Marcy Marchello, Mary O’Neil, and Marsha C. Salett
Swift River Universal Access Trail Loop, Palmer. Photograph by Marcy Marchello.
From the shores of Cape Cod to the top of Mount Greylock, bird and wildlife enthusiasts with disabilities—or those who have family members or friends with disabilities—can find a greater number and variety of accessible viewing sites in Massachusetts to meet their needs than were available in 2011. Many government agencies, local municipalities, and environmental organizations have successfully integrated accessibility into outdoor settings. If a site is wheelchair accessible, it will also be suitable for people using strollers, walkers, and other devices. Some All Persons Trails have interpretative guides such as Braille maps or audio tours for blind or deaf birders. Other locations provide neurodiverse birders with quieter spaces to bird. The sites in this article offer a range of possibilities, whether you prefer viewing from your vehicle, remaining stationary outdoors or in a nature center, keeping your feet and wheels clean on boardwalks and paved trails, or trekking into the open landscape.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Universal Access Program offers accessible hiking programs at selected parks statewide for those who would like to try rugged wheelchairs on conventional hiking trails with support. Other year-round accessible activities include canoeing, kayaking, cycling, cross-country skiing, camping, fishing, and birding. These programs use adaptive recreation equipment and support staff to ensure an enjoyable experience for all. DCR has an extensive network of seasonal nature interpreters who offer free programs to the public, many of which are on accessible sites. Call the parks nearest you and ask about accessibility and the current program schedule. For more information, call the DCR Universal Access Program at 413-545-5353 (Universal Access Program – Mass.gov).
Along with the proliferation of accessible birding sites since 2011, online information about where to find birds has burgeoned. Created in 2002, eBird passed one billion observations worldwide in 2021 (eBird 2021). Bird Observer launched our online journal, www.birdobserver.org, in 2015; it includes a section on Where to Find Birds and an index of the Where to Go Birding articles. Also on our website, “The Murmuration: Massachusetts eBird Hotspots” lists eBird hotspots for each county, several noting which sites have accessible trails and restrooms. You can update this valuable crowdsourcing resource by adding your own experiences at eBird hotspots in Massachusetts. Bird Observer also hosts “The Murmuration: Rhode Island eBird Hotspots.” An article introducing The Murmuration Project appeared in Bird Observer in December 2020 (Elowe et al. 2020).
This article does not have the space to include directions or describe the birds and how to find them, so cross-reference the birding sites we list with the sources above to enhance your outing. The places highlighted in the first section of this article are just a sampling of the accessible birding sites that we list by county in the second part. And even that list is not complete, so be sure to check out the additional resources at the end of the article.
Rail Trails, Riverside and Canal Walks, and Greeenways
Rail trails offer an amazing ribbon of possibility for wheelchair users. In 2011, we wrote, “At least two dozen trails in Massachusetts are advertised as wheelchair accessible on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website: www.traillink.com/state/ma-trails.” In 2022, Traillink—which is now a free downloadable app—listed 69 wheelchair-accessible rail trails, river walks, and greenways. Rail trails have multiple access points, are often paved, cover significant distances, and pass through a variety of habitats over relatively flat terrain. If they pass through a city or town, chances are they will be accessible by public transportation. Rail trails are great places for hand cycles as well as wheelchairs. Viewing can be optimal on spring and fall mornings and evenings, when there may be less bicycle traffic and more wildlife activity.
Massachusetts DCR has excellent accessible signage. Here is an example (shown left) from Mount Tom State Reservation. Photograph by Meghadeepa Maity.
With 515 miles of rail trails, riverside and canal walks, and greenways in Massachusetts, not all areas of all trails are going to be accessible, even when labeled as such. (See “Wheelchair Birders Face Challenges in New England” by Heather Finlay-Morreale in this issue.) Find out as much as you can about a trail before you explore it. Traillink has detailed maps, information, and reviews of its trails, but it does not provide real-time conditions. Bear in mind that in winter, parking lots may not be plowed, and trails may be covered with snow or ice.
In Berkshire County, the 10-foot-wide Ashuwillticook Rail Trail passes by the Cheshire Reservoir with views of Mount Greylock and surrounding mountains. One trailhead is at Lime Street in Adams. In 2011, the trail ended 11.2 miles later at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, which is accessible via public transportation. A new 1.5-mile section has extended the trail from Crane Road toward Pittsfield. A parking lot and restroom are available. In Cheshire, a small park has accessible parking, restrooms, and picnic tables.
Part of the Mass Central Rail Trail, the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Hampshire County traverses the Connecticut River Valley for 10 paved miles between Northampton and Amherst. The Lawrence Station entrance at Station Road, Amherst, has van-accessible parking. This section of the rail trail is the best for birding, with a great variety of ducks, herons, hawks, woodpeckers, and songbirds. Marsh, woods, and meadow habitats with open views are perfect for beginner birders to get acquainted with the local birds, but they also attract plenty of warblers, swallows, and sparrows for the more advanced birder. The rail trail is fully wheelchair accessible on a flat asphalt path with irregularly spaced rest spots.
Wachusett Greenways has been reclaiming and maintaining portions of the Mass Central Rail Trail in the Worcester County communities of Barre, Oakham, Rutland, Holden, West Boylston, and Sterling. There is access in Rutland at the Glenwood Road trailhead, which offers a level stone-dust trail for walking or wheeling through mixed deciduous forest and wetlands. It can be a short in-and-out, or you can connect to Oakham and Barre, although it gets hillier.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Middlesex County runs through Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham. The 10-foot-wide flat, paved path is accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. This rail trail goes through town centers, suburban neighborhoods, and forests and past a couple of large ponds—Warner Pond in Concord and Heart Pond in Chelmsford—where you can see waterfowl in winter. There are parking lots along the trail, a couple of which have seasonal public restrooms.
The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, also known as the Cape Cod Service Road, runs along both sides of the canal (Clapp 2021, Crosson 2020). On the north, or mainland side, pick up the paved bike trail at Scusset Beach State Reservation. Before crossing the Sagamore Bridge, head down Scusset Beach Road for 0.25 mile past the main entrance gate until you reach the fishing pier. Head east along the paved bike trail toward Cape Cod Bay or west toward Buzzards Bay.
The Sandwich Marina and Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center are on the bikeway south of the canal (Crosson 2020). Cross the Sagamore Bridge and take Route 130 north from Route 6 to Tupper Road, then turn onto Freezer Road to the marina, where you will find parking and a well-maintained paved trail. Head east toward Cape Cod Bay. There are plenty of benches to take in the view of the rock jetty and bay. The trail heading west toward Buzzards Bay is equally scenic.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail covers 22 miles between Dennis and Wellfleet. It passes through pitch pine-scrub oak woodlands and salt marshes. In Brewster, the trail passes through forested Nickerson State Park and links to a variety of paved trails in the park; many, however, are hilly. Get a map from the ranger at the information center. Accessible camping is available.
