I first learned about Gilbert Hills after a conversation with Dana Seaton. He was representing Five Ten at the time, and told me about Joe McLoughlin and himself putting up FA’s a while back. I was intrigued, and decided to bushwhack my way to some of the more obscure boulders he mentioned. The nice thing about Gilbert Hills is how quiet it can be. I’ve never run into another climber there, which is a nice contrast to an area like Lincoln Woods. The biggest downside to the area is how spread out the climbing is. For that reason, there are plenty of boulders in Gilbert Hills I haven’t been to yet! The “adventurous” aspect of outdoor climbing is definitely alive in Gilbert Hills.
Gilbert Hills State Forest is a 1000 acre forest littered with pine, oak, and glacial erratic granite located at 45 Mill Street, Foxborough, MA. (The parking area has coordinates 42.071823, -71.289321.)
I highly recommend using Mountain Project to scope out the area, as it contains trail maps with boulders marked, as well as photos, so you know what you’re looking for. Access isn’t an issue, since the climbing is located on MA DCR land. Just remember to be courteous to others, utilize LNT ethics, and respect the area that we are lucky enough to be able to use.
The rock at Gilbert Hills is highly textured glacial erratic granite. It can be extremely sharp and gritty, featuring small crimps and even smaller footholds. Be sure to bring a brush for the cobwebs, and some tape for your skin! Many of the problems in Gilbert Hills were FA’d by local “legends” like Joe McLoughlin, Jeremy Wall, Mike Robin, and Dana Seaton, to name a few.
Gilbert Hills has over 100 total boulder problems, spread out across many individual boulders. There are even some lasting projects in the V10-V12 range that still need an ascent! Some boulders boast up to 8 problems on an individual rock, while others have 1 or 2. For this reason, going to Gilbert Hills with a plan and a map is a must. The park is notorious for being easy to get lost in, and many boulders aren’t trafficked enough to have well-worn paths like Lincoln Woods. Gilbert Hills is a great spot to hike around, get lost, and try some high-quality, if obscure, bouldering!
The Jeremy Wall Memorial Problem V5 (formally known as the Phantom Shower) on the Phantom Tower boulder. The perfect definition of slab bouldering. A slightly spooky, tall problem with high feet and small edges.
The Patriot V3 on the The Little Twin boulder. Squeeze the refrigerator sized block, smearing feet. Bump, squeeze, bump, squeeze!
Two Step V3 on The Big Twin boulder. Starts on a horizontal crack around head height, and dyno to the lip. Shorter climbers can utilize the titular two step move, smearing feet low, then stepping up to the crack before jumping.
A message from the Access Fund
Climbing during the Pandemic
As stay at home orders are lifted and parks open back up, you may be considering heading back to your local crag so before you do, please take a look at the recommendations from the Access Fund, an organization that focuses on maintaining access to the areas we love by providing support for local climbing organizations and resources for climbers to properly transition from climbing in the gym to the crag.