Matt Heid is a freelance writer and author of AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England.
Above photo: The 22-mile Tully Trail runs through three Trustees reservations, including Doane's Falls in Royalston.
Long-distance trails course through the Massachusetts landscape like emerald veins. The Bay Circuit Trail arcs around Boston on a grand 200-mile sweep of adventure. The 114-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and 22-mile Tully Trail pulse through the lush and rolling central hills. In the Berkshires, 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverse some of the state’s wildest terrain. Together, these extended paths cross more than a dozen Trustees properties, connecting hikers, communities, and caring stewards alike.
Into the Great Backyard
The Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) is a haven of backyard adventure. It runs through 34 towns and dozens of protected parklands, providing millions of Greater Boston-area residents with ready access to the outdoors. From its southern end in Duxbury, the BCT heads west, then circles north as it winds through the sylvan landscape between I-495 and I-95. After crossing the Massachusetts Turnpike, it slowly curves back east to return to the sea at its northern terminus in Newburyport.
On its journey, the BCT relies on existing paths in various protected areas, including eight Trustees reservations, critical gateways for local residents and visitors alike. Hikers find whispering woods, sweeping hilltops, lush wetlands – and a full spectrum of local plants and animals. “It’s amazing to find this type of peace and contentment available only 24 miles from Boston,” marvels Alan French, chair of the Bay Circuit Alliance.
The Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of more than 50 state and local partners including The Trustees, formed in 1990. The group’s mission: to expand the vision of a Bay Circuit greenway, first conceived in the 1930s as an outer companion to Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace, into a continuous trail. Today, after almost two decades of volunteer dedication, the trail is nearly complete, with 195 of 200 miles open.
Behind this monumental accomplishment stands a cadre of volunteers who work to maintain, protect, and enhance the corridor. “It’s nice to have the trail,” muses Rita Corey of the Sharon Friends of Conservation, who volunteers time to support the BCT. “It links so many different properties together. They’re beautiful. They’re a haven from the everyday world. The trail really takes people through areas they didn’t know about.”
A few years ago, Corey helped put up the dozens of white markers that today guide visitors along Sharon’s 11-plus miles of the BCT, helping to connect an ever-growing number of residents and visitors to the Massachusetts landscape. BCT organizers hope such ease of access will lead to a passion for the land, and for conserving it. As French says, “To protect land…you have to have people who value using these lands.”