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Appalachian Mountain Club Boston Chapter Local Walks/Hikes Committee

Conditioning Hikes Near Boston

The following hikes in the Boston area are hilly enough to help you get in shape for mountain climbing or just to get some aerobic exercise.

Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

Accessible by public transportation. Map: available at the visitor center.

(4 mi., 500 ft. elevation gain)
From the visitor center, pass the Rose Collection to the top of Bussey Hill (150 ft gain), then descend and follow Bussey Brook to South St. Gate. Ascend Hemlock Hill (120 ft gain), descend the other side to Poplar Gate. Ascend Peters Hill (180 ft gain), descend to Bussey St. Gate. Take Conifer Path (50 ft gain), continue past Bonsai House & greenhouses back to the visitor center.

Blue Hills, Milton/Canton/Randolph/Braintree/Quincy, MA

Accessible by public transportation. Map: available for $1 at either the Trailside Museum on Rte. 138 or the Reservation Headquarters on Hillside St.

Loop hikes Mileages and elevation gains are from the Trailside Museum parking lot, Rte. 138 just north of Rte. 128. The hikes can also be started from the Houghtons Pond lot on Hillside St., which allows truncating them if necessary, but unless you go down to the Trailside Museum parking lot from Great Blue Hill, the elevation gains are 400 feet less.

North/South Skyline Trail Loop (4.5 mi., 1400 ft. elevation gain).
Park at the Trailside Museum, ascend on the Red Dot Trail almost to the summit of Great Blue Hill, take the South Skyline Trail down to Coon Hollow and over Houghton Hill to Hillside Street. Turn left on the North Skyline Trail, go past the headquarters building and over Hancock, Hemmenway, Wolcott Hills to Great Blue Hill and return to the Trailside Museum via the Red Dot Trail.

Buck Hill Loop (10 mi., 2100 ft. elevation gain).
Park at the Trailside Museum, ascend on the Red Dot Trail almost to the summit of Great Blue Hill, take the South Skyline Trail down to Coon Hollow and to the summit of Houghton Hill. Turn right and descend to Houghtons Pond. Follow the north shore to the orange-blazed Massachuseuck Trail. Follow it, first north and then east, along the sides of Tucker and Buck Hills. On the east slope of Buck Hill you will meet the Skyline Trail, head back west (left) over the summits of Buck and Tucker Hills to Hillside Street. Then go over Hancock, Hemmenway, and Wolcott Hills to Great Blue Hill and back to the start.

Chickatawbut Hill Loop (12 mi., 2400 ft. elevation gain).
Same as the above hike, but continues further to the east. When the Massachuseuck Trail reaches the Skyline Trail continue east on the Skyline Trail, crossing Randolph Avenue, and climb to the summit of Chickatawbut Hill. Descend until you reach the red-blazed Slide Notch Path and follow it down (south, right) to the Bouncing Brook Path, then turn west (right again) to reach the Skyline Trail.

Skyline Trail Death March (16 mi., 3500 ft. elevation gain).
Round trip from the Trailside Museum to the eastern end of the Skyline trail in Quincy and back.

Linear hikes (require spotting a car):

Skyline Trail East to West (10 mi., 2500 ft. elevation gain).
Spot a car at the Houghtons Pond lot, drive to the Shea Ice Rink lot on Willard St. in Quincy, walk between the St. Moritz Ponds to the eastern end of the Skyline Trail then west to the summit of Great Blue Hill via the North Skyline Trail and back to Houghtons Pond via the South Skyline Trail. The AMC Local Walks Committee does this hike several times a year.

Breakheart Reservation, Saugus, MA

Directions: from Rte. 1 in Saugus take Lynn Fells Pkwy W 0.3 mi., right on Forest St., park at end at the Reservation headquarters. Map: available at the Reservation headquarters.

(4 mi., 800 ft. elevation gain)
From main entrance, go over Breakheart Hill (160 ft gain) to road on other side. Take Ridge Trail up to view (140 ft gain), down to swamp, up to another view (120 ft gain), down to swamp, up Castle Hill (100 ft gain). Go to Lower Pond, up Eagle Rock (120 ft gain), down to beach, back to entrance via Upper Pond (80 ft gain).

Middlesex Fells, Malden/Medford/Melrose/Stoneham/Winchester, MA

Accessible by public transportation. Map: available by mail for $5 from The Friends of the Middlesex Fells. Ordering information is at the MDC Web site, http://www.state.ma.us/mdc. Follow the link to the Middlesex Fells.

Skyline Trail (8 mi., 1600 ft. elevation gain).
This is a loop trail in the western Fells over many small rocky hills, including two with lookout towers. Park at either the Sheepfold or Long Pond lots. The AMC Local Walks Committee does this hike several times a year.

Rock Circuit Trail (4 mi., approx. 900 ft. elevation gain).
This is a loop trail in the eastern Fells over many small rocky hills, including several cliff-top views of the Boston skyline. Can be combined with other hilly trails in the eastern Fells. Accessible from the Oak Grove T station. Park there or at the Flynn Ice Rink or at the Stone Zoo or park at the Sheepfold lot on the western side and walk to the eastern side via the Cross Fells Trail. The AMC Local Walks Committee has hikes on this trail several times a year.

Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey, NH

A 3165-ft. mountain located in the Monadnock State Park. For solitude, avoid the main parking lot, the White Dot and White Cross Trails, and the foliage season (late Sept. to early Oct.). Directions: from Rte. 95/128 take Rte. 2 to the Concord rotary, right on Rte. 2A/119, follow Rte. 119 40 mi., right at light on Rte. 202 in Rindge NH, 3 mi. to Jaffrey, left on Rte. 124, 2 mi. to Dublin Rd. From there, the Rte. 124 pkg lot is 3 mi. ahead and the main lot is 1.3 mi. to the right and the picnic area is 2.8 mi. to the right. Maps: the park trail map available at the main and Rte. 124 entrances; the USGS Monadnock Mountain, NH, topo map; and the AMC trail map in "AMC Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide", AMC Books, 1999, which also describes the trails.

Summit trails: (round-trip distance)

Loop from south side (7.2 mi., 1700 ft. elevation gain)
From the Rte. 124 entrance ascend Old Toll Road, right on Hello Rock Trail, left on Cliff Walk to Bald Rock. Take Smith Connecting Trail, cross White Cross and White Dot Trails, left on Red Spot Trail, left on Pumpelly Trail to summit. Descend west on Dublin Trail for a few feet, left on Smith Summit Trail to Monte Rosa, descend west on Great Pasture Trail, left on Mossy Brook Trail, becomes the Cart Path, right on Old Halfway House Trail.

Loop from east side (9 mi., 2600 ft. elevation gain)
From the picnic area on Dublin Rd. ascend the Birchtoft Trail, right on Cascade Link Trail, left on Pumpelly Trail to the summit. Descend west on Dublin Trail for a few feet, left on Smith Summit Trail, left on Ampitheater Trail, left on Smith Connecting Trail, right on Red Spot Trail, right on Birchtoft Trail.

Pack Monadnock Mountain, Peterborough, NH

A 2288-ft. mountain in Miller State Park (www.nhparks.state.nh.us/parkops/parks/miller.html), plus the neighboring 2278-ft. North Pack Monadnock Mountain. Trail map at the entrance and also in the Wapack Trail Guide (see the Hiking Areas page). From the Miller State Park lower lot at the base of Pack Monadnock, a 7.5-mile loop with 2600 ft. elev. gain goes over the summits of both Pack and N. Pack Monadnock Mountains - ascend Pack on the Marion Davis Trail, go around the loop on N. Pack, and descend Pack on the Wapack Trail. Directions: from Rte. 95/128 take Rte. 2 to Concord rotary, R on Rte. 119 22 mi., R on Rte. 13 N 12 mi., L on Rte. 101 W 14 mi. to Miller State Park lower lot on R (opp. Temple Mtn. Ski Area). $3 entrance fee.

Prospect Hill Park, Waltham, MA

This is a former ski slope that rises steeply 400 feet from the parking lot on Totten Pond Rd., 0.5 mi. east of Rte. 95/128. Map: USGS Maynard quadrangle (shows topography but not trails).

(3 mi., 1000 ft. elevation gain)
The hill is a ridge extending south from the parking lot. Hike to the summit. Just before the old radar tower turn left (east) on a dirt road 150 ft., then left on a footpath down to an old asphalt road, go right 75 ft. then left on a faint woods trail which descends steeply to the bottom on the east side. At a giant fallen tree just before a stream, turn right (south) parallel to the main hill, ascending slightly, emerge onto a paved road, pass one house, turn right (west) into the woods, climb very steeply to the summit, turn left (south), descend, climb a smaller hill (view) and then return to the parking lot via the summit of the main hill. Other variations are possible.

Wachusett Mountain, Princeton, MA

A 2006-ft. mountain located in the 1950-acre Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. Directions: from Rte. 95/128 exit 29 in Lexingon take Rte. 2 W 37 mi. to exit 25, take Rte. 140 S 2 mi., right at sign on Mile Hill Rd. 1.7 mi. (becomes Mountain Rd.) to Reservation entrance on right (1 mi. past the ski area lot). Map: available at the visitor center.

Loop from the visitor center (3 mi., 1200 ft. elevation gain)
Ascend steeply on the Pine Hill Trail 0.5 mi. to the summit, descend south on the Mountain House Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Jack Frost Trail 0.6 mi., right on the Lower link Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Harrington Trail 0.5 mi. to the summit, descend the Pine Hill Trail.

Longer loop from the visitor center (5.2 mi., 1500 ft. elevation gain)
As above except after 0.1 mi on the Harrington Trail, turn left on the Semuhenna Trail 1.2 mi., right on the Old Indian Trail 1.3 mi. to the summit, descend the Pine Hill Trail.

Loop from the ski area lot (5.6 mi., 1200 ft. elevation gain)
Ascend the Balance Rock Trail 0.6 mi., continue on the Old Indian Trail 1.5 mi. to the summit, descend south on the Mountain House Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Jack Frost Trail 0.6 mi., right on the Lower link Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Harrington Trail 0.1 mi., left on the Semuhenna Trail 1.2 mi., left on the Old Indian Trail 0.2 mi., continue on the Balance Rock Trail 0.6 mi.

Longer loop from the ski area lot (6.2 mi., 1600 ft. elevation gain)
Ascend the Balance Rock Trail 0.6 mi., continue on the Old Indian Trail 1.5 mi. to the summit, descend south on the Mountain House Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Jack Frost Trail 0.6 mi., right on the Lower link Trail 0.4 mi., right on the Harrington Trail 0.5 mi. to the summit, descend north on the Old Indian Trail 0.5 mi., left on the Westside Trail 0.2 mi., right on the Semuhenna Trail 0.7 mi., left on the Old Indian Trail 0.2 mi., continue on the Balance Rock Trail 0.6 mi.