Twenty-some years ago I was running through Belmont, Mass., with a few high school teammates. Our coach steered us off the familiar roads we ran almost every Sunday and onto a trail: a narrow, grown-over path that cut through the forest behind McLean Hospital to a road on the other side. It wasn’t much of a trail and, truth be told, I’m not sure I thought about it again until last fall. That’s when I moved to Belmont and began running around the new neighborhood.
With moving boxes still littering the apartment, I decided to see what I could find in those woods behind McLean. I cut through Waverly Square, across Trapelo Road, and through the Star Market parking lot to Pleasant Street. Soon I saw a wide, rocky path cutting up the hill to my left. I made the turn and started running uphill.
Turns out I should’ve done a little more research. For the next couple of miles, I ran up and down various side trails, emerging into parking lots before backtracking. I felt like I was stuck on the same level of a video game, unable to find the secret passage to the next screen. I finally ended up on a trail that led to Lone Tree Hill, a Belmont park. From there, I cut through a meadow then swung down a long, tree-lined corridor. Just before turning back toward home, I passed a group of trail runners heading in the other direction. That’s a good sign, I thought!
Later, after uploading my run to Strava, I began studying a map of where I’d run—and where I could’ve run. Turns out that little trail from high school has grown into a vast network. If I had just crossed the street from Lone Tree Hill, I could’ve kept going for miles.
In recent years, Belmont, Lexington, and Waltham have created a trail network that links 20 parcels of land. Each has its own trails, and together they form the Western Greenway. The blazed Western Greenway loops from the Mass Audubon Habitat Education Center in Belmont, to the east, around to Storer Conservation Land in Waltham, to the west. There are plenty of ways to create shorter loops, either by circling back on side trails or by turning onto one of the roads the Greenway crosses. (Although the Mass Audubon property has a wonderful series of hiking trails, running isn’t permitted.)
On subsequent outings I began exploring deeper into the network, each time finding trails better than the ones I’d run before. My favorite so far is a 5-mile loop starting from the Rock Meadow Conservation Area parking lot, just across Mill Street from Lone Tree Hill. From there, you can circle a broad meadow before crossing the brook and heading into Beaver Brook North Reservation.
The trail is wide and relatively flat, with good footing. It follows a boardwalk over the edge of a large marsh and eventually crosses Metropolitan Parkway (follow the road to your right to reconnect to the trail) before coming out on Walnut Street. At this point, the Greenway passes through a series of smaller parcels. Segments of single-track run through neighborhoods and alongside apartment complexes, with trail builders having taken advantage of every sliver of forest they could find to create these connections.
When I run this loop, I finish it on the roads, turning left on Walnut, left on Trapelo Road, and left again on Mill Street to make my way back to Belmont. A small southern parcel of Beaver Brook Reservation, located at the bottom of Mill Street, features some short but rugged brookside trails that will get you about halfway back up the street to your car.
I’m excited to extend this loop to the western edge of the Greenway—once the product of our latest blizzard melts away.
Read the latest from “Running Wild,” AMC’s new trail-running blog.