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.
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.
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.
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.