A quiet drive through land reclaimed by nature

Linking the historic towns of Orange and Paxton, the Route 122 Scenic Byway passes to the north of the Quabbin Reservoir along 40 miles of back roads for a quiet drive through pristine lands.

History and hospitality

Orange’s downtown is home to many 19th- and early 20th-century residential and mill buildings. Its historical society is open seasonally in a Victorian-era house decorated with furnishings from the time period. A barn on the property displays a 1904 Grout Steam Automobile from the first gasoline automobile factory in the U.S.

Pack your gear and stay a while

The northwestern stretch of the byway offers ample opportunities for camping, hiking, on- and off-road biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, canoeing and kayaking, and wildlife watching. Riverfront Park in Orange is a great place to put-in and paddle on the Millers River. The Federated Women’s Club State Forest on the border of New Salem and Petersham is almost 1,000 acres of protected land, including the geologically significant Swift River Gorge. The Barre Farms Dam Disc Golf course is on well-maintained Army Corps of Engineers land and offers many water views. Cook’s Canyon was once an early 20th century tourist destination, and is now a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary with several short, easy trails.

Scenic lookouts

Just behind the New Salem fire station is a hidden gem: an unmarked gravel road to a scenic overlook of the Quabbin Reservoir known simply as The Lookout. A 180-degree panoramic view takes in Mount Wachusett to the east and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire to the north. A parking area and picnic facilities make this spectacular view accessible to all visitors. Stop at the Carter and Stevens Farm Store in Barre for local treats and a scenic view toward Mount Wachusett in the east.

A spiritual landscape

For many visitors, the quiet and unspoiled landscape inspires spiritual reflection. Petersham and Barre are home to several Catholic convents and monasteries, Buddhist retreats and non-denominational spiritual centers. As you travel through the Quabbin Reservoir region, it’s worth reflecting on the four towns that had to be relocated in the 1930s to accommodate this massive project. Hundreds of homes, businesses, a state highway, a railroad line, and 34 cemeteries were moved or dismantled. In Petersham, Gate 40 leads to the former Dana town common and Gate 43 leads to the former town of Greenwich.

Celebrate the seasons

Moore State Park in Paxton, part of a historical district, was the site of grist and saw mills from 1747 through the early part of the 20th century. Today, walking, hiking and cross-country skiing paths pass old stone foundations and a restored mill, providing year-round opportunities to enjoy nature and glimpse the region’s past. Thousands of azaleas, rhododendrons and mountain laurels cascade down hills, line wooded paths and decorate waterfalls, making this an especially glorious destination when the plants bloom in mid- to late spring.

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