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Thread: Wachusett Mountain Trail Network

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Wachusett Mountain Trail Network

    One of my wife's friends has taken a great interest in hiking so I've been doing some local stuff with her to get her acclimated to "real" hiking (she hopes to do Mt Washington by the end of next year - brand spanking new to hiking). Bigelow Hollow State Park is only 15 minutes from my house so that is generally where I go but I have kind of beaten the enjoyment out of it with all the recent trips so I am looking for something similar that actually has some elevation change to it (no easy task in Northeast CT).

    I've read and seen mentioned that Wachusett has a network of trails but I am having trouble finding info. Every attempt to Google seems to point me to the ski trails, not the hiking trails. On CalTopo the Mapbuilder layer shows numerous routes which I assume are the trails. So a few questions:

    1) Is there any kind of official PDF map for the Wachusett Trails? Please post a link if possible.
    2) Are the trails blazed or marked in any fashion? Trail head signs or any other "typical" trail stuff?
    3) Are there official parking lots for the the trailheads or is it just road side clearings?
    4) Are parking areas maintained in Winter? Are the trails commonly used in Winter?
    5) Is any sort of pass required for use (i.e. like Wildcat does with Polecat access)?

    If anyone has been there or can provide info on the above it would be greatly appreciated. Wachusett is only about 45-50 minutes from my house so it would make for another realistic local option. Thanks in advance.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Look under Wachusett State Reservation.
    Here is the trail map:

    https://www.mass.gov/files/documents.../wachusett.pdf

    Website:
    https://www.mass.gov/locations/wachu...te-reservation
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    Senior Member Amicus's Avatar
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    If you have a broader interest in Massachusetts hiking trails, you should spring for the excellent AMC Mass. Trail Guide (10th Ed.). The fold-out maps include a fine one of the Wachusett trails.

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Wachusett is nice, I opt for the trails from the south parking by the gate at Administration Road. Some of the footing can be tricky as it does have some steep spots here and there. We find it a bit of a challenge, a newby may find it harder. At this time of year, many people walk up Administration Road, a hard dirt road that maintenance uses and will keep passable plowing on occasion. This road joins the paved road which is closed during the winter. Usually closed in early April also.

    Other starter trails in your area, Mashamaquet, spelling, near where 44 and 101 split. There is some climbing in there if you approach the old wolf den from the South. One of the harder 7 mile hikes in my area, Colchester, is the Salmon River and Day Pond loop. (lollipop, up and down Salmon River, and then the loop) Trail starts at Comstock Bridge and climbs a few hundred feet. Then there is the Holyoke Range and Mt. Tom which is also included in that set of maps Amicus mentioned. Mt. Tom and the Holyoke Range have some trap rock which can be slick. A few spots on Wachusett also have traprock too.
    Last edited by Mike P.; 01-28-2018 at 01:26 PM.
    Have fun & be safe
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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevinmac View Post
    Look under Wachusett State Reservation.
    Here is the trail map:

    https://www.mass.gov/files/documents.../wachusett.pdf

    Website:
    https://www.mass.gov/locations/wachu...te-reservation
    That's perfect! Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amicus View Post
    If you have a broader interest in Massachusetts hiking trails, you should spring for the excellent AMC Mass. Trail Guide (10th Ed.). The fold-out maps include a fine one of the Wachusett trails.
    Thanks. I recently bought the 50 Best Trails in CT AMC Guide (?) but was disappointed at how short most of the trails were. Do you know off the top of your head if there is anything in Central MA with a decent enough network to get 8-12 miles in? That is one of the things I really like about Bigelow. It is a big enough network with enough variety for visiting regularly. If you follow the outside perimeter of all the trails you can stretch it out to about 14 miles and there are lots of other loop options, especially if you do a few short bushwhacks. Western MA and CT sound like they have some decent hiking but for the length of drive it is from my house I can be in NH in the good stuff. Was hoping central MA or central/Eastern CT had some viable options.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    Wachusett is nice, I opt for the trails from the south parking by the gate at Administration Road. Some of the footing can be tricky as it does have some steep spots here and there. We find it a bit of a challenge, a newby may find it harder. At this time of year, many people walk up Administration Road, a hard dirt road that maintenance uses and will keep passable plowing on occasion. This road joins the paved road which is closed during the winter. Usually closed in early April also.

