Bay Circuit Trail, Section 1

Posted By on April 11, 2017

Bay Circuit Trail, Section 1

6.5 miles; Newburyport and Newbury, MA

Day #5 of the Five Hikes in Five Days almost didn’t happen, I was so beat by Day Four, but I soldiered on anyway.

I’ve made it one of my goals this year to hike the entire Bay Circuit Trail, which is a hiking trail that goes from Newburyport to Plymouth, Massachusetts, making a big ring around Boston. I’ve broken it up into about 25 sections, and planned on using ride services like Uber and Lyft to get from the ends of the sections to the beginnings. Today’s hike was a “proof-of-concept,” and a smashing success, in that it went quite smoothly and easily. Just used the app on my phone and voila, in twenty minutes my ride arrived.

Trail Terminus

There was a signboard at the parking lot that was designated as the trail terminus, but I guess it wasn’t that important… It was covered over by a bunch of town rules and regulations and suchlike. This was the only indication I was at the right spot.

Beach Day

As for the weather… Someday I’m going to write a book about hiking in Southern New England. Chapter 1 will be called, “Spring Hiking: Hypothermia to Heat Stroke and Back Again.” Honestly, just two days ago I was whining about the cold. Today, and I’m not making this up, it was 84º in Newburyport, and a major portion of this section is road walking without shade. I was so hot I started to shiver. I remember thinking, “Oh, this can’t be good.” Fortunately one of the few virtues of road hikes is that sometimes there are places of business where you can get ice cold water and use their restroom sink to dunk your head.

Lonely Little House [see update below]

From the parking lot on the beach, this trail follows a causeway across a salt marsh. A long, hot causeway.

First Blaze

The Bay Circuit Trail is not what you’d call excessively marked. I must have been a mile and half into this hike before I found my first actual blaze. In fact, shortly after this spot, I ended up having to detour around the trail. Long story: I was looking for a trail called the Lizzy Little Trail. It was supposed to be on my left just after the Plum Island Airport. I found a kiosk with an info sheet about the trail, but couldn’t find the actual trail itself. I was standing, however, at the entrance to the Headquarters of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, so I figured I’d go inside and ask for directions. The first ranger I spoke with had no idea what I was talking about, but the second ranger said the trail was virtually underwater right now, and definitely too wet and muddy to travel on. She directed me around the trail on the roads. Sigh. More roads. And my first detour.

Farm Stand

Here is the farmstand where I dunked my head. Either they had chickens wandering the parking lot or I was hallucinating. Hard to say.

Actual Woods

After many more miles of roads, I came to the first place I could get into the woods, almost at the end of my hike. This is the Old Town Hill Reservation in Newbury. There were four lengthy boardwalks, and a lot more mud. But it was such a relief to be walking on dirt!

You can find out about the Bay Circuit Trail from their website, They have downloadable maps and trail descriptions, as well as some really awesome printed maps you can buy. And as always, click on the image, above, for details and to download the gps track. Unfortunately, the track online with details doesn’t include the first 4/10s of a mile, because I forgot to turn on the recording. Don’t know what I was thinking. I can’t even blame the heat, as it was at the beginning of the hike. But the trailhead is at 42.798763, -70.809066, approximately 5 Northern Blvd., Newburyport, MA.

UPDATE Thursday, January 13, 2022: Turns out the “Lonely Little House” out on the salt marsh causeway is what’s known as a “spite house.” See this Atlas Obscura post for more details.

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