The Bay Circuit Trail">The Bay Circuit Trail

The Bay Circuit Trail

Route (as walked)


  • Distance: 230 miles (distance approximate)
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
  • Town(s): Many in Eastern Massachusetts
  • Property Owned By: Many, Many Different Entities
  • Hunting Allowed: On Some Properties
  • Dogs Allowed: On Most Properties


The Bay Circuit Trail is a long-distance trail that runs from Newburyport, Massachusetts to Plymouth, Massachusetts, through the suburbs of Boston. I’ll just outsource the description and history to the Bay Circuit Trail Alliance:

The idea for the Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway first arose in 1929. It would be an “outer Emerald Necklace,” proponents said—a greenbelt that would mirror the famous string of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks threading through urban Boston—and would provide open space for the metropolitan area’s quickly expanding population. Over the next several decades, various public and private parks and reservations were established in the area between what is now Route 128 and Interstate 495, but they failed to keep pace with commercial and residential development. In the 1980s, interest in the project was renewed, and in 1990 the Bay Circuit Alliance formed to make the trail and greenway a reality. The BCA has focused on linking segments of the Bay Circuit Trail, which provides a place for recreation while ensuring the protection of open space in the region by adding more “pearls” to the “emerald necklace.” Beginning at Plum Island and ending in Kingston Bay, the trail and greenway, is located close to 4 million people in Eastern Massachusetts.

I decided during the winter of 2016 to attempt to complete the entire trail, and geek that I am, set about creating a section list (Excel file) that includes all trailhead coordinates. I also ordered the fancy maps from the AMC ($20.00). Not a necessity, but they made the planning phase a lot easier.

Now you’re probably wondering how a solo hiker can possibly do a hike like this. Simple. I used Lyft. I would park my car where I wanted to finish, contact Lyft on my cellphone and get a ride to where I wanted to start. (I suppose you could use Uber, too, but I don’t like their politics.)

What follows is a brief description of every section I hiked… all 26 of them. I’ve also noted the mileage and provided a link to the specific blog post about each section.

First Blaze

Section 1: Newburyport to Newbury

Auntie Link, 6.5 miles—It was an inauspicious beginning. Unseasonably warm for April, a whole bunch of road-walking, sparse blazing, and my first detour were the lowlights.

Section 2: Newbury to Rowley

Auntie Link, 6.5 miles—Almost this whole section was on Route 1A, and not too much fun.

Section 3: Rowley to Ipswitch

Auntie Link, 6.32 miles—At last, this particular section was all woods, so no lowlights!

Section 4: Ipswitch to Boxford

Auntie Link, 10.61 miles—This was a long section, made longer still by a portion of the trail which was flooded by a beaver dam (you will notice beavers are kind of a theme in this post). Aside from the road-walking-heavy detour, however, it was mostly in the woods. This section passed through two state forests: Willowdale and Georgetown-Rowley. There sure are some big-assed state forests in Massachusetts!

Section 5: Boxford to North Andover

Auntie Link, 10.1 miles—I certainly won’t say this will be a favorite section once I look back on this adventure. Firstly, it was a little heavy on road-walking. Which could have been forgiven, had there not been so darned much water in the trail. I was fording lakes and rivers every 50 feet, it seemed. And finally, ANOTHER beaver detour made it about a mile and a quarter longer than I had planned, AND the detour ran through a landfill.

Section 6: Boxford to North Andover

Auntie Link, 10.85 miles—Today’s hike was by far the best section to date. The Harold Parker State Forest was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Arcadia. And that was only the beginning 3 miles or so. And got my first glimpse of the Boston skyline. And at one point the trail crossed the grounds of the Phillips Academy in Andover, so now I can say I went there.

Section 7a: Andover

Auntie Link, 6.36 miles—Okay, so I originally planned this as a long 14-mile section, and when I changed my mind and decided to break it in two, I didn’t feel like re-numbering all the rest, hence 7A. This was an interesting section, what with multiple eskers and a cemetery and a kangaroo crossing and a really long boardwalk. Not section 6 interesting, but not bad.

Section 7b: Andover to Lowell

Auntie Link, 7.83 miles—This was the best of hikes, it was the worst of hikes… Not actually, but the first half was quite nice, while the second half was both on a bogus trail and in the city of Lowell. So not wonderful. Still, I got it done. The BCT ends here and picks up a few miles south. They’re still working on a connection.

