Otter River State Forest – Baldwinville, MA Review

Otter River in Baldwinville, MA in the winter
Baldwinville, Worcester County, Central Massachusetts
Trail Length
Varying length
Trail Type
Elevation Gain
Memorial Day to Labor Day in Beamon Pond
Trail difficulty
Wheelchair Access
Parking Fee
$8 MA residents, $30 non-resident
Paid, 4 yurts available, group campsites available.
Wide variety of options offers, a great place to spend a day.

Tucked away in the small town of Baldwinville, Massachusetts, you’ll find a lovely little state forest that isn’t quite as crowded as many others. Acquired by the MA State Forest Commission in 1915, it became the Otter River State Forest that North Central Mass residents know and love.

Well, whether you love it or hate it, been there or not, here’s what we have to say about Otter River State Forest!

Getting to Otter River State Forest

Don’t make the same mistake we did and trust Google Maps, as it brought us to the boat launch next to the Gardner Airport, which was strange. When we looked up “state parks near us” while in Fitchburg, Otter River State Forest appeared, we clicked on it, and it brought us 22 minutes away from the actual entrance.

When looking on the maps, ensure that you’re heading toward Baldwinville, which is just north of Gardner/Templeton and just south of Winchendon and the New Hampshire line. While Otter River runs through Garner, the State Forest entrance is in Baldwinville!

You should enjoy your drive, as the area is rather scenic. Although you’re still in Worcester County, the area has an undeniable feel of Western Mass.

Parking & Fees

To be fair, we went on a Sunday at the end of February, and the park was closed. However, that didn’t exactly stop us from enjoying ourselves, as well as the peace and quiet.

Once you arrive, you can drive right through the gates and you’ll find a large parking lot on your right about 100 yards in. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, MA residents will have to pay $8 for parking, while non-MA residents will owe $30 for the day.

As always, this is judged by the license plate on your vehicle and your pass will expire at dusk.

What to Do While Visiting the State Forest

Once you arrive, you’ll have a surprising amount of options to choose from for such a humble state forest. Here are some of the best ways to spend a day in Otter River State Park!

Hiking & Biking

If you’re looking for a moderate or challenging hike, drive a little further to Watatic or Monadnock. However, if you’re looking for a leisurely walk through nature, then you’ll find it here.

River Road, West Road, Middle Road, and Swamp Road make up the major loop within the forest where you can easily take your time and get some exercise in. Doing the whole loop will only cost you around 3.2 miles with minimal elevation gain.

Also, this is a great, beginner-friendly place for mountain bikers, as the main hiking loops are very bikable.


There is swimming available from Memorial Day to Labor Day in Beamon Pond. Swimming lessons are also offered to local children at certain times during the week!

Hanging Out

Honestly, this is one of the perfect destinations to just grab your friends or family and spend a day. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it has a lot of amenities to offer. On the property, you will find:

  • Picnic tables
  • Pavilions
  • Athletic field
  • Basketball court
  • Grills
  • Showers

So, take the day, go swimming, enjoy a walk, and grill up some delicious food. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?


Finally, there are 76 campsites available in this state forest, along with 4 yurts and 3 group sites. Campsites cost $17 a night for MA residents and a steep $54 a night for non-residents. 

If you wish to rent a yurt, it will cost $45 a night for a small one ($120 for non-residents) and $54 for a large one ($140 for non-residents).

Note that if you choose to pay online, there is a non-refundable $4.50 processing fee as well.

Also, the campgrounds typically operate at capacity during the peak season, so order in advance and expect crowds in the camping areas.

Due to the high prices, you’d be better off looking for a private campsite in southern New Hampshire or the surrounding towns in MA, especially if you have a vehicle.

Important Notes About the Trip

Here are a few quick notes about your visit so you can plan in advance:

  • As always, alcoholic beverages are prohibited on state forest grounds, even if you are camping. 
  • Littering is against the law
  • Dogs must remain on-leash
  • Swimming is permitted between 10 am and 8 pm
  • Only 1 vehicle is allowed per campsite

If you have any other questions, contact the MA Department of Conservation & Recreation.

Honest Review of Otter River State Forest

Honestly, Otter River was beautiful but the state forest was very reminiscent of Willard Brook State Forest, only 40 minutes away. We don’t say that with any malintent, as we’ve spent plenty of time in Willard Brook.

While we felt the park as though it was felt lacking in a unique character, we would wholeheartedly go back. The river is beautiful and they offer plenty of great activities in the warmer months, so we can’t wait to experience them for ourselves!

If you find yourself in the Athol/Gardner area, we suggest taking a trip over here. It seems like a great place to spend a day, like most State Parks and State Forests in New England.

See for Yourself

Now that you have an overview of Otter River State Forest, take a drive over and enjoy it for yourself. It is a great little spot in Worcester County with surprisingly low traffic, so if you’re looking to get away from it all, here’s your chance!

As always, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below and keep reading our blog for our latest reviews of your favorite New England destinations!

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