Poles Hill Conservation Area
Permanently protected by Essex County Greenbelt and the City of Gloucester.
Trail Difficulty: easy to moderate
Length: ~1 mi.
Description: This family friendly 1 mile hike navigates the historical "Beacon Pole Hill' that it was once known as because of a ship's mast mounted on the highest point of land along the eastern boundary above Wheeler Street. While this may be a short hike, it is not without interest. Full of amazing vistas of the surrounding area and chock full of history, this hike will not disappoint.
The Native Americans utilized Pole Hill as a solar observatory, ceremonial landscape, and gateway to the spirit world. There are three important seasonal alignments of the sun on Pole Hill.
Two (summer solstice sunrise and sunset) are marked by large boulders relative to a smaller central reference boulder or "gnomon" near the middle of the site. The winter solstice sunrise marker is defined by two smaller, flat, stacked stones southeast of the gnomon, that are not currently visible due to brush and trees.
Standing at the gnomon and looking to the northwest at sunset on the first day of summer, the sun sets slightly south of a boulder marking the summer solstice sunset. On the first summer morning the sun rises slightly south of another boulder to the northeast that marks the summer solstice sunrise. (Two thousand years ago the position of the sun at sunrise and sunset was more to the north and so the sun rose and set directly over the summer sunrise and sunset boulders).
Poles Hill was protected in 1997. This effort was led by an active Friends of Pole Hill group that helped raise awareness of the importance of this historic site and prevented it from development. Funds from both the state, local residents and Essex County Greenbelt helped this effort. Today you can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Directions: If you hike in from Riverview Road along the fire road, the first historic feature you'll come upon is the gnomon. Continue up the firewood, and take the first trail to the right, and you'll come to the Summer Sunset Rock with views of the surrounding area. Continue back down to the fire road from there and take a left onto the road. Take a right near the parking area off Riverview Road, and you can hike over to the Summer Sunrise Rock along the eastern border of the conservation area for more spectacular views of Gloucester and the ocean.
Parking & Access
From 128, at the first rotary take the third exit onto 127N. In 0.6 mi, take a slight left onto Wheeler Street. in 0.2 mi, turn left onto Riverview Road. There are 2 parking spaces off Riverview Road, near the trail head. There are also two spots off Perrywinkle Lane.