Near Nickerson on Route 6A, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center’s McGraw Center for Adaptive Sports (877-976-7272) is open between May and October. They have adaptive sports equipment including a fleet of recumbent hand cycles and leg cycles. They also offer group trips and one-on-one cycling with a Spaulding Adaptive Sports representative. All abilities are welcome. You can ride fewer than two miles or more than 20 miles.
In Eastham, the Nauset Trail spur winds through the Cape Cod National Seashore from the Salt Pond Visitor Center to Coast Guard Beach. Stop at the bike trail bridge at Nauset Marsh at low tide for excellent shorebirding in season. Or park at Coast Guard Beach and follow the bike path to the marsh.
For a peak experience, never underestimate the power of a mountaintop. In the Berkshires, drive to the summit of Mount Greylock, where Bascom Lodge has accessible restrooms and accommodations. A short loop trail on the highest summit in Massachusetts offers spectacular views. You may see passing hawks and a few unusual breeding birds in this tiny patch of boreal forest. The lodge and the auto road are open from mid-May through October.
Mount Sugarloaf in the Connecticut River Valley is another accessible peak. From Memorial Day to the end of October, you can drive up the summit road for breathtaking views. The summit building has accessible restrooms on the first floor.
You can also drive up the summit road of Mount Tom State Reservation, Holyoke, for hawkwatching in the fall. The Lake Bray universal access trail in the Reservation is a 0.5-mile forested trail with views of Lake Bray. For information about family and disability-friendly birding programs, call 413-534-1186.
Wachusett Mountain, Princeton, is in Worcester County. There is accessible parking and an access road that leads to the summit. The 360-degree views are worth the trip to the top, as is the Broad-winged Hawk migration in mid-September, which can bring thousands of hawks over the mountain. The visitor center is worth visiting for its exhibits and accessible restrooms. The summit is closed in winter due to downhill ski operations. DCR park fees apply; vehicles with “handicapped,” disabled-veteran, and Purple Heart plates and placards are granted free entry.
City Parks, State Reservations, National Wildlife Refuges, and Everywhere in Between
Parker River NWR, mobility mat to the beach next to Boardwalk 1. Photo Credit: USFWS/Public Domain.
The premier birding spot on Essex County’s North Shore—and the top eBird location in the state—is Plum Island, home to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point State Reservation. Birding is spectacular any time of year. Car-bird along the refuge’s 6.4-mile road, particularly for shorebirds and waterfowl at the Salt Pannes Observation Area, which is also wheelchair accessible. The road beyond Hellcat may be closed during the winter, so call ahead. See Wetmore (2007) for a guide to birding Parker River NWR and Sandy Point.
A beach wheelchair is available year-round upon request. Call or email to reserve it in advance or ask the gate attendant when you arrive. If there is no attendant, you will need to go back to Refuge Headquarters to get it. Lot 1, the sub-headquarters, and Hellcat have accessible restrooms. Parking lots have accessible spaces.
Since 2020, the Refuge has been updating boardwalks and paths to be fully accessible. The boardwalk at Lot 1 is wheelchair accessible to the viewing platform overlooking the beach. For people using beach wheelchairs, there is an accessible path next to the boardwalk, and you can request refuge staff to open the gate. The path requires traveling through sand, but mobility mats will be seasonally available starting in summer 2023.
The boardwalk at Lot 3 is fully accessible, with an entrance ramp, bump rails, wheelchair pullouts, and a viewing platform; access to the beach requires a beach wheelchair. The next project will be to renovate the Lot 7 boardwalk in a similar way, with Mobi-Mats to the beach. During Piping Plover nesting season, several beaches, parking lots, and boardwalks are closed.
The Hellcat Interpretive Trail—a 1.3-mile boardwalk renovated in 2020 to be entirely wheelchair accessible—takes visitors through freshwater marsh, shrub, vernal pool, dune, and maritime woodland habitats. Check out the interpretive panels to learn about the wildlife here. The Hellcat Dike may be suitable for people who are ambulatory.
A short accessible path leads to the Bill Forward Bird Blind. Tall vegetation had obscured the view, but in fall 2022 Friends of Parker River NWR funded a project to cut down the phragmites. So, at least for a season or two, you will be able to see the Bill Forward Pool and the marsh from the blind. The accessible 0.3-mile Pines Trail loop has a viewing platform over the marsh.
At the southern tip of Plum Island, you leave the Refuge and enter Sandy Point State Reservation, which has accessible parking and wheelchair-accessible composting toilets. If you want to get onto the beach at Sandy Point, call in advance and request a beach wheelchair from Salisbury Beach State Reservation (978-462-4481), which has several chairs available for use in both locations. Salisbury Beach State Reservation is also a great location for car birding and is close enough to Plum Island to plan a day to both places.
Crane Beach on the Crane Estate, Ipswich, is owned by The Trustees. With its long expanse of white sand, Crane is one of the most gorgeous beaches in the state, and it is fully accessible year-round. There are 25 accessible parking spaces, and if you have mobility challenges, you can get a ride from the parking lot to the main beachfront and back. Accessible bathhouse (in summer), restrooms, and beach wheelchairs are available. Timed admission tickets are required for most of the year and recommended in the winter; you can reserve a beach wheelchair along with your ticket. For rides and beach wheelchairs, inquire at the beach store in summer and the entry gate during the other seasons.
The Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield, has two wheelchair-accessible trails. The Healthy Heart Trail is an unpaved 0.6-mile trail one way that travels through the forest and along the Ipswich River, passing through a wetland to a bridge overview. The 1.25-mile paved road known as the Avenue is gated fall through spring and plowed in winter, with wheelchair access maintained around the gate.
Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, Middlesex County, is home to Massachusetts’s most famous pond. In 2020, the Walden Pond Universal Access Project was completed with a new bathhouse, improved beach access, and the universally accessible Thoreau House Site Trail that passes through the woods to Thoreau’s cabin site. The accessible visitor center and restrooms are open year-round.
The Arlington Reservoir is a productive birding location year-round. Renovations in 2022 upgraded the approximately 1.2-mile perimeter trail to fully ADA-accessible standards with rubberized paving, well-packed crushed stone, and concrete walkways through the beach area. The trail has pullouts with benches and is of ample width for mobility devices and wheelchairs to maneuver and navigate the shared path. There is an accessible observation platform. Portions of the trail are shaded, and there are many unobstructed views of the water.
In Norfolk County, Webb Memorial State Park, North Weymouth, is a peninsula that extends into Hingham Bay. This DCR park has a mix of paved and hard dirt trails in a coastal urban setting. Restrooms are open year-round and accessible once inside, but assistance may be required for some mobility-device users to cross the one-inch threshold.
Worcester County’s Eagle Reserve Conservation Area has a short, unpaved accessible trail called the Dave H. Small Community Trail, which leads to a large viewing platform with a bench at a large pond. It is an excellent spot for songbirds and waterfowl and for views of resident eagles. There are no restrooms.
The Riverwalk in Sunderland, Franklin County, is a 0.75-mile accessible trail that starts from the Sunderland Library on 20 School Street, loops around the school playing field, and parallels the Connecticut River with views of Mount Sugarloaf. Time your visit when the library is open so you can use the restrooms.
