Trail Running at Nobscot Hill in Sudbury, Mass.

December 13, 2018
Trail Running on Nobscot Hill
Marc ChalufourThe author tries out trail running on Nobscot Hill, which AMC named the best day hike on the Bay Circuit Trail.

Nobody is as brutally honest about your fitness as a hill. No loved one, no teammate, no coach can give you the sort of devastating appraisal that even a modest incline provides. So maybe I should’ve reconsidered when I decided that what I needed, after a leisurely run-free two-week vacation, was a trail run at Nobscot HILL.

Don’t get the wrong idea: Nobscot is not a big hill. Its claim to fame is that at 602 feet, it’s the highest point on the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT). None of that mattered on a recent Saturday afternoon, though. After a short meandering jog from the parking lot into the forest, along a wide, flat path, the trail narrowed and rose. A rocky strip of single-track led me up to the ridge that the BCT follows through Sudbury. My legs and lungs quickly reminded me that I hadn’t run in weeks. Each offered its own unique dull burning sensation whenever the trail rose sharply again. But when I was up on the ridge, enjoying a variety of single-track and wider, smoother trails? That was perfect.

Much of this area was once farmed, and the forest is still growing back. Stone walls offer hints of old property lines. The forest still has a wide-open feel, though, especially with all of the leaves having fallen. The afternoon sun cut through the trunks at a low angle, casting long shadows across the forest floor. A pair of rocky outcrops, first Tippling Rock and then Nobscot Hill, provide views east and west. On a clear day everything from the Boston skyline to Wachusett Mountain are visible up here.

Before crossing into Callahan State Park in Framingham, I quick-stepped down from the ridge on a steep side trail and began looping back to the north. The nature of the run quickly changed. On level ground, my legs and lungs allowed me to settle into the run. A dense network of wide trails wind through the lower elevations here, connecting the cabins and campsites of a Boy Scout reservation. White blazes atop the ridge gave way to giant trail signs at the bottom, announcing the names of each trail at the frequent junctions. After pausing a couple times to orient myself on a map, I stopped paying attention and meandered back toward my car, keeping the setting sun at my back.

A couple years ago, AMC Outdoors named Nobscot the best day hike on the BCT—in part because it doesn’t attract big crowds. The parking lot only holds a few cars and the one-lane gravel road leading up to the trailhead can easily be missed from busy Route 20.


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, writes the trail-running blog Running Wild.