Glimpse the river from the shady path. Tall white pines, with a new generation starting below them, surround the hill. The lack of undergrowth makes walking off the trail and up the hillside very easy. The hilltop is covered with ferns and dotted with small oaks, birches and white pines. Bounded by the Shawsheen River on the south, Pole Hill offers the chance to hear and see a variety of birds in the marshes on the other side of the river.
At the turn of the century, this area was known as "The Grove". It boasted a picnic area and a dance hall and attracted people from all over. The Boston and Maine Railroad even had a siding at Pole Hill to accommodate the dancers. There were three camps along the Shawsheen River, one of which served as a refreshment stand. When the river was higher, canoes could be rented in Ballardvale for a romantic paddle upstream to "The Grove". But Pole Hill's history is not only of good times; after a murder was committed here, the dance hall was closed for good.
Though all the buildings are gone now, some evidence of Pole Hill's exciting past does remain. Search for the dance hall's walkway about three-quarters of the way up the hillside and look near the river for faint signs of an oval track used for footraces.
Enter via a path starting at the end of Pole Hill Drive marked by Conservation Commission signs. The rocky woods road is clear and easy to walk. Follow the road to the left as it curves toward the Shawsheen River and eventually reaches the MBTA railroad tracks. Just before the tracks, a narrower trail on the left leads to the end of Marland St. About halfway along this trail take the summit trail on the left which leads to the top of the hill. To return, continue to follow this trail to the old dance hall and take a left hand turn on the dance hall trail heading south to reach the woods road again.
Canoe access from the Shawsheen is on the right as you travel upstream from the Ballardvale dam, shortly after paddling under a beautiful stone arch railroad bridge. Open areas under the tall pines provide fine places for picnicking.
Pole Hill Drive and Marland Sreet, both off
Tewksbury Street; canoe access from Shawsheen
Pole Hill Drive