Barton Cove has great accessible birding (see “Car Birding” below). Unity Park, Montague, on the south shore of Barton Cove deserves special mention for its accessibility features including a 0.25-mile wheelchair-accessible asphalt path along the river between Town Hall and the dog park. Park in one of the designated spots in the lot near Montague Town Hall to avoid having to cross the street.
A more challenging accessible trail with a wilder feeling in Franklin County is the Friendly Trail at Wendell State Forest, 25 minutes east of Greenfield. Park at headquarters and take the trail downhill. The grades are steeper than code but they traverse the hillside with greater ease than a straight run downhill, especially if you have an ambulatory friend along. After about 0.33 mile, you reach the pavilion field, where there is a shallow pond. A more rugged trail circles the pond, a 1.5-hour walk for those who are ambulatory.
In Hampshire County, visit the Fort River Trail at the Silvio O. Conte NWR in Hadley. A 1.1-mile unpaved trail and boardwalk travels through fields, shrublands, and wet forest, with views of backwaters, extensive open fields, and the Holyoke Range. There are benches and portable toilets.
In South Hadley, visit the Bachelor Brook-Stony Brook Conservation Area. The unpaved River to Range Access Loop offers passage through an open field near the Connecticut River to a viewing area overlooking Bachelor Brook. (Everyone Outdoors: River to Range - Wheelchair Accessible Walk in South Hadley)
In Easthampton, the Mount Tom North Trailhead Park was opened in 2022. The unpaved 0.37-mile one-way trail is accessible but requires a gradual uphill climb. There are level spots and benches along the way. It ends in a field with accessible picnic tables and distant views over the Connecticut River Oxbow.
The Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton, has a 0.25-mile trail through a forested wetland to the lake. Park at the van-accessible lot on North Farms Road. From the lot, the wide asphalt trail heads into the woods. Take a right onto the boardwalk, which goes through a marshy area to an accessible viewing dock with a seating area. The boardwalk has adequately spaced turning areas, but people using mobility devices have indicated that there is insufficient space to fully pull off and allow another person to pass.
Built in 2018, Parsons Marsh Trail in Lenox, Berkshire County, is an unpaved 0.33-mile accessible trail that goes through an open field, past a small pond to a wooded clearing, and to a wetland with an observation platform. There are benches and an accessible picnic table.
On Cape Cod, explore some inland trails. In East Falmouth, two sites along the Coonamessett Greenway Heritage Trail have wheelchair-accessible trails with a compacted surface. The Lower Coonamessett River Conservation Lands’ Gateway to the Greenway opened in fall 2021 and features the universally accessible Scenic River Overlook and Lower Loop Trail with two boardwalks over the river. Parking is off 100 John Parker Road. The Bartolemei Conservation Area, 667 Sandwich Road, has a short level trail, a picnic table that accommodates wheelchairs, and a view of the Coonamessett River.
Hinckleys and Long ponds, Harwich, are excellent for winter ducks (Clapp 2019). From Route 6, take exit 82 north onto Route 124. Take your first left onto Headwaters Drive and continue 0.5 mile to a parking lot for the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Bird north along the rail trail for 0.5 mile, with a cranberry bog on your right and Hinckleys Pond to the left. When you reach Route 124, head back south to your car. To drive to Long Pond Beach, follow Route 124 north for 1.4 miles—Long Pond will appear on your right—and turn right onto Crowells Bog Road. The beach’s large, paved parking area is great for viewing waterfowl. This beach is best off-season.
Much of the sites, directions, and information in A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Cod (Marchessault et al. 2021) pertains equally during other seasons. Many sites are suitable for car birding. Here is one suggested route for wheelchair-accessible birding. Consult the tide charts.
The boardwalk at the Red Maple Swamp Trail at Fort Hill, Eastham, is wheelchair accessible if you park at the end of Hemenway Landing Road. You will have to backtrack to return to your car because the rest of the loop is not accessible. The swamp is beautiful and often birdy. Next, visit First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay in Eastham. Park in the first lot for great views of the bay and the shorebirds, seabirds, and waterfowl that stage here. Next, head to Wellfleet Harbor and park at the pier off East Commercial Street. The paved sidewalk is lined with benches and provides generous opportunities to observe the action on the water. The High Head bike trail in Truro is next. Bear left at the fork on High Head Road and drive about 0.5 mile of heavily rutted road to reach parking for the trailhead. The road is hard packed dirt; you should be able to navigate the short distance to the paved trail, which continues two miles to Head of the Meadow Beach, but the first 0.75 mile of bike trail is the most productive and interesting for birding. This trail is bordered by thickets on one side and marsh on the other, with spectacular views of the dunes that regularly produce exciting raptor activity.
Turners Falls—a village in Montague—and nearby Gill are great areas for car and wheelchair birding in the Connecticut River Valley, particularly around Barton Cove. For general information and directions to this area, see Bird Observer’s Where to Go Birding article (Rose 2016). In winter, large flocks of gulls often gather on the ice floes; the savvy observer may find specialty species of gulls among the more common birds. Nesting Bald Eagles return each spring.
In Turners Falls, the mile-long Migratory Way— an access road of the USGS Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Laboratory—parallels a wide canal, which is a favorite place for local and migrating waterfowl. The gated roadway is usually open during the week for cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchairs. When the gate is locked on weekends, pedestrians and wheelchair users are allowed. No benches. The Canalside Rail Trail offers good birding at Barton Cove and connects Migratory Way, the Discovery Center, and Unity Park. Continue north of the Connecticut River to Gill to explore the other side of Barton Cove. The Barton Cove Campground, the State Boat Ramp, and Riverview Drive offer good looks at ducks, geese, and gulls.
Satan’s Kingdom is a village in Northfield. Car-bird or walk along Old Vernon Road, a rural residential dirt road along a series of ponds and forested wetlands for all kinds of seasonal sightings. Old Vernon Road is off Mount Hermon Station Road.
For car birding in Worcester County, the Prison Camps—adjacent to Rutland State Park and Barre Falls Dam Army Corps of Engineers property—comprise miles of drivable dirt roads with numerous viewing opportunities through grassland, wetland, and mixed deciduous forest. Roads are closed in winter.
Also in Rutland, car-bird along Muschopauge Road at the Jordan Dairy Farm. The farm’s mixed corn and grass fields are cut, so grassland bird nesting is limited. Look for frequent raptors, geese, and nesting kestrels, as well as Horned Larks and Snow Buntings in winter.
The Worcester County Memorial Park Cemetery is a drivable cemetery with trees and open areas. Spring migrants in landscape trees, Killdeer and geese in open areas, and winter finches and waxwings make it a worthwhile drive. It is near the Worcester Regional Airport, which also offers drivable birding access for grassland species.
On Cape Ann, many parts of the classic birding route in Gloucester and Rockport (Leahy 2011) are conducive to car birding; several places might be accessible for people who have wheelchairs or limited mobility.
Nature centers are another wonderful resource that people with disabilities can tap into for wildlife experiences. Here are a couple we recommended in 2011 that continue to be excellent destinations.
