Medfield State Hospital operated from 1892-2003 as a state mental hospital, sometimes referred to as an insane asylum. Now owned by the town of Medfield, the grounds are open to the public during daytime hours, and offer some stunning views of the Charles River. Accessed from Old Hospital Road, just off Rt. 27, north of Medfield Center, the property is surrounded by Charles River floodplain.
We parked near the first gate on Hospital Road and walked into the property up the crumbling once-paved road to a lookout spot that offered some nice views of the river.
Beyond the lookout was another access point to drive up to unload canoes or kayaks to take to the launch site. Access for the canoe launch is from the second site along Old Hospital road, which takes you past the buildings of the hospital complex.
We arrived late in the day so did not explore the entire grounds. What we found were very clear, wide, well maintained paths (that is, fallen trees had been removed from the trail–yay!) that offered some really nice views of the river.
We also found lots and lots and lots of dogs with their owners. If you visit this area, be prepared for multiple encounters with dogs of every shape and size. Many dogs were on leash, but others were not. I thanked each owner who kept their dog(s) leashed around me. My compromised balance makes me vulnerable to overly friendly, jumping dogs. No mishaps lately, but I’m always appreciative of owners who keep their dogs under control.
We did not get as far as the open area directly across from the overlook at Rocky Narrows, which is right across the river from the property. There was much more to explore on this property. Perhaps we’ll even bring our tandem bike back in the spring. The trails we walked would have been manageable for our tandem, and I could have seen a lot more of this property that provides gorgeous river views, along with its sad history.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.