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  Hiking to Mount Wachusett's Summit
 
Hiking to Mount Wachusett's Summit
 

What to Bring

Hiking shoes   Backpack
First aid kit   Windproof/
waterproof jacket
Insect repellent
(spring/summer)
  Binoculars
Watch   Snacks
Water   Plastic bag for
trash
 

Specs

  Directions
 
From Boston, take route 2 West
Take exit 23 for Route 140 South
At the end of exit ramp, turn right on
Route 140
After about 2 miles, turn right on Mile Hill
road (sign for Wachusett Ski Area)
Continue for less than a mile, past the first parking lot on the right and until the road
starts to climb
Turn right at the Wachusett Ski Area sign
and park on the lot
  Good to know in advance
 
Download the map at: www.mass.gov/dem
There is no map available at the parking lot - make sure you print the map and bring it
with you

Restrooms in the ski resort buildings near the parking lot

  Etiquette
Do not use ski trails to hike up or down –
these are part of the local watershed
environment
Bicycles prohibited on hiking trails (allowed on service roads)
Carry out your trash
Pets on leash – pick up after your dog
  Contact information
 
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation:
Mountain Rd., Princeton MA 01541, Tel:
978 464-2987
 
   

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 4/5
  Time from Boston: 1 hour
  Duration: Full day
  Cost:

Free

  Main activity:

Mountaineering

 
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Review
 
Don't be misled by the fact that Mount Wachusett's summit is accessible by car. Located in Princeton, one hour west of Boston, Wachusett is a great playground for those who value physical effort, and the hike we suggest here is anything but easy. With a good climb to the summit and a long loop back behind the mountain, you will have enough to spend the entire day out on the slopes of Mount Wachusett and feel sore at the end of the day.

Of course, with its modest altitude (2006 ft), Wachusett is not a mountaineering experience in the true sense: the barren summit offers 360° vistas but the hike is never above the timberline. However, the hike is challenging, with rocky trails in the first part of the trip and a long walk to come back, and the ski slopes and lifts still give the place the appearance of a higher elevation. In fact, we consider Wachusett the third best mountain destination for hiking around Boston, after the White Mountains and nearby Mount Monadnock.

Trails are clearly marked with colored blazes and trail signs at most intersections, but as always having the map with you is a matter of safety. Hiking there in poor weather is a good way of avoiding avoid the usual crowds at the summit (we actually had the summit for ourselves on a rainy and foggy Saturday in August), but the rocky slabs and tree stumps can become extremely slippery when wet, especially after heavy rains, when trails are transformed in streams. Even in warm weather, the summit can be a windy place, so make sure you pack a windproof jacket in our backpack.

Depending on your pace, you should count on 5 to 6 hours to complete the hike, including stops along the way and at the summit.

Here are the detailed hiking directions:
Walk towards the opposite end of the parking lot, to the right of the brown warehouse (sign for Balance Rock trail)
Turn right on the dirt road and immediately left to take the Balance Rock trail ascending in the woods (yellow blazes)
Continue past Balance Rock itself and follow the blazes to reach Balance Rock Road, one of the service dirt roads that circle the mountain
Walk about 50 yards up the road to continue on Old Indian Trail on the other side
At the intersection with Semuhenna Trail, continue straight on Old Indian Trail
You will emerge from the woods and follow the blue blazes to cross four ski trails in succession, walking under a ski lift
Another rocky section leads you the summit road; walk down the road for 50 yards and continue on Old Indian Trail on the other side
Continue on Old Indian Trail at the intersection with the West Side trail. This section is steeper and rockier – again, climb carefully if rocks are wet
The trail flattens before reaching the top of the ski lifts and the summit nearby
Once on the summit, walk to the corner of the observation tower (sign for Harrington Trail); continue slightly left beyond the tower to follow the large rock slabs and re-enter the woods
Cross the summit road and continue down Harrington – this section is one of the steepest of the hike
Continue left on Harrington at the intersection with Semuhenna Trail
Turn right on West Road (the second road you will cross on this section) for a long walk to the base of the mountain
When West Road ends at the gate, turn right on West Princeton Road (sign); despite being a dirt road, it is open to traffic, so walk safely on this stretch
Walk for about 200 yards before turning right on North road (gate) and climbing again towards Wachusett
At the next intersection, take the dirt road on the left (Balance Rock Road) to walk back towards the ski resort
Turn left on Balance Rock Trail (sign); from this point you will walk back on the initial stretch of the hike; stay on the trail until you reach the parking lot.
Paddling Biking Mountaineering
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