Explore North Quabbin
North Quabbin Driving Tour
Orange, also known as the Friendly Town, is the starting point for your North Quabbin Adventure! Start at Trail Head in Orange center where you can pick up maps for the entire region as well as supplies and grab a bite at the Millers River Café. Take South Main Street/Rte. 122, and you will immediately see Orange Memorial Park on your left. Visit the official Peace Statue of the Commonwealth, a 12 foot bronze statue of a soldier and a young boy with the inscription “It shall not happen again.” It’s also the site for the annual New Year’s Eve festival Starry Starry Night. Nearby, take a stroll in the newly renovated Butterfield Park, then cross over to The Community Boathouse, at 25 East River Street. It offers a wide variety of activities and affordable canoe and kayak rentals. The annual Orange Solstice RiverFest takes place in June on the Millers River featuring arts, crafts, food and music. At dusk floating fire pits are lit, and the boat parade starts, with decorated and illuminated vessels. Another annual event is the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in September. Also known as the festival that stinks, it celebrates community spirit, agriculture, food, arts, crafts, music-and of course garlic!
For more adventure, head down East River Street to Orange Municipal Airport and visit Jumptown the oldest skydiving club in the country and take a dive! In case you brought your four-legged friend, the North Quabbin Dog Park is located near the airport. Open dawn to dusk, and at no charge, let your dog play and have fun too! The annual Yankee Engine-uety Show is held in June every year at the airport.
Quintessential New Salem awaits your visit! Take Rte. 122 South out of Orange to Rte. 202 towards New Salem. It may be time for refreshments and the New Salem Country Store offers both freshly made sandwiches and pastries, a variety of beverages, and a covered outside picnic area. The store also hosts the wildly popular Hilltown Brewfest every September bringing dozens of craft brewers together for a massive tasting.
Continue two miles further on Rte. 202, turn left onto Cooleyville Road (the third with same name), and continue to Hunt Road and the Quabbin Sky Vineyard. They offer free wine tastings with wines for sale on site.
Now turn around and backtrack on Rte. 202, and opposite the Country Store, take a right onto North Main Street, and Historic New Salem Common. Enjoy the picturesque landscape and farms, or relax to music and cultural events at the 1794 Meetinghouse. The 1794 Meetinghouse is a beautiful Greek revival building built in 1794 as a church and a public gathering place. Today it is known for offering outstanding musical and cultural programs of wide appeal during the summer. Continue down South Main Street, and you will encounter New Salem Preserves, an apple orchard with 125-year-old apple trees and an all-organic policy. Check out the overlook view of the Quabbin Reservoir as you head down the road to Quabbin Gate 25. The Quabbin is a premier wildlife habitat and human visitor haven, with 25,000 acres of water surrounded by 81,000 acres of beautiful, protected watershed lands. It is also a birder’s paradise. Eagles were returned to the Quabbin in the 1980s, and today they, and a myriad of other birds, live or stop by the reservoir and adjacent land. Head back towards the store and turn right back onto Rte. 202 South then turn right onto Rte. 122 towards Petersham. Right after this intersection, make a stop at Quabbin Gate 30. The hiking trail from the gate crosses the lovely arched Keystone Bridge, built by hand in 1866. From the bridge, a fisherman’s trail leads east along the river to the Quabbin Reservoir.
As you get back on Rte. 122, be ready to take a left onto Rte. 32 towards Petersham. The town common welcomes you, and a must visit is the Petersham Country Store. Freshly prepared food made with locally sourced ingredients, eat in or take out. Following Rte. 32 towards Athol, the Petersham Craft Center and Gallery is on your left. Find that special gift made by a local artisan or take a class! Along Rte. 32, the Clamber Hill Inn and Restaurant is located on your left, opposite the sign for Rte. 101. They offer overnights, wine and whiskey tastings and a first-class restaurant open Thursday through Saturday.
Just a few miles down the road you will find the Petersham Curling Club, one of just three in the entire state followed by the Harvard Forest and Fisher Museum. The 3,700 acre forest is operated by Harvard University and has a museum and lectures as well as hiking and cross-country skiing.
Take Rte. 101 towards Phillipston turning left at Petersham Road and enter Phillipston Common with its classic New England charm. Head out of the common on Baldwinville Road towards Patriots Road (Rte. 2A) and stop at the King Phillip Restaurant for some hearty fare by the fireside. Turn left onto 2A towards Athol. Be sure to make a stop at the Red Apple Farm by turning right on Highland Ave. The orchard offers a wide variety of produce, baked goods and family events year round.
Continue down 2A into Athol passing the high school. Across the street from the hospital you’ll find Bearsden Road that leads to the Bearsden Conservation Area with miles of trails crisscrossing 1,000 acres of forest, hills and the Millers River. Reserve on of the rustic cabins for free for a special summer or fall holiday.