The River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge is an accessible facility that is part of the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. It offers guided walks and wildlife programs. A mile-long, naturally accessible trail along the canal—known as the towpath—traverses wooded wetlands and open fields. Deer, fox, raccoons, muskrats, otter, and other wildlife are regularly seen. Bird life is prolific.
The Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls, an accessible facility with breathtaking exhibits, awaits those interested in an indoor education about the Connecticut River from source to sea.
Mass Audubon Accessible Wildlife Sanctuaries
In 2011, Mass Audubon had accessible All Persons Trails at five sanctuaries; today there are 14 wildlife sanctuaries with universally accessible trails. Some have post-and-rope-guided trails with Braille and tactile signs; others have narrated stops along the trail marked by three-foot-tall signposts with stop names and numbers in print and in Braille. Trail guides are available in large print or Braille, and trail maps come in tactile or large-print format.
Audio tours are available for the All Persons Trails at Attleboro Springs, Broadmeadow Brook, Broadmoor, Drumlin Farm, North River, Pleasant Valley, and Wellfleet Bay. The Boston Nature Center provides indoor and outdoor audio tours; the outdoor one is available in English and Spanish, and there is a kids’ version currently available only in English. The Blue Hills Trailside Museum also offers indoor and outdoor audio tours.
Wellfleet Bay and Broadmoor have all-terrain wheelchairs for visitor use during nature center hours. Reserve a chair in advance by calling 508-349-2615 for Wellfleet or 508-655-2296 for Broadmoor. Drumlin Farm lends out hands-free binoculars on a tripod and a walking cane with a small seat. Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center is on the road to Plum Island. The nature center is universally accessible and provides indoor observation decks, use of scopes in the facility, use of binoculars in programs, a marine touch tank, and a nature shop, as well as accessible restrooms.
Beach wheelchairs are available at most ocean beaches when lifeguards are on duty, usually from mid-June or July 1 through Labor Day. Unfortunately, this limited availability may not match the season, time of day, or tide when birders want to be on the beach. At DCR beaches (Saltwater Ocean Beaches – Mass.gov), it is advisable to call ahead for a beach chair, but you can also check at the beach’s contact station when you arrive. Many coastal municipalities with town beaches also provide beach wheelchairs during the summer but require beach parking stickers. The best source of information is often the town’s website. Only Crane Beach and the Parker River NWR have beach wheelchairs available year-round.
Cape Cod beaches in the summer are known for crowds, traffic, and hefty parking fees. To avoid disappointment, consult the Cape Days online guide: https://www.capedays.com/accessible-beaches.html, a great resource about the best wheelchair-accessible beaches on the Cape. A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Cod (Marchessault et al. 2021) can also help you figure out which beaches are good for off-season car or wheelchair birding. Our recommended Cape Cod beaches are listed under Barnstable County.
The locations listed below by county offer general accessibility. Before you visit any outdoor location, however, call ahead for current information. Weather conditions, erosion, hunting seasons, and other factors can change accessibility conditions or necessitate closure of a facility. Hours may change seasonally.
Bartolemei Conservation Area, East Falmouth (Bartolemei Conservation Area – 300 Committee): Wheelchair-accessible level trail and picnic table with view of the Coonamessett River.
Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands, Harwich (Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands – Harwich Conservation Trust): Bell’s Neck Road is a quiet and wide dirt road that passes between two reservoirs and a marsh for excellent birding. Nearby trails are not designed for access but may be easy walks for those not using mobility devices.
Breakwater Beach and Paines Creek Beach, Brewster (Brewster Beaches): At these Cape Cod Bay beaches, a beach wheelchair and a Mobi-Chair are kept in a shed near the parking lot in summer. Call the Council on Aging at 508-896-2737 to reserve a chair and get the key to the shed. There is a fee. Bird from the parking lot off-season.
Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, Sandwich to Bourne (Cape Cod Canal Bikeway): Also called the Cape Cod Service Road, it runs along both sides of the canal.
Cape Cod National Seashore (Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Centers): Salt Pond Visitor Center (508 487-1256) is fully accessible. Shared bike trails are accessible for wheelchairs all the way to Coast Guard Beach. The 0.25-mile Buttonbush Trail is a self-guided, multi-sensory trail designed for users with visual impairments. Free parking in visitor-center lot. Miles of accessible trails throughout the Seashore.
Cape Cod National Seashore: Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, and Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown (508-771-2144): Accessible restrooms, changing rooms, and showers; lifeguards; Mobi-Chair and beach-wheelchair accessible. Before late June, call 508-255-6751 for Coast Guard Beach, call 508-255-2100 for Herring Cove.
Cape Cod Rail Trail (Cape Cod Rail Trail; 508-896-3491): A 22-mile rail trail through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet; passes through Nickerson State Park and the National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center. Some bike concessions rent hand cycles.
Coonamessett Greenway Heritage Trail, Lower Coonamesset River, East Falmouth (Lower Coonamessett River – 300 Committee): A 0.7-mile loop with two boardwalks crossing the river.
Corn Hill Beach, Truro (Truro Accessible Beaches; 508-487-6983): Boardwalk, mobility mat, accessible portable toilets. Call the beach office for beach wheelchairs in season.
Corporation Beach, Dennis (Dennis Beaches; 508-760-6159): Easy wheelchair accessibility from large parking lot. Accessible restrooms, bathhouse, snack bar, picnic tables. Call 508-385-1558 in advance to reserve a Mobi-Chair in season. Bird from the parking lot off-season.
Falmouth Beaches (Falmouth Beaches; 508-548-8623): Adaptive wheelchairs are available; call between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm the day before to reserve one and it will be delivered to the beach of your choice. Old Silver Beach, Surf Drive Beach, and Wood Neck Beach have level access to the beach from the parking lot. Accessible restrooms and bathhouse.
First Encounter Beach, Eastham (Eastham Beaches; 508-240-5974): A wide parking lot with a minor grade to the beach. Beach wheelchair is available in season. Bird from the parking lot off-season.
Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp Trail, Eastham (Red Maple Swamp, Fort Hill): The wheelchair-accessible boardwalk can be reached from the end of Hemenway Landing Road.
Hinckleys and Long Ponds, Harwich (Clapp 2019): Two nearby ponds along Route 124 that are great for viewing winter waterfowl.
Kalmus Beach Park, Hyannis (580-790-9884): Wooden boardwalks to the beach, accessible restrooms and shower facilities, snack bar. Call 508-790-6345 in advance to reserve a Mobi-Chair.
MacMillan Pier (or Wharf), Provincetown (MacMillan Pier – Chamber of Commerce): Parking in the large lot at the end of the pier is free off-season beginning November 1. The walkway on the north side of the pier is wide with few obstructions and leads to an overlook facing the rock jetty. Great for winter waterfowl, gulls, occasional alcids. Restrooms across from the parking lot are open year-round.
Monument Beach, Bourne (Bourne Beaches; 508-759-0600 x 1504): The parking lot is level with the beach and Mobi-Chairs are available in summer. Ask the lifeguard.
