Whipple Hill only stretches about a mile, north to south, and less than that east to west. But with three different blazed loops cutting back and forth between two parking lots, this rolling property in the easternmost corner of Lexington, Mass., makes up for what it lacks in acreage with variety.
On an early-May morning, I parked in the lot on Johnson Road, on the northern edge of Whipple Hill, and spent a few minutes stretching by the trailhead kiosk. One sign detailed an ongoing effort to restore wildflowers to the hill, leading to a short rerouting of a trail. Another listed the rules for dogs on the trails: If you don’t love inadvertent four-legged running companions, know that they are allowed off-leash here and it’s a popular weekend-morning spot for walks. (There’s another parking lot, on the southern edge, that can only accommodate a few cars.)
I started out along the east side of the property, sticking to the relatively flat yellow-blazed trail. This route cuts between hills winds around ponds and vernal pools, making for a nice warm up. At the property’s southern end, I doubled back and turned onto the western red-blazed trail, where the running gets more rugged. The trail zig-zags up the namesake hill; at 375 feet, it’s the town’s high point. At one point, I had to duck around a car-sized glacial erratic leaning over the trail, in another spot, the trail passes the rusty shell of an old truck nestled in the forest floor. From the summit, it was back down the blue-blazed middle trail before I made my way back toward the parking lot.
Whipple Hill won’t be your next long run, but it has a lot to offer on a shorter day. Bright plastic blazes make the network easy to navigate, even at a fast pace. Just follow the yellow, blue, and red trails while ignoring the green. (These mark side trails that lead out into surrounding neighborhoods; one does connect to adjacent Wright-Locke Farm which has a small trail system of its own) The other trails let you crisscross the property in mile-long stretches, across impressively varying terrain. The lower-elevation trails provide good footing, while rocky singletrack on the hillside requires quick footwork.
For a more substantial run, you can connect up with Arlington’s Great Meadow via residential streets. I tried to do that a few weeks ago, but a wrong turn took me to another nearby trail, at Arlington Reservoir. The ACROSS Lexington Trail actually connects all three properties, with blue “ACROSS” blazes marking the trails and roads alike—if you know that ahead of time you can avoid my fate and turn this into one large loop.