The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 14, 2010


Carlisle’s majestic pines in local state forest


It missed becoming a mast. (Photo by Helen Lyons)

Among its varied parcels of open space and protected land, Carlisle is home to the Carlisle Pines State Park, a small wooded area which includes a grove of ancient pines that have survived hundreds of years. Although pine forests are hardly unusual in Carlisle, within a few steps of entering Carlisle Pines State Park hikers realize they are in a rare environment.


The 23-acre Carlisle Pines State Park includes oak, pine and hemlock forested hills which surround a grove of large, old growth white pines. These are the survivors of a virgin stand of over 100 white pines that were protected in the early 1900s. According to Ruth Wilkins’ Carlisle: Its History and Heritage, tall pines were in great demand for use as ship masts, but somehow this stand of trees, many over 100 feet tall, had escaped harvest. In 1902, Warren Manning of Billerica mounted an effort to save the famous Carlisle Pines. He raised $1,600 to purchase the property which was then deeded to the Appalachian Mountain Club as a public reservation. Carlisle Pines is now a state forest and is managed as part of the Great Brook Farm State Park.

Between 1989 and 1999, several abutting parcels of land were added to the conservation holdings in the area. The 15-acre MacAfee Land, 5.4-acre Avery Land, 4.7-acre Erickson Land, 2.0-acre Swanson Land and 10.4 acres of land from the Carlisle Land Trust now combine with Carlisle Pines State Park to create a substantial wildlife conservation area.

Trails and features

Chrissy Lyons demonstrates the size of this tree. (Photo by Helen Lyons)

The main entrance to Carlisle Pines is at the end of Forest Park Drive. An opening in the stone wall marks the beginning of the trail which immediately enters the woods. Thick beds of pine needles are soft underfoot and muffle the sounds creating a quiet, peaceful environment. Early wildflowers are now in bloom, with beautiful pockets of bluets and bunchberry and dozens of pink ladyslippers along the path. Partridgeberry is still in bloom and the myriad low-bush blueberries are showing their first flowers. Within a few hundred feet, the trail forks to either side of a beautiful hemlock grove. Staying to the right at the fork, the trail rises slightly. To the left a short spur trail brings the hiker past a large outcropping of ledge. The pine nuts from this year’s bumper crop of pine cones seem to have provided a great feast for the squirrels this spring – there are many piles of disassembled pine cones on the ledges. Returning to the main trail and continuing toward the far end of the Carlisle Pines Trail loop, the trail turns left and down a small hill. Here the hiker gets a first look at the oldest of the remaining pine trees. Today, only a few of these majestic trees remain. Many are believed to have been lost during the 1938 hurricane. Several large hemlocks are also located in the same grove.

The Carlisle Pines Trail is relatively flat and wide and is an easy walk for most young children. The main trail is less than one mile long and can be easily completed in less than one hour. Carlisle Pines Trails are included in the list of 13 trails that residents must hike to earn the Carlisle Trekker Award.


In addition to hiking, Carlisle Pines is ideal for horseback riding, skiing and snowshoeing.

Access and parking

Hikers can access Carlisle Pines from the end of Forest Park Drive, off of Curve Street. There is parking for a few cars on the roadside near the trail head. Trails on the MacAfee and Erickson Land can be accessed from the end of Kimball Road.

White Pine - a Carlisle symbol

The white pine is used as a symbol of Carlisle’s past. According to Charles Forsberg, president of the Carlisle Historical Society and long-time member of the Carlisle Minutemen, each minuteman wears a sprig of white pine in his tri-corner hat to show that he is from Carlisle.

In 1969, in preparation for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration, the Carlisle Minutemen and the Board of Selectmen announced a competition to design a new town seal that would reflect the character of Carlisle. The winning design, produced by Bob Thomson, incorporated the image of several tall pines to symbolize the ancient Carlisle Pines. You’ll see this all around town - on flags, town government letterheads, and on the uniform of Carlisle’s police officers.

A booklet of Carlisle trails prepared by the Carlisle Trails Committee is available at Town Hall for a nominal fee. You may view it online.

For more information, see “When Carlisle’s Town Seal was re-designed” in the December 17, 2004 Mosquito. ∆

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