Nickerson State Park: Brewster (Nickerson State Park): Accessible campground and yurt sites; miles of paved trails. Cape Cod Rail Trail runs through park.
Scusset Beach State Reservation, Sandwich (Scusset Beach State Reservation): Accessible camping, restrooms, bathhouse, fishing and viewing platform, boardwalk, and beach mat. Reserve a beach wheelchair at 508-888-0859. Access to Cape Cod Canal Bikeway.
Skaket Beach, Orleans (Orleans Beaches; 508-240-3700): Wheelchair accessible; accessible restrooms; food; Mobi-Chair and beach wheelchair available in summer on site, first come first serve. Bird from the parking lot off-season.
South Cape Beach State Park, Mashpee (South Cape Beach State Park; 508-457-0495): Beach overlooking Vineyard Sound. A six-foot-wide boardwalk leads to an observation deck. Call in advance to reserve a beach wheelchair in season.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, South Wellfleet (Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay WS; 508-349-2615): Accessible nature center, restrooms, All Persons Trail, Freedom wheelchair, audio tour, tactile map, Braille guide.
West Dennis Beach, Dennis (Dennis Beaches; 508-760-6159): Bordered by Nantucket Sound on one side and tidal marshland on the other. Excellent off-season birding along a long and wide paved road between the beach and the marsh. Handicapped-accessible restrooms, snack bar, ramps for wheelchair accessibility. Call 508-760-6240 to reserve a Mobi-Chair in season.
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, Lanesborough to Adams (Ashuwillticook Rail Trail): Fully accessible 10-foot-wide rail trail through Lanesborough, Cheshire, and Adams. Benches, restrooms, parking along trail.
Berkshire Lakes, Pittsfield (City of Pittsfield Lakes): Lakes and reservoirs accessible by road for car birding include Pontoosuc Lake, Cheshire Reservoir, Onota Lake, Richmond Pond, and the Stockbridge Bowl. Spotting scope recommended.
Clarksburg State Park, Clarksburg (Clarksburg State Park; 413-664-8345): Accessible restrooms and picnic area with pond views. Trails around the pond are partway accessible for wheelchair users and worth exploring. Accessible camping in summer.
Farnams Causeway, Cheshire (Farnams Causeway): Paved causeway between two reservoirs. Stunning views of Mount Greylock. Picnic areas. Intersects Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
Mount Greylock State Reservation, Lanesboro/Adams (Mount Greylock State Reservation): The visitor center and the summit are the most accessible parts of this extensive mountain complex. Accessible overnight accommodations at Bascom Lodge; reservations mid-May to late October: 413-743-1591. Visitor center in Lanesboro: 413-499-4262.
Old Vernon Road, Satan’s Kingdom, Northfield (Old Vernon Road). Car-bird or walk on a rural residential dirt road along a series of ponds and forested wetlands.
Parsons Marsh, Lenox (Parsons Marsh): Unpaved 0.33-mile accessible trail from an open field to a wooded clearing.
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Lenox (Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley WS; 413-637-0320): Fully accessible education center and classrooms, restrooms. All Person’s Trail, audio tour, tactile map, Braille guide.
Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Westport and South Dartmouth (Mass Audubon Allens Pond WS; 508-636-2437): Accessible restroom and trail at Stone Barn.
Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary, Attleboro (Mass Audubon Attleboro Springs WS; 508-223-3060): All Persons Trail, audio tour. Public transportation. Restrooms at adjacent National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.
Buttonwood Park, New Bedford (Buttonwood Park): Almost two miles of paved, flat walking paths that are wheelchair accessible. The paths traverse the perimeter of the park past the zoo, pond, arboretum, and playground. A wetland buffer garden is not wheelchair accessible but helps create a nature oasis in this urban setting.
Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport (Horseneck Beach State Reservation): A paved path runs parallel to the 2.0-mile beach, which has Mobi-Mats and beach wheelchairs in season. It is advisable to call the beach office at 508-636-8816 in advance to reserve a chair, but you can ask at the contact station upon arrival. Accessible bathhouses, restrooms, ramps, and parking. The campground is universally accessible; some trails are accessible.
Saulnier Memorial Bike Trail, New Bedford (Saulnier Memorial Bike Trail): A 3.5-mile paved waterfront trail begins at wheelchair-accessible West Beach, runs along Clark Cove to Fort Tabor Park at the end of the peninsula, and heads up the eastern side to the New Bedford Harbor Walk.
The Sawmill, Acushnet River Reserve, Acushnet (The Sawmill – Acushnet River): A restored 19-acre park along the Acushnet River, with accessible, slip-resistant aggregate paths along the front half of the trail loop.
Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield (Bradley Palmer State Park): An unpaved 0.6-mile accessible trail through the forest along the Ipswich River to a bridge overview. There also is a 1.25-mile paved road known as the Avenue, with wheelchair access maintained around the gate in winter, when an accessible restroom at park headquarters is open to the public.
Cape Ann, Rockport (Bird Observer 38 (5)) and Gloucester (Bird Observer 38 (6)).
Crane Beach, Ipswich (Crane Beach): Accessible bathhouse in summer; accessible restrooms and beach wheelchairs year-round. Rides from the parking lot to the beach and back for people with mobility challenges.
J. Harry Rich State Forest, Groton (Everyone Outdoors: A Sense of Peace and History on the Tinker Trail): The unpaved forested Tinker Trail takes you to a wide stream. Benches, picnic table, no restrooms. The 12-mile Nashua River Rail Trail runs through this state forest.
Joppa Flats Education Center, Newburyport (Mass Audubon Joppa Flats; 978-462-9998): The entire building is universally accessible. Elevator to second-floor bird observatory. Optical equipment available for use in building.
Lynn Shore and Nahant Beach Reservation, Nahant (Lynn Shore and Nahant Beach; 781-485-2803): Two-mile coastal bike and walking path that hugs the urban shoreline. Accessible causeway, picnicking, bathhouses, beach wheelchairs available in season. Boardwalk parallel to Long Beach, Nahant, has mobility mat in season at one access point to the beach.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, Newburyport (Parker River NWR Plum Island; 978-465-5753): Accessible trails and boardwalks, restrooms. Car birding. Fully accessible visitor center just off-island on Plum Island Turnpike.
Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury (Salisbury Beach State Reservation; 978-462-4481): Campground at the mouth of the Merrimack River. The 3.8-mile ocean beach has boardwalks over the dunes and beach mats at several access points. Accessible camping, nature center, restrooms, beach wheelchairs in season.
Sandy Point State Reservation, Ipswich (Sandy Point State Reservation): Wheelchair-accessible parking and composting toilets. Call Salisbury Beach State Reservation in advance (978-462-4481) to reserve beach wheelchairs in season.
Alderbrook Meadows, Northfield (Alderbrook Meadows WS – Mount Grace): A 0.5-mile unpaved accessible trail loop passes through the mixed forest and along an undeveloped pond to a wetland viewing platform. Benches, no restrooms.
Barton Cove Recreation and Camping, Gill (Barton Cove Recreation and Camping): For day use call 413-863-9300.
