The Bay Circuit Trail is 230 miles of trails between routes 495 and 128, mirroring the Emerald Necklace. I’m just starting to explore the trail, since I bought the whole bundle of maps. They are well-made, waterproof, and available online or at local hiking stores like REI.
I explored the section in North Andover a few weekends ago, starting at Skug River Reservation, running through Harold Parker State Forest to route 114 and back.
The Reservation has rolling ups and downs on nicely maintained trails that were a joy to run on. Even though there were several cars in the parking lot, I only met one other person on this section of the trail. A nice break from some local trails where I have to dodge bicycles, dogs, and other pedestrians at every step! I love that those trails are well-used, but it’s nice to be able to get away and just lose myself on the trail.
Once you cross into Harold Parker State Forest, you pass an old mill site on the left. It was easier to see in the winter when vines and greenery aren’t covering it up, but it was still picturesque this summer, hidden behind bright leaves. Past the mill, you come across some giant boulders and twisting, turning trails.
When you cross the road, the trails become narrower and are criss-crossed by the other State Forest trails. It gets a little more crowded in this area since it is near several parking lots and, judging from the laughing and splashing I heard through the tress, a swimming area. You follow along the edge of a tranquil pond and then the trail twists up and over a few rocky areas. The little BCT markers are easy to find and follow. I love this kind of run, where I don’t have to consult a map. Just keep my eyes up and look around and enjoy the scenery!
After my run, I met Ryan at Ward Reservations, a Trustees Property just up the road. We had read about Ward when we were trying to find a nice woods walk for some non-hiker friends. It would be very family friendly, too. There are lots of trail options–the “quaking bog” walk, a hike up Holt Hill, views of Boston, a fire tower (closed to the public), and numerous rolling hiking trails. We enjoyed the self-guided quaking bog tour–I did not know that any carnivorous plants are native to this area!
We then climbed the hill to enjoy a warm breeze and a gorgeous view. It was a pretty spectacular day.