Back on Rte. 2A, turn right on Main Street towards Athol center and the Athol Public Library will be on your right. The library is the first Leed Certified library in the country showcasing the region’s attention to the environment. Just behind the library is a newly added park and amphitheater. A short drive down the street turn left on Freedom Street and visit the new home of North Quabbin Visitors Bureau at 80 Freedom Street. We have maps and brochures and would love to see you!
Back on Main Street, continue towards Orange, and the Millers River Environmental Center and Alan E. Rich Environmental Park will be on your right. The center is home to the nationally recognized Athol Bird and Nature Club and the park offers access to the Millers River for canoes, kayaks and small boats, and is the official starting point for the annual River Rat Race every April. The park also offers great opportunities for birding and hiking.
Heading back towards Orange on 2A, turn right onto Wheeler Road in Orange, and visit Johnson’s Farm and Sugar House Enjoy a delicious meal in a country setting and visit the store. Turn right off Wheeler Road and you’ll return to Orange center.
The North Quabbin Region offers over 100,000 acres of permanently conserved land open for public use with hundreds of miles of marked and rated trails, waterways and endless recreational opportunities. It is also the source for many of Worcester and Boston’s farm to table restaurants, producing organic meats, dairy, cheese, produce, wine and beer.
Click here to view a PDF version of this tour.
This quest was written and designed by Jon Skinner, Rion Pierce, and Luke Meunier, members of ATAC, (the Athol Teen Advisory Council). The project was funded by a Library Services and Technology Act Tweens and Teens Grant. Special thanks go to Sue Cloutier of the Millers River Environmental Center for planting the seed of the idea, to Elizabeth Russo for editorial assistance, and to the staff of the Athol Public Library.
Your quest begins at the front of the Athol Public Library
(568 Main Street Athol, MA 01331)
Keep to the left as you go out the library front door.
This is going to be fun, it won’t be a bore.
Don’t go off track,
You must go left past the smokestack.
Mr. Starrett started with a tool shop small,
Now there are buildings large and tall.
Soon Starrett’s company this country outgrew,
Now he has factories in Brazil and Scotland, too.
If you go down the street, there’s a red museum.
There’s cool stuff inside. If you peek in, you can see them.
If you look to the right of the big waterfall,
You’ll see the marks they made when the water rose tall.
On Mr. Starrett you must now turn your back,
Then you must retrace your track.
When you get back to the library, cross Main Street,
For fun, the big building on the corner can’t be beat.
Open the door and go on in.
It’s the YMCA, A place where people can stay.
Mr. Starrett donated the land
And the building was put up just as planned.
When first opened it was just for men,
Only on Tuesdays were girls allowed in.
First a machine shop, now a fun facility
Where we have a place to exercise in the city
On the way out take the side door,
But only if you want to quest some more.
Don’t turn around, don’t reverse,
The street you want to cross is Traverse.
The next stop is marked by eleven stones gray,
A reminder of the soldiers who fought night and day.
They fought for their country, for me and for you.
They fought brave and true in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II.
Go back across the street; go back the way you came.
Go up the hill until you find a station for a train.
Ok, I guess we lied a bit. The train stops here no more.
Now, it’s a bus depot with only one floor.
Once a restaurant, but the top floor caught fire,
Now we only have the ground floor to admire.
If you look at the roof you’ll see a weathervane.
If you look even closer, you’ll see it’s a train.
Across South Street and down the stairs,
Look for a red building that used to sell tables and chairs.
Going out of the parking lot, right is your next direction,
Go towards the intersection.
Straight ahead, the Pequoig building is tall and thick,
Its walls are made of red brick. In 1894,
half of the hotel was turned 90 degrees,
The workers will tell you it wasn’t a breeze.
The hotel was turned to make way for a road.
When it was finished the population would explode!
Now push the walk button to cross Main Street,
This quest is not yet complete.
Cross Exchange St. if you want to walk some more.
Or go the other way to where there are books galore.
If you decide to take a longer hike,
There is a place to see that I’m sure you’ll like.
On Main Street you’ll go west,
Past shops, homes, and a church to continue this quest.
You’ll pass a building with a bell tower
Where young minds struggled to flower.
This school is now a place of nature studies
Where you can learn about your woodland buddies.
Go to the park where the paths are ground stone
And where people put plants that are homegrown.
To this park the Millers River is very near
It’s named for Alan Rich, who served his town for many a year.
As a selectman, Mr. Rich was really fine.
Learn more about him from the sign.
Then retrace your steps and go east,
Your quest has not yet ceased.
We are almost done, except
You still have to go where the books are kept.
Go back up Main Street.
Soon you can rest your tired feet.
Thanks to Mr. Carnegie,
We have the Athol Public Library.
They have plenty of books, computers, magazines, and DVDs.
If you need help, just ask one of the friendly employees.
Step inside to find a special book.
The computer’s the first place you should look.
Search for the book, The March of Democracy.
It’s blue and labeled “973”.
You’ll find the book occupied
By many things we put inside.
Use the stamp to stamp below
And in the notebook leave your “hello”.
You’re number one!
Click here to view a PDFversion of the quest.