The Ipswich River Watershed is a biker’s paradise. A quintessentially New England landscape of scenic byways lined with stone walls, forests, meadows, swamps, bogs, ponds and streams. Part of it all is the Ipswich River, the waterway which is interconnected to every natural and human community you’ll pedal past.
The Ipswich River watershed’s landscape is dotted with elongated glacial hills called drumlins, interspersed among low-land features. The drumlins are not high – the highest is 420 feet – but they can be steep. So while you won’t find miles high hills, flat terrain is the exception in the Ipswich River Watershed. A good challenge for those biking muscles!
The following tour circuits are chosen for their beauty, generally rural character, and links to other recreational opportunities like hiking or canoeing. The most rural sections of the watershed are the northern and eastern. The southwestern and southern sections are more urban. Most of the roads don’t have paved shoulders, and are often narrow and winding. We try to keep you off larger and busier roads, though a few are included (mostly for short links) in the routes suggested.
The Upper (Western) Watershed
1. Harold Parker State Forest (2½-7 miles, paved and unpaved roads)
The best biking in the Upper Ipswich Watershed is at and near Harold Parker State Forest. This area is mostly part of the Skug River subwatershed – a tributary of the Ipswich. The biking within the park itself is varied and extensive, ranging from short rides on paved roads to many miles of unpaved roads.
2. Andover – North Andover – Middleton Loop
This ride takes a tour of the highest hills of the Ipswich River Watershed, beginning at the Ward Reservation in Andover. These hills form a disconnected ridgeline which separates the Ipswich and Merrimack watersheds. The Ward Reservation includes Holt Hill, the highest hill in the Ipswich River Watershed. This is well worth visiting in its own right, as is the fascinating Pine Hole Bog, also on the property.
3. Wilmington – Reading Loop (8.8 miles)
This route links some nice open space and recreational properties and follows pleasant routes through residential areas.
4. North Reading – Middleton – Lynnfield Loop (about 13 mi)
Lower (Northern) Watershed
8. Miles River Watershed Loop (21 miles)
The Miles River is one of the main tributaries of the Ipswich River, beginning in North Beverly and Wenham, and traveling northward through Hamilton, joining the mainstem of the river in Ipswich.
9. Coastal Circuit (about 15 miles)
This is a 60+ mile route takes you from the northwestern portion of the watershed all the way to the coast and back. This ride is for the fittest among you! For those who like the idea, but aren’t ready for the whole challenge, you may arrange to have a car at the coast to ferry you back to the start; or use your maps to choose a turnaround at the halfway point.