    Other starter trails in your area, Mashamaquet, spelling, near where 44 and 101 split. There is some climbing in there if you approach the old wolf den from the South. One of the harder 7 mile hikes in my area, Colchester, is the Salmon River and Day Pond loop. (lollipop, up and down Salmon River, and then the loop) Trail starts at Comstock Bridge and climbs a few hundred feet. Then there is the Holyoke Range and Mt. Tom which is also included in that set of maps Amicus mentioned. Mt. Tom and the Holyoke Range have some trap rock which can be slick. A few spots on Wachusett also have traprock too.
    Thanks. Do you know if any of the actual trails see Winter use or is it pretty much just the access roads? And I assume if people are taking these roads that the lots are getting plowed?
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Senior Member Amicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Thanks. I recently bought the 50 Best Trails in CT AMC Guide (?) but was disappointed at how short most of the trails were. Do you know off the top of your head if there is anything in Central MA with a decent enough network to get 8-12 miles in?
    Central Mass. is packed with excellent hiking trails, as long as you can take. The Midstate Trail, which crosses Wachusett, will take you from the NH border, a little north of Mt. Watatic, to the RI border in a state park near Wallum Lake. It connects with the RI North-South Trail which takes you to the Atlantic - Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI. In the north part of central Mass., the Tully Trail is a great 21-mile loop, which should give you a solid day's exercise.

    What about Mount Tom and the Mt. Holyoke Range, a little to the west of the Midstate? That's a few dozen more miles and there are many others. I don't know about that Best Trails book but you would do well to acquire the AMC Mass. Trail Guide (10th Ed.), which has all of these.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    At this time of year, many people walk up Administration Road, a hard dirt road that maintenance uses and will keep passable plowing on occasion. This road joins the paved road which is closed during the winter. Usually closed in early April also.
    Sadly, lots of bad dog owners don't clean up after their pets on this road in the Winter....

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    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    I've redlined Wachusett in pretty much all seasons. Not to make a blanket statement, but I'd bet the lots are always plowed and the trails are always broken out. I've never had any difficulty doing any winter hike there at all.
    Bear in mind that Wachusett is in 500,000 people's backyard, and the next best hike is about 45 minutes away (WaPack or Holyokes).
    That mountain sees a TON of winter activity.
    Nothin' on the top but a bucket and a mop
    And an illustrated book about birds.
    You see alot up there, but don't be scared:
    who needs actions when you got words?

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    I've redlined Wachusett in pretty much all seasons. Not to make a blanket statement, but I'd bet the lots are always plowed and the trails are always broken out. I've never had any difficulty doing any winter hike there at all.
    Bear in mind that Wachusett is in 500,000 people's backyard, and the next best hike is about 45 minutes away (WaPack or Holyokes).
    That mountain sees a TON of winter activity.
    Excellent. I don't mind breaking out the trails but the person I've been taking out on hikes is not ready for that kind of "fun" just yet. Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amicus View Post
    Central Mass. is packed with excellent hiking trails, as long as you can take. The Midstate Trail, which crosses Wachusett, will take you from the NH border, a little north of Mt. Watatic, to the RI border in a state park near Wallum Lake. It connects with the RI North-South Trail which takes you to the Atlantic - Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI. In the north part of central Mass., the Tully Trail is a great 21-mile loop, which should give you a solid day's exercise.

    What about Mount Tom and the Mt. Holyoke Range, a little to the west of the Midstate? That's a few dozen more miles and there are many others. I don't know about that Best Trails book but you would do well to acquire the AMC Mass. Trail Guide (10th Ed.), which has all of these.
    I'll check into these. Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    I usually go as a 1/2 day trip leaving Colchester around 7:45 and getting back by 2:00 with about 3 hours and 20 minutes of RT driving. I usually take what ever is easiest so I will take the road up in I wonder about snow depths and breaking trail.

