A few months back, I had written about the Hale Reservation, a vast conservation area that is mostly in Westwood. I had briefly touched upon the adjacent Noanet Woodlands and Caryl Park, but didn't get into much detail about either. This entry is dedicated to those two areas, which when combined with Hale Reservation, can make for a very long (and satisfying) day hike that is just outside the Route 128 belt southwest of Boston.
A group of us went on a moderately difficult 5-mile hike through Caryl Park, the Noanet Woodlands, and, briefly, Hale Reservation a couple of weeks ago. We all parked at the Caryl Park lot on Dedham Street near the center of Dover, and entered the woods on a wide, mostly level trail. There isn't much to Caryl Park, which is owned by the town, but the woods are absolutely beautiful in some parts (see photo), especially as you get closer to the Noanet Woodlands. We started on the Caryl Trail (which is blazed in yellow), then took a left on the Peabody Trail (blue blazes) around where the Noanet Woodlands begin. From there, we walked through deep woods to our first stopping point, namely the Mill Site.
The area around the Mill Site is particularly scenic, with rushing water falling sharply from a small pond that feels much more remote than it actually is. The pond is one of three that are connected by the Noanet Brook, with the middle pond having a pleasant area with a picnic table where people can stop for lunch or a short break (see photo). From here, we jumped back on the Peabody Trail and skirted along the wooded base of Noanet Peak before stopping at a point where the trail veers off to the left.
It was at this point that we took a right and started climbing Noanet Peak, a relatively high hill (for the Boston area) that can be extremely rugged in spots. We took some minor trails here and there, eventually ending up at the summit, with its extensive views mostly to the east, including the Boston skyline in the distance (see photo). From here, we descended back to the Peabody Trail, took a left on the Larrabee Trail (red blazes), and took a series of minor trails into the Hale Reservation where we had lunch at Powissett Pond. From here, we took a direct route back through the Noanet Woodlands and Caryl Park, getting back to the lot from Powissett Pond in a little less than 45 minutes.
The hike we did wasn't too difficult, though the trails around Noanet Peak were steep in spots, and some of the trails between Noanet Peak and the Hale Reservation had some decent rises. For those who might prefer a basic, easy walk, going as far as the three ponds around and just beyond the Mill Site in Noanet entails mostly level hiking and isn't too difficult.