Monday, July 29, 2013

Favorite Runs: The Fells

Six miles north of the center of Boston, there is a nature reservation in which it is literally possible to get lost for hours.  (Of course I do not speak from personal experience.)  The Middlesex Fells Reservation is an amazing place to escape the hustle of the city and disappear into the woods.  And even better, it is laced with trails which provide fantastic running opportunities.  There are fire roads, which are usually gravel or hard dirt, fairly well-maintained, and wide enough for vehicles to easily pass through.  Then there are mountain biking trails, horse-back riding trails, and even narrower paths that can really only be utilized by a person on foot.  No chance of getting bored, especially when you get lost!

Lost in the woods on the west side

The Fells is kind of divided into two sections by I-93.  The east part has two roads that split it up (which makes it easier to find yourself after you get lost!) and also contains Spot Pond, a massive reservoir which you're not supposed to swim in, but which does have a sanctioned kayak/canoe provider so you can still enjoy the water.  Fire roads are limited in the eastern portion, but there are heaps of narrower trails that criss-cross and loop around and provide many opportunities to get in decent trail runs of 5+ miles.  I also find that there is less traffic in the eastern part of the Fells, because there are fewer public parking areas available.  Most of the people that use the eastern part are folks who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and just have to trot a couple blocks up the street to find an entrance point.

Lost in the woods on the east side

The western part is massive and very popular, especially when the weather is nice.  There's a huge off-leash dog area, The Sheepfold, which is a great place to take your dog for some socialization when you're feeling too lazy for a good walk.  The trails in the western part are extensive, and incorporate some gorgeous scenery around the town of Winchester's water reservoirs and onto rocky bluffs with great scenic views of Boston.  (Actually, the east side has some great hidden gems in that regard ... you can even see the Atlantic!)  Some of the trails are loops, but mostly they're a spiderweb of confusing chaos and no kidding you need to go get lost a few times to start to figure out how it all fits together.

Little reservoir on the east side

Alas I never run any of the trails straight through because I mix and match to get the mileage I want, or because I get lost and suddenly I'm nowhere near where I thought I was or where I wanted to be, so I don't know the complete distances of any of them (and I'm not going to copy something I find on some other website if I don't know it's true!).  BUT here are a few comments on some specific marked routes in the Fells--

Still lost in the woods!

Rock Circuit Trail: eastern side of the reservation, marked with white .... has parts that are great running, but other sections are literally rock scrambling.  If you're trying to do some hard core training, don't use this route.

Cross Fells Trail: goes across entire reservation, marked with blue .... I have not run the whole thing, but the sections that I have covered are great.  Plenty of hills, plenty of varied terrain, but you're getting a good run throughout.

Skyline Trail: western side, marked with white .... again, I have only done sections, but it's a tough run!  Lots of steep sections, some very rocky parts.  Beautiful scenery.

Reservoir Trail: western side, marked with orange ... this one (at least the parts I've been on) is a great run, decent trail and as always in the Fells, you get some good elevation changes.

Get out of the city and go for a run!  :)

Photos by me, NOT TO BE REPRODUCED unless purchased from Shutterstock or Dreamstime.

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