Located in Andover, Massachusetts, Harold Parker State Forest surrounds the scenic Stearns Pond, offering some of the finest hiking and forest views in New England. The land originally was home to the Pennacook Indians but was converted into farmland in 1650 by English settlers. As industry began to take off, the land was abandoned, and the forest slowly grew around the structures that the settlers had built. Some of the remains of sawmills and houses can still be seen today.
Whether hiking for the day or planning a week-long RV trip, guests will find plenty to keep them busy here. There are dozens of hiking trails that will lead visitors through some of the finest forests in the Northeast. Come in spring and see the world come back to life or visit in fall as the leaves turn for a blast of New England autumn color. Other things to do in Harold Parker State Forest include taking a boat out onto one of the 11 ponds located around the forest, bringing a reel to cast a line while fishing, or simply soaking in the sights and sounds of the water and forest. Visit during the summer to take a refreshing dip into one of the ponds or enjoy a waterside picnic. There are nearly 100 campsites for campers to choose from for parking their motorhome or travel trailer. With full amenities including restrooms, showers, and picnic areas, these are definitely some of the most comfortable and beautiful campsites in all of Massachusetts.
Harold Parker State Forest is located near Andover, Massachusetts, just an hour outside of Boston, which makes it easy to access from most parts of eastern Massachusetts. Harold Parker State Forest is just a short drive along local roads in Andover. All of the state highways and local roads are paved, making for a nice, smooth ride. Guests will be treated to stunning views of the Massachusetts countryside as they make their way to the park. Once reaching Andover, they should have no trouble locating the park entrance; just follow local signs.
Inside the park, it's easy to park at the campgrounds. All the main roads in the park are paved and shaded by large trees. The road is fairly straight with some gentle curves, but nothing that should hinder drivers. Be cautious and follow posted speed limits. RV drivers will also want to keep an eye out for any low-hanging branches as they make their way through the forest.
Guests will have plenty of space for their RV at Harold Parker State Forest. The main campground known as the Lorraine Campground has a total of 89 campsites. Fifty-two of these campsites are for tent-only camping and only one site is specially designed to accommodate group camping. RVers should be aware that of the remaining RV-friendly sites, only 11 have electrical hookups. Be extra careful when making reservations to ensure that the appropriate campsite is selected.
All of the campsites have a picnic table and a grill, as well as a water spigot where guests can obtain fresh water. Most sites are fairly spread out so campers can have a sense of privacy and seclusion throughout their trip. Restrooms, showers, and a dumping station are all centrally located in the campground. Pets are allowed at almost all of the campsites but must stay on a leash at all times. Per state regulations, owners must be able to show a current rabies vaccination for every pet on the campsite.
Guests who want to experience a less common mode of transportation through the forest explore on horseback. Unfortunately, no horse rental is available at Harold Parker State Forest, so guests will need to bring their own horses with them. The trails at Harold Parker State Forest are all easily accessible on horseback. However, be aware that the trails are also shared with hikers and bikers, so always be careful while riding and respect others who are using the trail.
Even during the winter months, the hiking is worthwhile at Harold Parker State Forest. With the whole forest being covered in a layer of white snow, guests will have the opportunity to see a world that’s been entirely transformed. In the off-season, guests still have access to all 35 trails, which gives them miles of forest to explore. Visitors can weave their way through the trees and get lost in the white forest. Come after a winter storm and see the forest turn into a frozen wonderland.
The trails through Harold Parker State Forest are good for more than just hiking. After the forest has been covered in soft white powder, guests can take those cross-country skis out of the rig and head for the trails. Skiers will get miles of excellent skiing through some of the most beautiful forests in the state. Pass through meadows and see frozen ponds while gliding through the icy winter forests. Skiers will want to keep a close eye on the forecast and get out on the trails as soon as the snow falls in order to enjoy the best skiing conditions.
Anglers will not want to miss fishing on one of the 11 ponds in Harold Parker State Forest. Fishing is best during the months of April through October when the waters are warm. There are plenty of largemouth bass swimming around the ponds, as well as other varieties of fish to keep anglers busy throughout the fishing season. Visitors are welcome to bring their own boats out onto the ponds; however, be aware that only non-motorized boats are permitted on the waters inside of Harold Parker State Forest.
The trails around the forest are multi-use trails and one of their popular uses is for biking. Visitors who want a fast-paced tour around the area should bring their bike with them and enjoy the many miles of trails. There are trails for all levels and difficulties, whether it's taking a slow spin around the ponds or doing some more strenuous and exhilarating mountain biking. The trails will commonly be shared with hikers, so always be cautious, especially when going around corners.
During the hot summer months, visitors will love cooling off by taking a dip in any of the 11 ponds in Harold Parker State Forest. There is plenty of shoreline for visitors to spread out along, though some areas are more popular than others. Guests should check with the main office for recommendations on where the best swimming areas are. Several shorelines have been developed into accessible beach areas where guests can more easily access the water. There are also beach wheelchairs available for any guests who might find navigating the sandy terrain difficult.