Barton Cove State Boat Ramp, Gill (Barton Cove State Boat Ramp): Offers excellent birding of the Connecticut River at Barton Cove.
Bennett Meadows WMA, Northfield (Bennett Meadows WMA Map): Off Route 10 next to the Connecticut River. Great birding in the parking area in spring. Fairly level for walking, essentially a farm field road with open views; muddy at times. No benches.
Canalside Rail Trail, Turners Falls to Deerfield (Canalside Rail Trail): A 3.27-mile rail trail begins at Unity Park in Turners Falls and ends in Deerfield, passing behind the Great Falls Discovery Center. Park at Unity Park or at the end of Masonic Avenue in Turners Falls, or off McClelland Farm Road in Deerfield.
Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls (Great Falls Discovery Center): Fully accessible.
Migratory Way Canal, Turners Falls (Migratory Way; 413-863-3676): Park next to a gate for the USGS Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Laboratory. Driving allowed when gate is open; pedestrians, wheelchairs, and bikes allowed when gate is locked.
Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation, South Deerfield (Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation; 413-665-2928): Drive to the summit from Route 116 for aerial views of hawks and other birds in spring and fall. Accessible picnic area and restrooms.
Riverwalk, Sunderland (Sunderland Riverside Park): A 0.75-mile accessible trail starts from the Sunderland Library, loops around the school playing field, and parallels the Connecticut River with views of Mount Sugarloaf.
Quabbin Reservoir (Quabbin Reservoir; 413-323-7221): Encompasses Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. Main entrance and visitor center off Route 9, Belchertown. Roadways through park provide interesting views of the reservoir; diverse variety of year-round and migrating birds. Wheelchair-accessible birding is possible at several gates, and there is room for wheelchairs to maneuver around them. Best birding gates are 29, 31, and 35 (North Quabbin Bicycle Access Map) and 40 and 43 (East Quabbin Bicycle Access Map). Gate 31 Fishing Area 2—closed in the winter—is a 0.5-mile flat, well-maintained asphalt road to the waterfront that has low automobile traffic and can be navigated in a wheelchair. Less popular with birders than nearby gates 33 and 35, it is more accessible for people with a range of mobilities. Parking lot at the Fishing Area has wheelchair-accessible spots. Permanent restroom facilities. At Gate 35, a wide dirt road leads to the water, then travels two miles along the edge of the reservoir. (Everyone Outdoors: Scenic Easy Walk In North Central Massachusetts).
Unity Park, Montague (Unity Park): Has a 0.25-mile wheelchair-accessible asphalt path along the south shore of the Connecticut River’s Barton Cove. Crosswalks with curb cuts with tactile markings. Park in the lot near Montague Town Hall to avoid having to cross the street.
Wendell State Forest, Millers Falls (Wendell State Forest): A challenge. Park at headquarters. The trail downhill is steeper than code allows. A more rugged trail circles the pond, a 1.5-hour walk for those who are ambulatory.
Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Refuge, Longmeadow (Fannie Stebbins): A unit of the Silvio O. Conte NWR and part of the Connecticut River’s larger floodplain area known as Longmeadow Flats. Extensive marshy ponds host wading birds, waterfowl, and songbirds. Great birding along the roads, especially during migration. Be cautious of muddy roads and flooded trails.
Forest Park, Springfield (Forest Park; 413-750-2652): Easily accessed from Interstate 91. With multiple ponds, pathways, and benches, this city park is good for viewing migrating songbirds, herons, nesting hawks, and a local duck population that is visited by Wood Ducks, Gadwalls, and sometimes rarities in winter and during migration.
Mount Tom State Reservation, Holyoke (Mount Tom State Reservation; 413-534-1186): Lake Bray accessible trail is a 0.5-mile forested trail with views of Lake Bray. Drive the summit roads for hawkwatching in the fall. Family and disability-friendly birding programs.
Robinson State Park, Agawam (Robinson State Park): Forested roadway through park with small pond next to the Westfield River. Drive through day-use area to the gate and stroll in from there. Accessible hiking, picnicking, restrooms.
Swift River Universal Access Trail Loop, Palmer (Swift River Trail): An unpaved forested trail along the river offers accessible picnicking. Benches. Park at end of cul-de-sac on First Street. Part of the Swift River Green Belt.
Van Horn Park, Springfield (Van Horn Park): Parking available off Armory Street beside the sports fields. From the parking area, follow the paved path toward Armory Street and continue north along the sidewalk until you see a paved trail leading to the thin woods on the right. This metro park is a nice stopover site during migration. The wide, paved path continues around the upper pond, which yields waterfowl during migration. Bathrooms available.
Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton (Mass Audubon Arcadia WS; 413-584-3009): Accessible parking, nature center, restrooms, and All Persons Sensory Trail with post-and-rope guide that overlooks a vernal pool. Braille and tactile signs on trail; tactile map available. Some birding programs are accessible.
Bachelor Brook-Stony Brook Conservation Area, South Hadley (Bachelor-Stony Brook Conservation Area). The unpaved River to Range Access Loop passes through an open field near the Connecticut River to a viewing area overlooking Bachelor Brook.
Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton (Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area): A 0.25-mile paved trail into a forested wetland with a boardwalk to a viewing dock with bench—all wheelchair accessible. Park at the van-accessible lot on North Farms Road.
Fort River Trail at the Conte Refuge (Fort River Trail): A 1.1-mile unpaved trail and boardwalk travels through fields, shrublands, and wet forest, with views of the Holyoke Range. Benches and portable toilets.
Mount Tom North Trailhead Park, Easthampton (Mount Tom North Trailhead Park): An unpaved 0.37-mile trail requires a gradual uphill climb. Accessible picnic tables and parking.
Mutters Field Accessible Trail, Brickyard Brook Conservation Area, Easthampton (Everyone Outdoors: Mutters Field): A five-foot-wide 1800-foot loop trail. Regularly spaced benches, an accessible pavilion and picnic areas, and clear signage describing trail features. The trail skirts a narrow brook, shrubby areas, and a meadow surrounded by trees.
Nonotuck Park, Easthampton (Nonotuck Park): A paved road runs in a loop through the park, which is open from the end of April to October 31. Come early in the day, especially in summer, when there can be a lot of traffic for youth games.
Norwottuck Rail Trail, Amherst to Northampton (Norwottuck Rail Trail; 413-586-8706): A 10-mile trail of agricultural, forest, and wetland views. Trailhead at Elwell State Park in Northampton. The Lawrence Station entrance at Station Road, Amherst, has a van-accessible parking lot. The Lawrence Station area offers the best birding.
Orchard Arboretum, Amherst (Orchard Arboretum): A small and quiet urban park with flat asphalt paths that are wheelchair accessible. Benches. Clearly marked entrance on Spencer Drive. Bus stop is 0.25-mile away at the Hampshire College Eric Carle Museum.
UMass Campus Pond, Amherst (UMass Campus Pond): Ducks, swans, geese abound all year. Next to the Fine Arts Center.
