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Experience an exceptional example of Cape Ann’s unique rugged landscape with exposed granite bedrock in one of Greenbelt’s largest reservations. Stunning views of Gloucester Harbor and Ipswich Bay await those who climb Sunset Mountain and Eagle Rock. Vernal ponds, a red maple swamp and diverse natural communities thrive.
Indigenous people explored the diverse terrains represented at Tompson Street Reservation. Sunset Mountain, with its exposed bedrock and at an elevation of 161 feet, would have had spiritual significance for the Algonquians who lived here prior to English settlement. Such places touched the sky world and were believed to be the homes of the guardian wind spirits of the four cardinal directions.
Split Rock and Eagle Rock would have been places for prayer and contemplation. A trail off Old Thompson Street Cart Path leads to a prominent jumble of Avalonian boulders that Indigenous people and others used as a rock shelter. Evidence of countless campfires darkens the rock wall overhang.
Shamans collected medicinal plants from the hillside, such as the sassafras that still grows there. The ancient rocks feature edible lichens known as rock tripe. Algonquians collected lichens to serve as emergency food and to give to young children to stave off hunger between meals.
You will notice the sweet spicy scent of sweet pepperbush growing near the red maple swamp in late spring and early summer. The white, bell-shaped flowers of teaberry abound in late spring and early summer. Red berries with a wintergreen scent are found on these bushes in autumn and winter.
Several vernal pools exist here. Look for salamanders, fairy shrimp and wood frogs in spring along with migratory songbirds, such as warblers, flycatchers and thrushes as they return to breed. Turkey vultures can be seen riding air currents above Sunset Mountain all year. Tracks of deer, coyote and fox are easily spotted in snow.
1.4 Mile Trail Loop
Moderate to Challenging Terrain
Begin at the Bray Street Gateway. Follow the red trail markers, cross the boardwalk, bearing right at the first intersection. Follow up a gradual slope through a typical Cape Ann forest of oak, maple and cherry. To your right, observe a stunning granite outcropping spilling down into a small brook. Continue to a massive granite rock face that is the base of Eagle Rock. The trail bends to the right and weaves its way across exposed granite outcroppings, eventually leading to one of the most spectacular views in Essex County. Ipswich Bay and much of the Great Marsh lie to the north. New Hampshire and Maine may be visible. Follow the red trail markers back to the first intersection and bear right, following a winding trail through low bush blueberry, pitch pine and small hardwoods. Follow this route back to the main trail that leads to the parking area.
2.1 Mile Trail Loop
Begin at the Norcross Gateway on Concord Street. Start up the wide trail with orange trail markers and notice the beautiful stonework of the once working farm here. The trail narrows, crosses a short boardwalk, and passes a large glacial erratic called “Split Rock” before skirting the edge of a large red maple swamp now flooded by beavers. Follow the single-track trail through a young hardwood forest and traverse an elevated boardwalk across the flooded swamp. Note the beaver lodge to your right. Look for beavers at dawn and dusk. Many dead standing trees attract woodpeckers, wood ducks and other waterbirds. Across the boardwalk the orange marked trail leads uphill and makes a large loop through a mixed forest of pine and hardwoods with many granite outcroppings before it returns to the boardwalk and the parking area.
0.8 Mile Trail Loop
Moderate to Difficult Terrain
Begin at the Mount Jacob Cemetery parking area on Fernald Street. Follow the blue trail markers as the trail begins at the right side of the lot and starts uphill immediately through a mixed pine and hardwood stand of trees. As you climb higher, trees will become noticeably smaller as they struggle to grow in the rocky terrain. At the summit, you will be standing atop stunningly large granite outcroppings with breathtaking open views in all directions. A perfect spot to picnic or watch the sunset. Following the blue trail markers, hike off the summit and wind downhill through trees and rocks, across more exposed granite outcroppings, before dropping back down toward the cemetery and to the parking area.
0.8 Mile Trail Loop
The Tompson Street Reservation has other parking areas and access points and miles of trails aside from the color marked hikes.
There are five parking areas on different sides of the Reservation.
Mt. Jacob Cemetery: Latitude 42.623, Longitude -70.726
Rt. 133/Essex Street: Latitude 42.620, Longitude -70.724
Bray Street/Old Tompson Street: Latitude 42.633, Longitude -70.723
Bray Street Gateway: Latitude 42.637, Longitude -70.714
Norcross Gateway: Latitude 42.625, Longitude -70.710
Eagle Rock Trail/Bray Street Gateway:
From Route 128/Exit 54/Concord Street, go west on Concord Street. In 1.2 miles, turn left onto Bray Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on the left. Space for 3-4 cars.
Red Maple Swamp Trail/Norcross Gateway:
From Route 128/Exit 54/Concord Street, go west on Concord Street. Trailhead and parking are directly across from the off-ramp. Space for a dozen cars.
Sunset Mountain Trail/Mount Jacob Cemetery:
From Route 128/Exit 53/Route 133, go west on Route 133. In 0.35 miles, turn right onto Fernald Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on the right, at Mount Jacob Cemetery. Space for 4-5 cars.
Total Acres: 320
Year Conserved: 1993 - 2013
PO Box 1026
82 Eastern Avenue
Essex, MA 01929
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider