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Blue Hills Double Cross Hike

Blue Rocks of the Blue Hills
Blue Rocks of the Blue Hills, Photo by BenFrantzDale

There are two good places to train for strenuous hikes in the Boston Area: The Blue Hills and The Middlesex Fells, both within a 20 minute drive of downtown Boston. Although I’ve lived in the Boston area for over 20 years, I don’t get down to the Blue Hills, which are south of the city, very often and mainly hike in the Middlesex Fells which are just a few minutes from my house. But I signed up for a local Appalachian Mountain Club hike in the Blue Hills over the Columbus Day weekend to try something new and because I like to stay home on national holidays to avoid the heavy traffic in the White Mountains.

I don’t think I realized what a difficult hike a Blue Hills Double Cross is, when I signed up for it. It’s basically a double traverse of the Skyline Trail, which is the hardest trail in the park. With a distance of 13 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain, it goes up and down many big hills over a very rocky path.

Skyline Trail - Blue Hills
Skyline Trail – Blue Hills – Spot Track

Hiking a Double Cross, from one end of the park to the other and back again is a very strenuous hike, best suited for people who normally hike in the White Mountains but want to train between trips north.  I’m no slouch, but I was tired after hiking the route and my feet hurt from hiking over so many rocks.

We broke the hike into two halves because there aren’t many  natural water sources on the route. After meeting at the park headquarters on Hillside Ave (at the State Police barracks), we hiked to Rt 138 on the western border of the park and back, which took 2 hours and was about 5 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. This is a bit shorter than my typical training 5.6 miles hikes in the Middlesex Fells, where I typically do a Reservation Trail Loop.

After refilling our water bottles and a short snack break, we set off for St Moritz Pond on the Skyline Trail, a round trip distance of 8 miles with 2,000 of cumulative elevation gain. Blazed in light blue, the trail is easy to follow with commanding views of the Boston Skyline from the tops of the hills.

Lunch Break in Old Growth Forest
Lunch Break in Old Growth Forest

Established in 1893, the Blue Hills were one of the first areas in the Boston area to be set aside for public recreation. The area was named after the bluish tint of the hills as seen by early European explorers when sailing along the coastline. Home to coyotes, turkey vultures, copperheads, and timber rattlesnakes, the park is also home to a wide variety of habitats from ponds, swamps, and marshes, to meadows and forest.

St Moritz Pond, Blue Hills Reservation
St Moritz Pond, Blue Hills Reservation

With 125 miles hiking trails available in the Blue Hills (download trail map), there are trails available for all ages and fitness levels. Open year-round, the Blue Hills also has opportunities for camping at Ponkapoag Pond, swimming, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, fishing, rock climbing, and mountain biking. It’s hard to believe how close the Blue Hills are to Boston.

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12 comments

  1. Sounds a really nice area. Its not unusual that we miss getting into our local hills. I do it too.
    I bet the colours are fantastic at this time as well.
    Do you ever walk the Berkshires? I would love to go there with what i have heard.

    • The colors are still just starting to turn here in Boston, although they’re already well past peak in up north in New Hampshire. I’ve walked in the Berkshires a lot. Nice rolling hills and views. A wonderful and lovely place.

  2. That area is the best training near Boston. The rink side is great for trail running and the trailside museum section is great elevation training. Hammering down on those trails twice a week is how I got in shape enough for my first pemi loop.

    A bit of a secret area to get away from the crowds are the ski trails in the summer/fall. If you go off the summit of great blue you have these fantastic open areas that are completely deserted usually. If you enjoy running, running down the ski slopes is fantastic.

  3. You can go into the Blue Hills for a day with a map and compass and just get lost for hours. This time of the year is especially great because the leaves are changing and you can sneak through the trees. Good place to practice navigation too.

  4. Philip, what mapping software are you using? Is that just a Google Earth dump with the SPOT data on it?

  5. When not up North, I train here every weekend with 2 friends. We usually do 22/28 m skyline and mix up with other trails. Periodically we do a double double skyline of about 26 m 6000 elevation .blue hills is a great training gound for all seasons. Also has a variety of eco systems and tons of wildlife..we did our training for the prez traversr and Catskill traverse here.

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