Walking, Hiking, Biking, and Driving on Cape Ann
Cape Ann is a seacoast community, but both the coast and inland areas offer quiet places to explore. Here are a few recommended trails to try and roads to ramble on. Hiking, walking and biking are a popular pastime for residents and visitors, and Cape Ann offers tranquility and scenery that makes it special. If you want to bike and didn't bring one, look in our "Find Attractions" section for a local bike shop.
Gloucester — Dogtown Commons
The name itself should arouse your curiosity enough to try this one. Dogtown Commons represents one of the few deserted villages in New England. Settled in the early eighteenth century, it was abandoned by 1830, leaving only dogs to roam the area. Today, it is comprised of 3,000 acres of undeveloped land, which is mostly owned by the City of Gloucester and is used as a watershed for Babson and Goose Cove reservoirs. Three walks are available to the public, each offering their own unique sites. The first walk in the Dogtown area begins on Dogtown Road and proceeds to Wharf Road, Commons Road and through Adams Pines. The distance is approximately three miles, taking about one to two hours. Birds, animals, geological formations, and cellar holes and wells of the early settlers can be seen. Whales Jaw is another walk in the area to be enjoyed. It begins at Blackburn Industrial Park, follows a route to Babson Reservoir to Dogtown Square, and continues along Wharf Road and Commons Road, ending in Whales Jaw. The distance is four and a half miles, taking between three and four hours. Visible here is the most impressive of Dogtown's granite boulders, which is 191 feet above sea level. Also in the Dogtown area is the Briar Swamp walk which begins at the end of Summit Avenue in Rockport and proceeds through Rockport Town Forest, around Briar Swamp to Whales Jaw, and returns by Squam Road and Poole's Hill. The distance is two and a half miles, taking three hours. The ruins of a 1900s home, which belonged to one of Rockport's prominent citizens, can be found in the underbrush; and twenty-foot high granite boulders form Raccoon Ledge, which once provided a safe home for raccoons.
How To Get There
From Route 128 in Gloucester, drive to the Grant Circle Rotary. There are two rotaries on Route 128. One is Blackburn Circle, which leads you to Blackburn Industrial Park and a school, which is not what you want. The Grant Circle has a view of the marsh and businesses (Friendly's Restaurant) adjacent to it and the large Welcome to Gloucester sign. Watch the signs and take the exit toward Lanesville, Route 127, then take an immediate right onto Poplar Street. Drive a short distance, then turn left onto Cherry Street, up a steep winding hill to a flat area, then continue about 1 mile and watch for signs on the right, and turn right up a hill to the Dogtown Road parking area.
Ravenswood Park, located on Western Avenue, is comprised of 270 acres and is owned by the Trustees of Reservations. A mature, mixed woodland, with wide main trails makes Ravenswood Park a good place for family walking, jogging and, in winter, cross-country skiing.
Stage Fort Park, located off Stacey Boulevard, is owned by the City of Gloucester and has a land area of forty-five acres. It was here that the first settlers landed in 1623. The visitor can enjoy swimming at the two public beaches, picnicking with a view of the harbor and children will love the playground.
Halibut Point Reservation is made up of 12.25 acres of rocky coastline, with panoramic views stretching all the way to southern Maine. As you walk around, you will find the remnants of what was once a quarry-small drill holes in the ledges and an enormous rock pile of waste granite. The one-mile walk will take about an hour. Allow more time, though, because there is no better place for a picnic, bird watching and relaxing on the rocks.
The 31-acre Cox Reservation is located on Rte. 133 and offers trails to the salt marshes and Essex River. Along the paths, you will find an extensive collection of flowers. Open from sunrise to sunset, there are views of Crane Reservation in Ipswich and the open ocean.
Stavros Reservation on Island Road off Rte. 133 is comprised of 74 acres overlooking Essex and Ipswich marshes with views to Crane Beach. This is a perfect spot for bird watching (Great Blue Herons, Glossy Ibises, Egrets, Ducks), hiking, picnicking and, in winter, cross-country skiing.
Driving and Biking
"Round The Cape." When you look at a map of Cape Ann, you see that most of Gloucester and all of Rockport form an island, separated from West Gloucester and the rest of Cape Ann by the Annisquam River. Like many islands, there is a shore road that runs the circumference of the island. This is Route 127, which at some points becomes Route 127A. One of the nicest car or bike rides is around the island on Route 127. It takes you by beaches, through villages and towns and along a number of scenic high points. It constantly changes, and along the way you'll find any number of shops, eateries and other places to stop.
The Back Shore: This is a favorite of walkers and joggers because it is so beautiful early in the morning. This is Atlantic Road, known as the "Back Shore". Along the road are a several large hotels and homes, but the star of the show is the rocky coastline, especially beautiful with the sun coming up in the morning. There is a good sidewalk for most of the way, installed after the "Perfect Storm" destroyed much of the back shore road and damaged a number of the hotels and homes here as well. You can walk out onto the rocks in some places, and some take a picnic out and watch the ocean, but be careful. And don't even think about swimming here.
You can find more things to do on Cape Ann in our Find Attractions search engine.
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