    Same issue with dog owners not picking up in Winter in Gay City State Park in CT when there is snow.
    Have fun & be safe
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    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    I've redlined Wachusett in pretty much all seasons. Not to make a blanket statement, but I'd bet the lots are always plowed and the trails are always broken out. I've never had any difficulty doing any winter hike there at all.
    Bear in mind that Wachusett is in 500,000 people's backyard, and the next best hike is about 45 minutes away (WaPack or Holyokes).
    That mountain sees a TON of winter activity.
    Good advice. I have an anecdotal story to support this: I wanted to do a local winter hike 2 days after a storm that put 6in of fresh snow on the groundand I was picking between Wachusett and Watatic; decided on Wachusett. I was worried about snowpack but it was totally for nothing. Parked in a small lot here and it was not plowed but packed in by cars (by the way, all the roads to get here were clear but Westminster road was packed snow so I had to drive much more carefully). There were two other cars, one parked by the gate and by the time I left 3 more cars showed up. All trails I took were packed out and there were ski tracks on the flat trails. Saw maybe about 6 more hikers and a couple XC skiers. This was midday on a Wednesday before Christmas so maybe more people were on vacation. I took the Harrington trail up but Jack Frost to Echo Lake down and I enjoyed those much more due to scenery. There is a small steep section on top of Wachusett, if I remember correctly, but for the most part it's pretty tame. There was no use fee posted, the trails are very clearly marked with blazes and at every single junction sometimes even with maps, and crossings are bridged. The view was just OK but I could see Monadnock and Boston so that was kind of cool. Head over to the Wachusett Mntn brewery afterwards 10 mins away!

    When I scout locations I usually peruse a multitude of maps - anything from the state (linked above), CalTop with different layers (no Forest Service layer for this location), OpenStreetMap, OpenTopoMap, Google Satellite and Street View for parking locations (what if the lot is full, are other people parking on the road?), and sometimes Strava Heatmap. You probably know about most of these but I'm including them just in case.

    https://www.gaiagps.com/map/united-s...1.8864&zoom=15
    ^ you can go to Overlays on the right hand side and click on "show public trips" to see which way people go most often

    https://opentopomap.org/#map=15/42.48205/-71.89337

    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=42.4...a%2Cr&n=1,0.25

    https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#14....20/bluered/run

    https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/m...te-reservation

    There is sometimes good information on AllTrails but I find that it's often not enough. Hiking Project sometimes has good trail suggestions but as far as I'm concerned it's still a work in progress
    https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/...-friendly-loop


    The Pioneer Valley area (Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, etc.) is a fantastic place for 'local' hiking. Mt Tom and Mt Toby are fairly short and easy and have good views; you could make them longer via looping if desired. You could go directly up Mt. Holyoke, the views are great. Probably one of the best views in this area is looking towards the CT river from the top of Mt. Sugarloaf in Sunderland - it's about a 25-30min somewhat steep hike (there are two routes). On a clear day you can see both Springfield and Hartford from Sugarloaf/Holyoke. You can make a longer hike from Sugarloaf, looks like someone finally mapped out the trail network of North Sugarloaf, I had heard that there was a way to get there from South Sugarloaf. The top of Sugarloaf is always such a wind tunnel, I've been up here in the winter and it can get pretty bitter (not WMNF bitter but by local standards). You can even walk on the road most of the time though it does see snow drifts.
    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=42.4...138&z=15&b=mbt

    One of the most difficult hikes, probably a close-enough experience to a 4K peak effort-wise is the out & back traverse of the Holyoke Range Ridgeline - 8mi/2400ft or looks like you can make it even more difficult at 12mi/3200ft. There's quite a bit of scrambling on rocky ledges and I would not come here if it were muddy/wet.
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...ke-range-trail
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...onadnock-trail

    Or you could head east through Skinner Park to Mt. Norwottuck and beyond; the views are pretty good too and you can make this as long/difficult as needed
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...hrough-holyoke

    And, of course, being a 5-college area, there's good food and good beer to be had apres-hike.

