If you’re worried that you can’t be a trailrunner because you live in Boston, fret no more. Located just minutes outside of downtown, the Blue Hills Reservation offers plenty of trails to train for races of any distance, even your next ultra.
Purchased in 1893 by the Metropolitan Parks commission, the 7,000-acre reservation was one of the first public areas set aside for public recreation. Today it contains 125 miles of trails, ranging from easy, flat walks to rugged, hilly climbs that might even require a little scrambling. The trails are easy to follow, but there are so many that there is great potential to get lost. Fortunately, the trail intersections are numbered, meaning you should be able to find your way out of the maze without much trouble if you carry a trail map. For a more rugged run, look for the red dots or yellow triangles or Skyline trail, all of which provide more technical footing, hills, and the possibility of views.
We last visited on a warm, sunny day when there was still snow on the ground. We parked at Houghton’s Pond and had a great time exploring the trails to the northeast of the pond, including the Skyline Trail and the red-dotted trail that leads toward South Boyce Hill and Buck Hill. On the downside, there was a fair amount of noise from area highways and passing airplanes, though it is probably a bit quieter in the summer when the leaves fill in. Also, we encountered a few traffic jams with other trail users, which would probably be less common farther from the main parking areas. Still, all things considered, the trails were great. It would be easy to pass many hours running here without repeating any trails. There are also numerous places to picnic, and Houghton’s Pond, a 24-acre spring-fed kettle hole pond formed by receding glaciers, offers the promise of a great post-run swim.
The nine-mile Skyline Trail has even attracted the notice of local runners trying to set a fastest known time. Here’s what Ben Nephew thought about the trail after setting the FKT for an out and back on the trail:
You might think that anything a few miles from downtown Boston can’t be too difficult, but the Skyline has surprised many runners. I have a hard time saying this, but this run was the most technically challenging run I’ve ever done. It is amazing how much climbing they fit into a nine mile trail in this part of the state that is so very flat. There are six to seven stone staircases in both directions, and the footing is straight out treacherous over about 16 of the 18 miles.
If that “endorsement” makes you more inclined to give the trails a try, great. But if not, don’t worry: many of the trails at Blue Hills are not nearly so technical and make for a relaxing run (as long as you’re not trying to set a record).
Miles of trails: 125
Map: Here you go.
Bonus: Swim in Houghton Pond after going for a run.
Races: Blue Hills Trail Races