Ravenswood Park

Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931

Ravenswood Park

Ravenswood Park Professional Review and Guide

"Following centuries-old footpaths, carriage roads, and a boardwalk through a magnolia swamp, this hike rambles through woods to reach Fernwood Lake before passing the cabin site of “The Hermit of Ravenswood” and two granite quarries.

If hiking in June, you will likely see mountain laurel in full bloom. Heavy with white blossoms touched with pink, these elegant bushes dress the woods as if for a formal occasion. As the trail descends to wetland, the density of laurel increases."

More Ravenswood Park Professional Reviews and Guides

"This ecologically diverse pocket of wilderness includes a magnolia swamp; rocky ledges and boulders; and a large, unbroken forest."

"Ravenswood Park, enjoyed for more than a century by residents of Gloucester and surrounding towns, offers a peaceful place for an outing, with almost 10 miles of trails and carriage paths. This mixture of woodlots, old pastures, and swamp was originally owned by businessman and philanthropist Samuel Sawyer. Upon his death in 1889, Sawyer left the land with an endowment and instructions that the park “be laid out handsomely with drive-ways and pleasant rural walks.” Ravenswood Park retains its originally intended ambiance and remains a fine place to take a hike with your dog.

From the trailhead, follow the wide gravel path called the Old Salem Road. To the left you will see a trail that leads to the Great Magnolia Swamp, home to native sweetbay magnolias (Magnolia virginiana). You and your dog will enjoy weaving through the glacial erratics, boulders that were left in this area at the end of the last ice age. After marker 21, your pup can sip from the stream that leads to Buswell Pond."

"Most people think of the sea when they think of Gloucester. This seaport city is, after all, a working fishing port and home to the famous “Fisherman at the Wheel" statue on Stacey Boulevard, sculpted in 1923. This landmark, along with the more recent (and poignant) “Fisherman’s Wives" statue, honors the 15,000-plus Gloucester fishermen lost at sea, and the families they left behind. The monument is a constant reminder of the power of nature, something you’ll see evidence of at Ravenswood Park, although in less dramatic fashion.

Ravenswood Park is a 600-acre glacial moraine. Thousands of years ago, retreating glaciers left giant boulders, or erratics, all over the park. In the winter, these giant, snow-covered boulders look like giant snowballs. Other features of the property tend to disappear under heavy snowfall, like the kettle ponds and Great Magnolia Swamp, a glacial bog. The park’s variety of trees look gorgeous draped in snow; you’ll tromp past oak, birch, beech, maple, eastern hemlock, white pine, mountain laurel, and even the sweetbay magnolia (uncommon around here)."

"Start at the harbor edge of this 600-acre glacial moraine and head north through
fields of boulders dropped by the glaciers as they retreated at the end of the last ice
age. You’ll pass by ocean views over Gloucester Harbor before heading west and
dropping through wooded flatlands. Reach the Great Magnolia Swamp and cross a
series of boardwalks to return on a broad carriage path to your car."

"Much of this route winds through and alongside a vast magnolia swamp along with
some spectacular ridge lines punctuated with interesting rock formations and some
kettle holes and ponds. You’ll also get to see the spot where the Hermit of Gloucester,
Mason A. Walton, built his cabin in 1884 and studied nature in these woods. Based on
these experiences, he wrote several books, including A Hermit’s Wild Friends."

"The loop described here incorporates all elements of this park, from white-knuckle singletrack to wide-open fire roads. All the difficult sections can be walked, if necessary, so don't be intimidated. Though admittedly challenging, these trails lead you to the best vistas offered in Ravenswood, as well as a newfound appreciation for the art of trail building. If you're content to stay on the fire roads, however, you can put together a nice loop without having to venture on the singletrack at all. since the singletrack starts rather quickly from you're starting point at the parking lot, you might opt for a fire road spin first simply to warm up.

Also keep in mind that, due to local policy, the Trustees of Reservations do not mark these trails with painted dots or blazes. Occasionally you’ll find a trail marker, but they’re rare. The benefit of this policy is the preservation of the wilderness “feel” of the reservation.

Terrain: Hardscrabble; technical singletrack; and smooth, gentle doubletrack. Depending on the trail choice, this will be smooth, rolling forestland, haphazard, granite boulder fields with quick climbs and drops, or a combination of both."

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Trail Information

Gloucester
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
4.5
Distance
Loop/Lollipop
Trail Type
Easy to Moderate
Skill Level
2 hours
Duration
Year-round
Season
Wildflowers
Features
The Trustees of Reservations, thetrustees.org/places-to-visit, 617-542-7696
Local Contacts
Posted at entrance
Local Maps