Mass Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary–Hiking with Kids

We are members of the Mass Audubon Society. There are dozens of sanctuaries throughout Massachusetts and each of them is a little bit different. Some are forest habitats, while some dwell on the ocean. Some have mountains, while others have marshes. There are hiking trails, camp sites, cabins, canoe launches, visitor centers, education programs, and even a working farm. We joined primarily for Drumlin Farm because the kids love the animals, but we recently made a trip to Topsfield, MA for the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary and we will definitely be back. It’s a great place to go hiking with kids, and can also serve as a comfortable introduction to hiking for adults.


Ipswich River has more than 12 miles of trails and there’s something for everyone. We opted for the Rockery Loop, a relatively flat walk on a well-defined trail. It follows a wooden pathway past the pond where you’ll find a beaver lodge and multiple dams. We saw beavers, turtles, fish, and a great blue heron. The path curves around over a bridge and into a wooded area filled with an assortment of trees from around the world. On the far side of the pond is the Rockery, a garden of large granite boulders that is bound to thrill any kids in the group. We didn’t have time to climb around, but we’ll definitely be back for that. From there, you keep walking around the pond and can either head back to the Visitor’s Center or keep exploring. This is a great walk for families since there is so much to do and see. There are other trails at Ipswich that lead through a forest of old pine trees and through marshland. You’ll find canoe access to Ipswich River as well.

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Much like other Mass Audubon sites, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is a great introduction to hiking and nature exploration for kids. They have some wonderful programming for young kids, as well as programs for adults. We were fortunate enough to stumble into a free beaver walk with a volunteer. I highly recommend joining a program on your first visit, as it gave us the lay of the land, taught us what to look for as we were walking along, and gave us plenty of interesting information. If you don’t join an organized walk, make sure to stop in at the Visitor’s Center for tips and trail info.

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Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is open year-round and is located at 87 Perkins Row in Topsfield, MA. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for kids (2-12) and seniors. It’s free for members.

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