Acton Arboretum, Acton (Acton Arboretum): ADA-accessible bog boardwalk with observation area, bench, and wheelchair turnaround. Park at Conant Elementary School, which is 0.22 mile from Minot Road entrance.
Arlington Reservoir, Arlington (Arlington Reservoir): Accessible 1.2-mile perimeter trail with pullouts and benches. Accessible observation platform over the water.
Beaver Brook Road, Boxborough (Beaver Valley Pettingell Park): Winds through the Cisco office complex and has a variety of habitats, including open fields, small ponds, and office-park plantings. A long, paved sidewalk parallels the road. Suitable for car birding.
Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, Natick (Mass Audubon Broadmoor WS; 508-655-2296): Accessible nature center, restrooms, All Persons Trail and boardwalk, audio tour, Freedom wheelchair, tactile map, Braille trail guide.
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Lowell through Framingham (Bruce Freeman Rail Trail): The 10-foot-wide flat, paved path is accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Runs through a variety of habitats. Several parking lots along the trail.
Drumlin Farm, Lincoln (Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm; 781-259-2200): Accessible parking, nature center, restrooms, Audubon Shop, All Persons Trails, audio tour, tactile map, Braille trail guide, adaptive items.
Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge, Concord (Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge):
Concord Unit: an unpaved Dike Trail with pond and wetland views that leads to an open view of the Concord River. Several benches. Great for migrating waterfowl and views of birds any time of year. Parking lot has an accessible portable toilet. Can be icy in winter.
Sudbury Unit: Red Maple Trail is a 0.7-mile accessible loop that includes a boardwalk. Trail can be wet or muddy; may be inaccessible in winter.
Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Belmont (Mass Audubon Habitat WS; 617-489-5050): Accessible nature center, restrooms, All-Persons Trail, audio tour.
Meriam’s Corner, Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord (Minute Man NHP – Accessibility; 978-369-6993): The site where Battle Road begins, Meriam’s Corner is a birding hotspot. The park has many sections of paved and nonpaved trails accessible to those with limited mobility. Accessible parking and restrooms. Wheelchair-accessible visitor centers close for winter. The Minute Man Visitor Center can be reached by MBTA bus.
Teresa and Roberta Lee Fitness and Nature Path, Lexington (Teresa and Roberta Lee Nature Path): Boardwalk trail is wheelchair accessible with Braille signage, a sensory garden, and various tactile cues for people with vision impairments. Located in Lincoln Park off Worthen Road. Town of Lexington Recreation Department: 781-862-0500 x262.
Walden Pond, Concord (Walden Pond State Reservation): Accessible bathhouse, beach access, and accessible Thoreau House Site Trail that passes through the woods to Thoreau’s cabin site. Accessible visitor center and restrooms are open year-round.
Blue Hills Reservation, Milton (Blue Hills Reservation; 617-698-1802): Large reservation with extensive hiking trails, some accessible. Houghton’s Pond has a wheelchair-accessible visitor center and restrooms. Beach wheelchairs available in season.
Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Milton (Mass Audubon Blue Hills Trailside Museum; 617-333-0690): Accessible outdoor exhibit trail, nature center, restrooms, audio tour. Public transportation.
Bristol Blake State Reservation, Norfolk (Bristol Blake State Reservation; 508-528-3140): Adjacent to and cooperatively managed with Mass Audubon’s Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.
Needham Accessible Reservoir Trail (Needham Reservoir Trail): Wheelchair-accessible 0.5-mile loop around the reservoir through wetland and forest habitats. Trail is six feet wide with packed stone, solid surfaces, a boardwalk, and two fishing platforms. Benches. Sometimes just Mute Swans, sometimes interesting ducks.
Squantum Point Park, Quincy (Squantum Point Park): Popular for fishing with easy access to views of harbor birds. Paved and dirt pathways are reasonably accessible; stone benches overlooking the shoreline.
Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk (Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary; 508-528-3140): Accessible nature center, restrooms, Sensory Trail to a boardwalk with pond views, post-and-rope guide with Braille and tactile signs, audio tour, tactile map. This Mass Audubon sanctuary is adjacent to the 140-acre Bristol Blake State Reservation and cooperatively managed with DCR.
Webb Memorial State Park, North Weymouth (Webb Memorial State Park): A peninsula extending into Hingham Bay with a mix of paved and hard dirt trails. Accessible restrooms are open year-round.
Wollaston Beach, Quincy (Quincy Shores Reservation): Largest of the Boston Harbor beaches. Wheelchair-accessible pathway along the beach; public transportation; beach wheelchairs available in season.
Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield (Mass Audubon Daniel Webster WS; 781-837-9400): Accessible trail segment from parking area to a bird blind.
Nantasket Beach Reservation (Nantasket Beach Reservation): One-mile paved walking path parallels the beach, which is accessible by ramps spread along the reservation. DCR staff work to clear these paths for accessibility, but storms, high tides, and cobble make it difficult to keep them clear at all times. Accessible restroom year-round; public transportation; beach wheelchairs available in season.
Nelson Memorial Park, Plymouth (Nelson Memorial Park): Beachfront playground with short accessible walkway along the beach. Small salt marsh. Connects to North Plymouth Rail Trail.
North Plymouth Rail Trail, Plymouth (North Plymouth Rail Trail): The 1.2-mile trail is generally navigable for strollers, bicycles, and wheelchairs, passing through several different habitats including salt marsh, open field, sandy beach, a bramble-filled thicket, and a cliff overlooking the ocean. Connects to Nelson Memorial Park.
North River Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield (Mass Audubon North River WS; 781-837-9400): Accessible nature center, restrooms, Sensory Trail, audio tour.
Wompatuck State Park, Hingham (Wompatuck State Park): With more than 3,500 acres of forest, streams, and ponds, the park attracts a variety of spring migrants. Accessible features include restrooms, camping, and the 1.25-mile Wompatuck Trail. Other paved trails may be “wheelchair friendly” but not actually accessible.
World’s End, Hingham (World’s End): Accessible parking. Wide gravel-surfaced carriage roads are wheelchair accessible, but grades in some places can be challenging. Advanced passes required on weekends and holidays, recommended for weekdays.
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, Chelsea (Belle Isle Marsh Reservation; 617-727-5350): This popular spot off Route 1A is a delight if you do not mind planes flying overhead every five minutes to Logan Airport. Accessible parking, benches throughout the circular wheelchair-accessible loop trail. A short side trail leads to an accessible viewing station with benches and great views of the marsh, tidal river, and pools. A viewing tower at the north end is not wheelchair accessible but is solidly built, with minimal steps to each landing. Dogs are welcome. No restrooms. See also: Friends of Belle Isle Marsh.
Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Mattapan (Mass Audubon Boston Nature Center; 617-983-8500): Nature center, restrooms, All Persons Trail, audio tours in English and Spanish.
Millennium Park, West Roxbury (Millennium Park): Many of the paved walking paths are wheelchair accessible, but some connectors are too steep for people with wheelchairs or limited mobility, so they will need to drive to get to the upper trail loops. Excellent views from the top of the park and excellent birding everywhere.
