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Middlesex Fells – Rock Circuit Trail

I went on a 5 mile hike today in the Middlesex Fells, a natural area close to my house that has some of the best hiking near Boston. It was a sunny day and a pleasant 64 degrees. I chose to hike the Rock Circuit Trail because I wanted a good workout and because it is fairly remote, winding through the corner of the park east of the Fellsway (Rt 28), away from the more popular trails favored by other hikers and dog walkers. As usual, I was testing some new gear and hiking with a full pack weighing close to 20 lbs.

The Rock Circuit Trail starts across the street from the Flynn Skating Rink east of Interstate 93. It has a white blaze and is rated difficult because it has many rocky ascents and descents, most under 250 feet of elevation. These can be quite steep and tricky under the best of circumstances, but with a 20 lb. pack they become extra treacherous. On my hike, I passed many excellent rock faces for bouldering, crack climbing, and top roping but saw little evidence of permanent protection even though I know many climbers climb near here.

In the past, I usually lose the blazes on this trail and have to resort to bushwacking to find my way out. But it was obvious that the trail had recently been re-blazed and I made it most of the way on the trail. Still, if you are not familiar with the terrain up here, I recommend that you bring a friend who is. It is really easy to lose the trail unless you are very attentive.

Fire Evidence in the Middlesex Fells
Fire Evidence in the Middlesex Fells

About two thirds of the way through my hike, I came across several acres of forest that had obviously been in a fire recently. The ground and many of the trees had been blackened and there was the lingering smell of burnt wood. It has been dry in recent weeks, but I hadn’t heard about a fire in the area. I wonder how it started.

After 2 hours of strenuous hiking, I took a break to have a snack and test some new hammock accessories. I bushwhacked to a rocky area about 100 yards east of the trail and hung up my hammock. I glanced up at a rocky formation about 50 yards south and saw these two breakfast chairs on top of a rocky outcrop, literally in the middle of the forest. I had apparently stumbled upon some other sun worshipper’s private retreat. Urban hiking at it’s best!

The rest of my hike continued to be quite rugged and I got lost as usual towards the end and had to bushwhack to the road to get back to my car. Be forewarned, this is a great hike, but expect to get lost in this section of the Fells.


  1. Hey…I did the Rock Circuit Trail today (I live right down the street), and you're right – it was a definite workout I also had to backtrack and find the trail again about three times (white blazes after the first snowfall!). I'm planning my first overnight backpacking trips in the spring, and I expect I'll be crawling all over this trail with my gear to get in shape.

  2. Maybe we should do it together sometime. It get's real boring doing it alone all the time…and I live close by too. I managed to hike it through without getting lost about 4 weeks ago, for the first time ever.

  3. That would be aces. Hit me up at my email address (which I assume you can see, being the landlord around here) any old time.

  4. Is it really hard to stay on the rock circuit trail? With close attention to the blazes will I do alright in terms of not getting lost?

  5. Hey just looking at your page while considering hiking the rock circuit and wanted to let you know that those burn marks are from a controlled burn that is done to help fight the invasive plant oriental bittersweet. You can see this plant climbing up and choking off trees all through the fells and in many parks surrounding Boston. Cheers and good hiking.

  6. Hey, Join my hiking group. We do the Rock Circuit in the Fells often.

    I was on the Rock Circuit trail two weeks ago and saw the same fire damage. Last weekend one of rangers said it was not a controlled burn.

    There was a fire in the Breakheart Reservation a few weeks ago as well which was not a controlled burn either. They was no way to get to it so they had to let it burn itself out.

    One fire started during a school break, the other on a holiday so they suspect kids.


  7. 10 minutes from my car I realized I still had my canvas chuck sneakers on. I continued on assuming a mild hike was ahead of me. I found rock circuit and dug in. Almost 4 hours, a broken kick, and a couple blisters later I managed to find my car. It was beautiful, but like you say, treacherous. Did not know what I was getting into, haha. Had a full pack too, save the shoes I really needed.

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