The trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary are suited for relaxing walks with their soft footing and minimal incline.
Time To Complete
At a moderate pace, hiking through the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary could take less than 1.5 hours, but it's likely that you'll stop and enjoy the scenery at at least one of its secluded observation benches.
Dogs are not permitted within the sanctuary.
Admission to the sanctuary is free to Mass Audubon members. For non-members, admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under and seniors.
Located 25 miles outside of Boston, Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary provides gentle trails and scenic vistas ideal for observing wildlife and enjoying the outdoors. The sanctuary spans 1,954 acres and contains 12 miles of trails through forests, meadows, and wetlands. Notable points of interest within the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary are the Rockery, a grotto man-made in 1905, several beaver dams, and the drumlin and esker — two geological features that are the result of glacial movement more than 15,000 years ago.
In addition to hiking, visitors can rent canoes to take out onto the Ipswich River, which runs directly through the sanctuary itself.
What Makes It Great
The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is the definition of a peaceful retreat. Absent of mountain bikers whizzing by, free of unleashed — but friendly — dogs that approach unexpectedly, and missing the telltale remnants of human pollution, the sanctuary lives up to its name. With its occasional outlooks and vistas, along with benches from which to admire them, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect place for quiet contemplation.
For those new to hiking, visiting the Wildlife Sanctuary contains easy starter-trails.
As if you needed further incentive to visit, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary taps its own maple syrup. The sanctuary often hosts events, demonstrations, and an annual festival for visitors to learn more about (and taste!) this natural, sugary treat.
Who is Going to Love It
Solitude-seekers, hikers, trail runners, and bird watchers
It is no exaggeration to describe the river here placid nor the trails here peaceful; in fact, it's closer to an understatement. Hikers and trail runners who value exploration over exertion will enjoy the trails that meander through the sanctuary.
Ever climbed a mountain only to find the summit as crowded as if it were a beach on Saturday afternoon? Yeah, that's not a pleasant realization. Hiking in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, however, is great for avoiding crowds and trail traffic.
Beyond those who seek solitude, the Wildlife Sanctuary is a veritable goldmine for birdwatcher. Thrushes, warblers, sparrows, wrens, herons, and many more birds can be spotted throughout the sanctuary. Just remember to arrive early or leave late; fewer animals are out and about mid-day.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Ample visitor parking is available at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary's headquarters, located at 87 Perkins Row in Topsfield.
To get to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary from downtown Boston, take I-93 N and I-95 N to U.S. 1 N in Danvers at exit 50. Continue on U.S. 1 N until you've entered Topsfield, then take a right on Maple St., right onto Central St., and continue onto Perkins Row.
To access the sanctuary via public transit, hikers can take the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Line from North Station to Hamilton/Wenham. From there, visitors will need to call a taxi, bike, or walk the remaining 6.4 miles to the sanctuary.
The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is open year round from Tuesday through Sunday and Holiday Mondays from dawn to dusk, but the headquarters has limited hours:
November - April Open Tuesday through Sunday, along with Holiday Mondays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
May - October Open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open weekends & Holiday Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During winter, the wildlife in the sanctuary is sparse, so it's worthwhile to make the trip to Ipswitch during the warmer months. Aim to visit the sanctuary in the morning or the evening; fewer animals are out and about midday.