Great Brook Farm State Park: From hiking to cross-country skiing to a fully-operational dairy farm — this place offers affordable fun for the whole family | News

As spring temperatures arrive, many of us turn to the outdoors for weekend family entertainment. However, it is becoming difficult to find an outdoor activity that is not only affordable, but also piques the interest of your entire family. This can really be a challenge for families with a wide range of ages and interests.

This weekend, there is no need to look any further for a variety of outdoor fun than Great Brook Farm State Park, located at 165 North Road in Carlisle, MA.

Keep in mind that Great Brook Farm State Park is not your average trail-lined, scenic park. Yes, it is true that the park grounds boast over 20 miles of hiking trails, offering hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. But this historic park is also the only state park in Massachusetts that has a working dairy farm on site.

The 1,000 acres of land that is now known as Great Brook Farm was purchased by the State of Massachusetts in 1967. The Commonwealth saw the value in bringing this abandoned dairy farm back to life as a public, educational experience to show the workings of a real dairy farm.

Because the Commonwealth was not interested in actually becoming a dairy farmer, the state put out a public ad in search of someone to lease and run the dairy farm. The call was answered by Mark Duffy, his wife Tamma, and their three children.

The Duffy family continues today to successfully run the dairy farm, in fact becoming the first dairy farm in Massachusetts to install robotic milkers. The installation of the milkers has allowed the Duffy family more time to focus on the caring of the cows as well as promoting their work within the community.

Dairy farm tours are offered to the public for free as part of the state park experience. Tours offer a look at the day to day operations of a dairy farm, close up viewing of the cows, and on occasion, the witnessing of the birth of a baby calf. There is also plenty of dairy education and fun facts offered during the tours.

After your introduction to the over 130 cows that reside at the farm, stop in and visit the on-site petting zoo where you will be greeted by friendly goats, sheep, chickens and ducks.

In addition to the farm, the Duffy family also operates an ice cream stand that is open from April through October, featuring 60 flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sorbet.

Besides the hiking trails and dairy farm, there are also historic nuances to this state park. On the grounds, one can view several notable Native American sites and 17th century cellar holes left by English settlers.

During the winter months, visit the Great Brook Ski Touring Center located on the park grounds. Open from December to March, the Ski Center offers groomed cross country ski trails, and ski and snowshoe rentals.

Summer months offer the addition of water activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Great Brook Farm State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Dairy farm tours are offered all day long on the weekends, and by appointment during weekdays.

Admission is free, but there is a parking fee of $3.00.

The next time you are in need of a weekend activity that will please your whole family, take a ride to the nearby Great Brook Farm State Park.

Offering hiking, biking, water sports, animals, education and history (and don’t forget ice cream), this Massachusetts State Park truly has something for everyone.

For more information on activities and events at Great Brook Farm State Park, visit www.mass.gov/locations/great-brook-farm-state-park.

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