Section 8: Lowell to Westford

Auntie Link, 7.6 miles—So this section was pretty boring. It was a 7-mile-long paved bike trail built on the bed of old New Haven Railroad Framingham & Lowell line. I saw my first BCT blaze since Andover, one of only 2 total. And the BCT breaks at the end of the rail trail and picks up again a few miles south in Acton.

Section 9: Acton to Concord

Auntie Link, 8.75 miles—This section started a few miles south of the end of the Freeman Rail Trail, in a nicely wooded area in Acton. It was almost 9 miles, and unfortunately 4 miles of it was on roads, including the last 3, which ended at the Visitors Center for the Minuteman National Monument.

Section 10: Concord to Wayland

Auntie Link, 12.84 miles—I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but in my defense, it was a) a VERY long hike, and 2) there was so much cool stuff!

Section 11: Wayland to Sudbury

Auntie Link, 10.53 miles—Out of a 10.53 mile hike, 8.5 miles of this was on roads, including a very wearying 3 miles or so on busy Route 20. What parts were not on the roads were very cool, as they mostly included massive meadows.

Section 12: Sudbury to Marlborough

Auntie Link, 8.7 miles—Unlike the last section, this one included hardly any road-walking at all… maybe 1/4 mile. I didn’t even cross a paved road till well past halfway. It was very hilly, though, and it included the highest point on the BCT, Nobscot Hill.

Section 13: Marlborough to Ashland

Auntie Link, 7.92 miles—This one was partly through an Industrial park. But I did cross both Route 9 and the Mass Pike, so this is for sure the southern arc of the trail.

Section 14: Ashland to Sherborn

Auntie Link, 7.15 miles—Decidedly “urban hiking” with little woods sections between cul-de-sacs. Then a long walk on a busy road. Only redeeming feature? A Dunkin’ Donuts along the route.

Section 15: Sherborn

Auntie Link, 6.85 miles—Decidedly “urban hiking” with little woods sections between cul-de-sacs. Then a long walk on a busy road. Only redeeming feature? A Dunkin’ Donuts along the route.

Section 16: Sherborn to Medfield

Auntie Link, 12.18 miles—Word of warning: there are 2 preserve parking areas on Noon Hill Road in Medfield. Don’t be like Auntie… make sure you know which preserve you’re parking at. It was, however, amazing and a lot of fun, so there’s that. I was on three Trustees of the Reservations properties today, which are uniformly perfectly maintained and gorgeous.

Section 17: Medfield to Sharon

Auntie Link, 6.05 miles—This section includes an old path called “Old Indian Trail,” which runs along the top of an esker alongside Mine Brook and a railroad track.

Section 18: Sharon

Auntie Link, 10.18 miles—This section covered a large portion of the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, and included a section of the Warner Trail, which is another, albeit considerably shorter, 30-mile long trail which runs from Sharon to Cumberland, RI.

Section 19: Sharon to Easton

Auntie Link, 9.4 miles—Includes the rest of Moose Hill Sanctuary, then the shores of a beautiful lake, and then the gorgeous Borderlands State Park. This was another stellar section of the BCT.

Section 20: Easton

Auntie Link, 8.75 miles—I very much liked this section, even though it had some nasty power line stretches and ended with almost 2 miles of road-walking. There were some gorgeous trails and it was a beautiful hiking day, weather-wise.

Section 21: Easton to West Bridgewater

Auntie Link, 7.21 miles—This section was part pretty cool and part confusing and part boring. The cool part was the Hockomock Swamp Wildlife Management Area. The confusing part was the contradiction between the trail Guide and the blazing, and the boring part was nearly 3-3/4 miles of road walking.

Section 22: West Bridgewater to East Bridgewater

Auntie Link, 6.68 miles—Worst section yet, I think. All but the last 9/10s of a mile was roads, and part of it wasn’t even the BCT—today’s section included a “trail gap.” Yuck

Section 23: East Bridgewater to Hanson

Auntie Link, 7.86 miles—Once again, this section included only a brief, albeit fascinating, hike in the woods and a ton of roads. Also sad because there are only 2 sections left.

Section 24: Hanson to Pembroke

Auntie Link, 10.17 miles—Today’s section had a decent amount of road-walking in the middle, but a lot of non-road hiking, too. Lots of old cranberry bogs in this area. Tubb’s Meadow was especially interesting.

Section 25: Pembroke to Duxbury

Auntie Link, 8.95 miles—Last section of the BCT. It was almost entirely in Duxbury, and it was pretty fantastic. Duxbury managed to thread almost their entire part of the trail through conservation properties, so there was minimal road-walking.