, go right on Summer Street.  Take a left at the first set of lights and proceed down the ramp.   Go left at the bottom of the ramp onto Bridge Street and then continue until the end of the street.  Take a left onto Boston Street and continue until the end.  Take a right onto Essex Street, which will turn into Highland Avenue.  At the third light after this (you will pass Collins Middle School and North Shore Medical Center) turn left onto Willson Street. Proceed 0.25 mile past Salem High School and the Nathaniel Bowditch School to Olde Salem Green Municipal Golf Course on the right. The trail begins at the far end of the parking lot.  If the golf course parking lot is closed or you fear you may be there past sunset (when they shut the parking lot gate), park at the High School.  Walk to the road that exits the high school campus to your left and there is a trail that leads away from the road and up along the football field.  Proceed past the field, down a wooded hill and you will be deposited by the trailhead.

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