Nobscot Conservation Land

Published June 5, 2014 | Sudbury | Updated February 14, 2020

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The Nobscot Conservation Land is 118 acres of woodland, meadows, historic sites, and an abandoned apple orchard. It is located south of Route 20 with access and parking on Brimstone Lane. The original 78 acres of the parcel was purchased in 1974 for passive recreational activities, with a gift by Alderice Maiilett in 1985 of an additional 40 acres. The area is ideally suited for hiking, bird watching, picnicking, nature study, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The Nobscot Scout Reservation which borders this parcel is private property and is not part of the Nobscot Conservation Land.

From the parking lot on Brimstone Lane, conservation land is on both sides of the road. On the uphill side of the parking lot is Nobscot Hill, the highest point in Sudbury, which affords some fine views on a clear day. The path up the embankment arrives at the abandoned apple orchard. Mt. Wachusett and Mt. Monadnock can be seen from the upper orchard. Continuing along the main trail, Martha Mary Chapel and the Carding Mill Pond are clearly visible. Looking to the northeast from the orchard, the spires in the Town Center and Round Hill can be seen. On the downhill side is a tract which includes considerable wetland. A wide variety of birds and wildflowers can be observed here. This tract includes “Ford’s Folly,” the famous dam built by Henry Ford to attempt to create a reservoir for Wayside Inn area firefighting. The dam failed to contain enough water to fulfill its intended purpose.

Historical Information

For Native Americans in the Sudbury Valley, Nobscot was a hill they called Penobscot, “place of falling rocks.” The colonists of Sudbury and Framingham shortened the name to Nobscot. The history of Sudbury mentions Nobscot many times. In the early days of the new republic, Nobscot was home to several prominent families. The Nobscot Conservation Area once comprised several farms with open farmland, stone walls, and farm buildings. Today, only the stone foundations of buildings and the stone walls remain, and much of the land has reverted to woodland. There are a number of interesting geological features such as kettle holes and eskers that tell the history of the land formed by a receding glacier.

Nobscot contains the famous dam built in the 1930’s by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. In 1923, Ford stepped in to protect the Wayside Inn as a “splendid example of colonial America.” He purchased nearly 1,500 acres surrounding the Inn and built a traditional New England style white chapel and a field grist mill (rumored to be the “most photographed historic site”) in the Wayside Inn area. Ford had a dam built to attempt to create a reservoir for firefighting for the Wayside Inn area. The wall was built at least 30 feet high and 900 feet long out of stone and concrete. Obsessed with historic authenticity, Ford made sure all construction and renovations were accomplished in “the traditional manner” using only man and oxen power. Unfortunately, the dam never worked. It succeeded in holding back only enough water to form a wetland. The reasons given were that the soil is too porous behind the dam, and the feeding stream has very little water most of the year.

Special Notes

On the very top of Nobscot Hill, on private property, is an array of microwave antennas used for radio communication. 

Trail Challenges

The entry point from Brimstone Lane is an extremely steep climb with wooden log steps. The forested area contains minor hills and moderate slopes with multiple tree roots and rocks along the trail. Some of the slopes along minor trials can be steep; however, the main trail is generally wide with average difficulty other than some slopes. The trial to Ford’s Folly is in the opposite direction from Brimstone Lane. This trial winds through wooded areas, which contain some slopes, tree roots, and rocks. Some of these wooded area trails along both sides of Brimstone Lane also contain brush. The Ford’s Folly access is a narrow strip along the top of the structure, so hikers should be cautious.

Trail Comments

  • “The entrance to the trial is really steep, but, once you get to the top, the trail is mostly flat.”
  • “There are really nice wooded areas all over. There is a giant rock observation point further along the trail. There are stone walls everywhere.”
  • “Nobscot has some really great forest area, wetland areas, and nice trails.”
  • “Ford’s Folly is really amazing. It is a giant structure that appears out of nowhere. You can climb on top of it and see the forest from a great perspective.”
  • “Ford’s Folly is my favorite part of the trail. There are great views up there.”

Trail Videos

   Nobscot – Highlights

   Nobscot – Trail Hike

Trail Photographs


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