Blue Hills Reservation, Milton
Note: There is a Seasonal Trail Closure in the Blue Hills during the month of March every year. The closure is designed to protect the trails during the mud season. Please respect the closure and stay off the trails till they dry out.
The Blue Hills Reservation includes 7000 acres of varied terrain. It ranges from woodlands to marsh to rocky hills. There is an extensive, well-marked and maintained trail system with miles of fire road, double and single track. There are great views of Boston and the south shore from several hill tops. Other activities available include hiking, swimming, canoeing and horseback riding. There is a designated swimming area at Houghton Pond as well as a refreshment stand. Great Blue Hill is the second highest "coastal mountain" on the Esat Coast. (A coastal mountain is any mountain from which you can see the ocean)
The terrain open to mountain bikers at Blue Hills consists of the Houghton Pond, Great Blue Hill and Ponkapoag areas. This represents about one-half of the total area of the reservation. Within this area, approximately 95% of the double-track and 50% of the single-track is open to cyclists. Although these trails represent perhaps 20% of the total trails at Blue Hills, the Blue Hills is big; there's a lot of stuff to ride here. Much of the double track is gravelly fire road but significant portions are rocky and quite challenging. The variety of single track is more limited than the double track but there are enough trails that even the experienced rider will not run out of challenging terrain.
The one lack at Blue Hills is that there is very limited novice terrain open to mountain bikers. The only really easy trails are the short loop around Houghton Pond and old 128 which is actually a paved road. Some of the double track is not difficult from a technical standpoint but it is still quite hilly. If you are not reasonably fit, you may want to build up your conditioning by riding someplace flatter for a while before trying the Blue Hills. See the map for an indication of the easier trails.
Equestrians and hikers are common in the Blue Hills. It's important to pay attention to what you are doing and be ready to stop at any time. It is very important that mountain bikers stay on good terms with the DCR if this and other DCR-operated properties are to stay open to mountain bikers. Riding safely and showing curtesy to other trail users is essential.
In winter, an alpine ski area operates on a section of Great Blue Hill. Check out the Friends of the Blue Hills. They help take care of the reservation and also plan a variety of activities including Mountain Bike fun rides.
Also see the DCR web site and the complete map of the Blue Hills..
The DCR prints a Mountain Biking in the Blue Hills map designating trails that are open. It's available at the visitor's cebnter. It also highlights two designated mountain bike loops. Please keep in mind that the closed trails are marked in red. If you print the map on a black and white printer, you may not be able to determine which trails are open. You can pick up a printed copy of the map for free at the reservation headquarters.
This older version of the map has some trails highlighted in yellow. These trails have been selected by Bill Boles, a member of the Blue Hills Trail Watch as easiest trails with regard to both pitch and technical difficulty. Keep these trails in mind iff you are new to Blue Hills or riding with newer riders.
All of the trail intersections in the Blue Hills have number markers. By comparing the numbers with your map you'll know precisely where you are.
The DCR has a Newly revised DCR Blue Hills Reservation trail map and guide now availableat the Blue Hills Reservation headquarters at 695 Hillside Street in Milton and at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum at 1904 Canton Avenue in Milton.
I always introduce new riders to the park, “Nothing flat about the Blue Hills”….
That’s what I love about it. Lots of ups and downs. Climbing builds strength and tenacity, descents keep me focused on what’s down the trail. Climbing to the top of Buck Hill gives that great sense of accomplishment and worldwide view. Riding down that same trail, well, I lived through it, and it made me a better rider.
There are many miles of trail in the Blue Hills open to bikes. There’s lots of fast doubletrack, selection of fun singletrack, and a few quite rocky trails to practice your technique and session with friends. And there are LOTS of intersections. Every major intersection has a number on a tree that coincides with the map. When you’re looking at the number sign, you’re looking north. You can grab a map at the Blue Hills Headquarters on Hillside Street, Milton. There are two maps available: one MTB-specific(free), one bigger color/topo that shows the entire reservation ($2.00 honor-system donation, benefits Trailside Museum).
An easy way to get to know the Blue Hills is to follow the arrows. There are two loops. Both start at the big Houghton’s Pond Lot on Hillside street. Look for the ‘Welcome Mountain Bikers’ kiosk in the front row of the lot. White arrows take you on appox 5-mile loop on the south side of Hillside street, with not any real huge hills but challenging nonetheless. The loose gravelly old carriage paths will keep you honest and encourage you to stay upright. Yellow arrows cross the street and start you right out with a ½ mile climb to ‘BreakNeck Ledge’. This ‘eliminator’ warm-up will determine who can hang (always more fun in a group). But hang in there, that’s where the fun starts. Another 4 miles or so that will get your blood flowing nicely. Each loop will take you from 35 minutes to 1 hour, depending on fitness level. Neither is very technical, and the terrain is mostly loose gravel and hardpack.
Both loops will take you right back to where you started. A few notes: the arrowed loops are only signed in one direction—once you get to know them, try them backwards. That way you’ll see more riders…If you decide to exit down Wolcott Path(see ‘eliminator’, above)at the end of a ride, there are a few overly-enthusiastic waterbars that will take you out at speed, so be careful….also that same trail is a very popular trail for hikers, dog walkers, and school field trips, so look WAY ahead before letting go of the brakes…. Another option, near the end of the Yellow, just before the last descent to the street, take a hard left, (after the last yellow arrow right) and follow that side-hill trail all the way back to the street. You’ll end up right across from the lot, and it’s a much nicer finish than riding the road back. The last little technical, downhill, rocky ‘groove’ section dumps you out onto the side of the road in the opposite direction of traffic, so again, use caution!
Another fun area to ride in the park is the Ponkapoag section. The green dot loop is now open to bikes! Experienced riders will appreciate the time to ‘spin’ on the dirt road sections, beginners and families will be happy that the loop is ‘relatively’ flat and wide.
Blue Hills is open to mountain biking all year with the exception of March, for mud season. See the dedicated DCR mountain biking map for the trails that are open to bikes. (Some trails are off-limits to riding and anyways would be impossible for most mortal riders.)
Once you’ve mastered those loops, start exploring. Oh, did I mention that you’ll be climbing a lot of hills?
For more info feel free to contact me, And keep an eye on the SEMass NEMBA email list and facebook page for scheduled rides, and events.
From Boston, take I93 South.
From points South, take I95 North to I93 North.
From points North or West, take I95 South (Rt 128) to I93 North (Rt 128).
Take exit 2B off I93 (Rt 128) on to Rt 138 North.
Take 138 north 1/4 mile to light with Mobil station on your left. Take a right at light onto Hillside St.
Travel 1 1/4 miles on Hillside St. to the Houghton Pond parking area on your right. There is plenty of parking in this lot.
Approximately 1/2 mile further on Hillside St. is the Reservation headquarters on your left next the State Police horse stable. You can stop here for a map but there is little or no visitor parking. Stop by on your way in for a map or just park at Houghton Pond and bike the 1/2 mile down the road to the headquarters.
Additional parking: The Donovan School, 123 Reed Street, Randolph. But only when school is not in session.
Ride on open trails only. The open trails are designated on the Mountain Biking in the Blue Hills map which is available at the reservation headquarters. Closed trails are marked in red on the map. There are also No Bicycle signs on trees marking the closed trails.
Mountain bikes are prohibited on trails in the month of March.
By Tom Abrogast, Ken Koellner & Steve Cobble