If you want to know about biking in the Blue Hills, ask Steve Cobble. In his article below he shares his enthusiasm and knowledge for biking in the Blue Hills. Enjoy!
By Steve Cobble
I always introduce new riders to the park with, “Nothing flat about the Blue Hills”….
That’s what I love about it. Lots of ups and downs. Climbing builds strength and tenacity, and descents keep me focused on what’s down the trail. Ascending to the top of Buck Hill gives me that great sense of accomplishment and a worldwide view. Riding down that same trail, and having lived through it has made me a better rider.
There are many miles of trail in the Blue Hills open to bikes with fast doubletrack, a selection of fun singletrack, and a few quite rocky trails to practice your technique and session with friends. Grab a map the Blue Hills Headquarters on Hillside Street, Milton to negotiate the many intersections you will encounter. There is a small free one for bikers and larger color/topo map that shows the entire reservation for a $2.00 donation to the Trailside Museum. Every major intersection has a number on a tree that coincides with the map. Keep in mind that when you’re looking at the number sign, you’re looking north.
An easy way to get to know the Blue Hills is to follow the arrows along two loops which both start at the main lot at Houghton’s Pond on Hillside street. Look for the ‘Welcome Mountain Bikers’ kiosk in the front row of the lot. White arrows take you on about five miles along the south side of Hillside street. You will not encounter any huge hills here, but the loop is challenging nonetheless. The loose gravelly old carriage paths will keep you honest and encourage you to stay upright.
Yellow arrows cross the street at Blue Hills Headquarters and send you immediately on a half mile climb to BreakNeck Ledge. This ‘eliminator’ warm-up up Wolcott Path will determine who can hang and is always more fun in a group. But if you hang in there, you'll enjoy another four miles that will get your blood flowing nicely. Each loop will take you from 35 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your fitness level. Neither is very technical, and the terrain is mostly loose gravel and hardpack.
Keep in mind a few things on this loop. This trail is a very popular trail for hikers, dog walkers, and school field trips, so look WAY ahead before letting go of the brakes The arrowed loops are only signed in one direction but once you get to know them, try them backwards. If you decide to exit down Wolcott Path at the end of a ride, there are a few overly-enthusiastic waterbars that will take you out at speed, so be careful. If you stay on the yellow, take a hard left just after the last yellow arrow pointing right(you’ll see the street below), to follow that side-hill trail all the way back to the street. You’ll end up right across from the lot, and it’s a much nicer finish than riding the road back. The last little technical, downhill, rocky ‘groove’ section dumps you out onto the side of the road in the opposite direction of traffic, so again, use caution!
Another fun area to ride in the park is the Ponkapoag section where the green dot loop is now open to bikes. Experienced riders will appreciate the time to ‘spin’ on the dirt road sections, while beginners and families will enjoy a loop is relatively flat and wide.
Blue Hills is open to mountain biking all year with the exception of March which is mud season. Check the dedicated DCR mountain biking map for other trails that are open to bikes. There are some trails which are off-limits to riding and would be impossible for most mortal riders, but there are plenty of places to explore here. Oh, did I mention that you’ll be climbing some hills?
Steve Cobble is a Friends of the Blue Hills member and president of the Southeast Mass. Chapter, New England Mountain Bike Association.