    Hope this helps!

  15. #15
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by autonomy View Post
    Good advice. I have an anecdotal story to support this: I wanted to do a local winter hike 2 days after a storm that put 6in of fresh snow on the groundand I was picking between Wachusett and Watatic; decided on Wachusett. I was worried about snowpack but it was totally for nothing. Parked in a small lot here and it was not plowed but packed in by cars (by the way, all the roads to get here were clear but Westminster road was packed snow so I had to drive much more carefully). There were two other cars, one parked by the gate and by the time I left 3 more cars showed up. All trails I took were packed out and there were ski tracks on the flat trails. Saw maybe about 6 more hikers and a couple XC skiers. This was midday on a Wednesday before Christmas so maybe more people were on vacation. I took the Harrington trail up but Jack Frost to Echo Lake down and I enjoyed those much more due to scenery. There is a small steep section on top of Wachusett, if I remember correctly, but for the most part it's pretty tame. There was no use fee posted, the trails are very clearly marked with blazes and at every single junction sometimes even with maps, and crossings are bridged. The view was just OK but I could see Monadnock and Boston so that was kind of cool. Head over to the Wachusett Mntn brewery afterwards 10 mins away!

    When I scout locations I usually peruse a multitude of maps - anything from the state (linked above), CalTop with different layers (no Forest Service layer for this location), OpenStreetMap, OpenTopoMap, Google Satellite and Street View for parking locations (what if the lot is full, are other people parking on the road?), and sometimes Strava Heatmap. You probably know about most of these but I'm including them just in case.

    https://www.gaiagps.com/map/united-s...1.8864&zoom=15
    ^ you can go to Overlays on the right hand side and click on "show public trips" to see which way people go most often

    https://opentopomap.org/#map=15/42.48205/-71.89337

    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=42.4...a%2Cr&n=1,0.25

    https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#14....20/bluered/run

    https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/m...te-reservation

    There is sometimes good information on AllTrails but I find that it's often not enough. Hiking Project sometimes has good trail suggestions but as far as I'm concerned it's still a work in progress
    https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/...-friendly-loop


    The Pioneer Valley area (Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, etc.) is a fantastic place for 'local' hiking. Mt Tom and Mt Toby are fairly short and easy and have good views; you could make them longer via looping if desired. You could go directly up Mt. Holyoke, the views are great. Probably one of the best views in this area is looking towards the CT river from the top of Mt. Sugarloaf in Sunderland - it's about a 25-30min somewhat steep hike (there are two routes). On a clear day you can see both Springfield and Hartford from Sugarloaf/Holyoke. You can make a longer hike from Sugarloaf, looks like someone finally mapped out the trail network of North Sugarloaf, I had heard that there was a way to get there from South Sugarloaf. The top of Sugarloaf is always such a wind tunnel, I've been up here in the winter and it can get pretty bitter (not WMNF bitter but by local standards). You can even walk on the road most of the time though it does see snow drifts.
    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=42.4...138&z=15&b=mbt

    One of the most difficult hikes, probably a close-enough experience to a 4K peak effort-wise is the out & back traverse of the Holyoke Range Ridgeline - 8mi/2400ft or looks like you can make it even more difficult at 12mi/3200ft. There's quite a bit of scrambling on rocky ledges and I would not come here if it were muddy/wet.
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...ke-range-trail
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...onadnock-trail

    Or you could head east through Skinner Park to Mt. Norwottuck and beyond; the views are pretty good too and you can make this as long/difficult as needed
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/m...hrough-holyoke

    And, of course, being a 5-college area, there's good food and good beer to be had apres-hike.

    Hope this helps!
    Thanks for the detailed reply and links. I also heavily use CalTopo for hike planning. Great tool.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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