Lower Neponset River Trail (Lower Neponset River Trail; 617-727-5290): Part of the eight-mile Neponset Greenway Trail. Park at Hallet Street lot or Pope John Paul II Park for this artistically embellished 2.2-mile urban bike path. From Pope John Paul, a mural depicting birds and bicyclists marks the entrance at a tunnel under Interstate 93. At Granite Avenue, the push of a button instantly stops all traffic for an easy crossing of a very busy road. From here the wide trail turns to hard packed dirt for roughly 150 yards as it passes through tidal river and woodland edge. Good birding from this vantage point. Public transportation.
Pope John Paul II Park Reservation, Boston (Pope John Paul II Park): A wheelchair-accessible walkway circles an open grassy mown hill with views into a tidal river marsh. Look for common shorebirds and migrating songbirds. Biking is not allowed. Park here to access the adjacent Neponset River Greenway.
Revere Beach Reservation, Revere (Revere Beach Reservation): The country’s oldest public beach has 2.5 miles of urban shoreline with a wheelchair-accessible paved promenade. Accessible restrooms, public transportation, beach wheelchairs and Mobi-Mats in season.
Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor (Spectacle Island): The only island in Boston Harbor with universal access. Docks, visitor center, and perimeter path navigable by wheelchair; assistance will be required for those who normally need support. Benches and picnic tables; nature and other educational programs. From Long Wharf in Boston, take a wheelchair-accessible ferry. Call park ranger line for ferry and other information: 617-223-8666.
Back Bay Fens, Boston (Back Bay Fens): Part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, near the Museum of Fine Arts. Currently undergoing renovation as part of the Muddy River Restoration Project. Paved and accessible pathways circle the river on both sides, with a crossing at Agassiz Road over a bridge. A smaller footbridge may require assistance for some wheelchair users due to the slightly slippery metal grid of the bridge. Benches abound but no facilities. Public transportation.
Barre Falls Dam, Hubbardston (Barre Falls Dam; 978-928-4712): U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site off Route 62; popular for hawkwatching during migration. Accessible picnic area and restrooms.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, Uxbridge (Blackstone River and Canal Park): Accessible visitor center, restrooms, and trail along the Blackstone River Greenway. Canalside trail is reasonably accessible, with slight grades and surface changes.
Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Worcester (Mass Audubon Broadmeadow Brook WS; 508-753-6087): Accessible nature center, restrooms, Sensory Trail, audio tour, trail map and guide. Public transportation.
Doyle Community Park, Leominster (Everyone Outdoors: Stroll Through Former Estate Grounds in Leominster): 1.5 miles of accessible paths wind around a former estate, passing a pond. Benches are usually well off the path. Restrooms at visitor center. Picnic area.
Eagle Reserve, Royalston (Eagle Reserve – Mount Grace): A short unpaved accessible trail leads to a large viewing platform with a bench on a large pond. Excellent views of resident eagles. No restrooms.
Mass Central Rail Trail, Worcester County (Wachusett Greenways): Traverses communities of Barre, Oakham, Rutland, Holden, West Boylston, and Sterling.
Muschopauge Road, Jordan Dairy Farm, Rutland (Jordan Dairy Farms). Look for nesting kestrels, frequent raptors, geese; Horned Larks and Snow Buntings in winter.
Nashua River Rail Trail, Ayer-Dunstable (Nashua River Rail Trail; 978-597-8802): A 12.3-mile rail trail through Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, and Dunstable, crossing the New Hampshire border to Nashua. Accessible parking and restrooms in Ayer; public transportation to Ayer on Boston-Fitchburg commuter rail line.
River Bend Farm, Uxbridge (River Bend Farm; 508-278-6486): Part of Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. Wheelchair-accessible visitor center; disability friendly; year-round nature programs and guided walks.
Rutland Prison Camp (Barre Falls and Rutland Prison Camp): Miles of drivable dirt roads through grassland, wetland, and mixed deciduous forest. Roads are closed in winter. Also see https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/rutland-prison-camp
Silver Lake, Athol (Silver Lake Park; 978-249-4819): Glacial kettle-hole pond near downtown with resident and migrating waterfowl. Excellent car birding on the road that circles the pond.
Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Princeton (Mass Audubon Wachusett Meadow WS; 978-464-2712): Accessible nature center, pavilion, restrooms, All Persons Trail. Great birding from the parking lot.
Wachusett Mountain, Princeton (Wachusett Mountain State Reservation): The 360-degree views and hawkwatching are worth the trip to the summit. The visitor center at the bottom is worth visiting for its exhibits and accessible restrooms.
Worcester County Memorial Park Cemetery, Worcester (Worcester County Memorial Cemetery): Good car birding.
Worcester Regional Airport (Worcester Airport): Drivable birding for grassland species.
Thank you to Derek Allard, Cory Elowe, Joshua Rose, Leora Ferrari, Mari Jo Foti, Meghadeepa Maity, Ted Purcell, and Kari Sasportas for their contributions to this article.
- Clapp, D. 2021. Self-guided Winter Walks. https://capecodbirdclub.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Kingfisher2021Winter.pdf. Accessed December 6, 2022.
- Clapp, D. 2019. Birding Mid–Cape Cod from Barnstable to Orleans. Bird Observer 47 (5):285–302.
- Crosson, P. 2020. Winter Birding on Cape Cod: Upper Cape Cod and Barnstable. Bird Observer 48 (6):365–78.
- eBird. 2021. https://ebird.org/news/ebird-passes-1-billion-bird-observations. Accessed December 27, 2022.
- Elowe, C. R., S. McGullam, M. Maity, and J. A. Spool. 2020. The Murmuration: Crowdsourcing Local Knowledge to Improve Birding Safety and Accessibility. Bird Observer 48 (6):379–84.
- Leahy, C. 2010. A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Ann, Part 1. Bird Observer 38 (5):261–74.
- Leahy, C. 2010. A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Ann, Part 2. Bird Observer 38 (6):329–42.
- Leahy, C. 2011. A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Ann. Arlington, Massachusetts: Bird Observer.
- Marchessault, N. 2018. Winter Birding on Cape Cod: Provincetown to the Orleans Rotary. Bird Observer 46 (6):349–64.
- Marchessault, N., D. Clapp, and P. Crosson. 2021. A Guide to Winter Birding on Cape Cod. Arlington, Massachusetts: Bird Observer.
- Rose, J. 2016. Birding Along the Connecticut River in Turners Falls and Gill, Bird Observer 44 (6):369–76.
- Wetmore, T. T., IV. 2007. A Birder’s Guide to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. Bird Observer 35 (4):205–18.
Bird Observer will periodically update the list of accessible birding places in Massachusetts. If there is a site you would like to have included, please send its name, a brief description, and a link to its website to email@example.com.
Marcy Marchello is the recreation manager of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program.
Mary O’Neil is the president of Bird Observer, Inc.
Marsha C. Salett is the editor of Bird Observer.
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Available for free for people with high-frequency hearing loss. Read the article in Audubon Winter 2022 magazine.