Arbo trail mapThere are three major trails at the Acton Arboretum, along with a number of interconnecting paths. The main trails are the Orchard Loop, the Wildflower Loop, and the Highland/Bog Loop. An access route that connects to the Arboretum from the Town center green runs parallel to Taylor Road. Along this access trail are the Swale Garden, the Daylily Collection, and a grouping of crab apple trees and native shrubs. A trail map of the Arboretum is available via the Acton Conservation Lands website.

The Orchard Loop Trail is a perimeter loop of the upper, most open, area of the Arboretum together with the old orchard grid to its south. This 1,200-foot trail begins at the Taylor Road parking lot and is handicapped accessible with gentle grades, crushed stone base, and a number of benches along its length. It takes the walker through a number of unique garden areas as well as beside a small pond constructed in 1992.

The unique planting areas along this trail include an Herb Garden, designed as a replica of a typical 1700’s herb garden with medicinal, culinary, and strewing herbs, situated within and around an old foundation. The Butterfly Garden, the Hosta Garden, the Nursery, and the Nut Tree collection are all situated around the open grassy area. An old, granite, watering trough, dated 1878, has been moved into this area also. Picnic tables and stone reading circle add to the utility of the open area. Situated along the more southerly reaches of the Orchard Trail are the Rhododendron Garden, groups of Japanese larches with an arbor, and areas of wetlands.

The Wildflower Loop Trail leaves and rejoins the Orchard Loop Trail on the western and eastern sides of the Arboretum property. On the right is a handicap accessible lilac and fragrance garden with benches. Features along this route are two ponds, an extensive Wildflower Garden and boardwalk, a Fern Garden with a boardwalk and small brook crossing and several benches. In the summertime, the two ponds are solid green with duckweed and host many frogs and turtles.

The Highlands/Bog Loop Trail is a 3,500-foot journey from the highest area in the Arboretum to the lowest. The 30 acres traversed by this trail, in the most southerly portion of the Arboretum, comprise a wide variety of forest types, succession growth, and geological features. It is based on old farm roads, cow paths, and foot trails, and is not handicapped-accessible. There is an old quarry site with a partially cut granite boulder with the cutter’s drill marks still apparent. A most unusual feature of this area is the display of ‘Forest Stones,’ subtly scattered by the trailside. This collection of twenty-two fieldstones, each inscribed with a single word, was retained by popular demand from the 1995 Environmental Sculpture Exhibit.

Along the southwestern portion, the trail follows a narrow, long hill or esker that is a raised gravel streambed left by the melting of a receding glacier. The dryness of the glacial gravel is indicated by the growth of pitch pines and oaks. The esker constitutes a drainage divide between the swamp on the west that drains southwards and the wetlands and bog on the south that drains eastwards.

After descending the esker, the trail crosses a quaking bog, with its specific plant community, along a winding boardwalk. In a short distance, the trail leads back towards the main Arboretum and completes the Highlands-Bog Loop.