Friday, October 26, 2012

Hiking Boston Metro West - Kendal Green to Cat Rock

You may know that Boston is home to two sprawling urban wilderness sanctuaries - the Middlesex Fells and the Blue Hills. But did you know that throughout the city and in the surrounding suburbs many smaller conservation areas are to be found. Cat Rock is one of my favorites, and the best part is that it's accessible by public transit from Boston's North Station or Porter Square in Cambridge.

Hobb's Pond - the gem of Cat Rock Park
Cat Rock Park, located in Weston, Mass., is a tiny slice of preserved wilderness in the midst of suburbia. This granite-topped hill scratches up to the sky from within the suburban landscape about half a mile's walk from the Kendall Green T station.
Escape to the wilds of suburban Boston in Metro West's Cat Rock Park
A passive park, or reservation as it's called, Cat Rock features a loop trail that links it to the rest of the 80 Acre woods that surround Hobb's Pond - the park's central gem. Hobb's Pond is fed by the Cambridge Reservoir farther north and empties via Hobbs Brook to the south into the Stony Brook Reservoir, finally releasing into the Charles River by the Waltham-Newton divide. Hobb's Brook dissects the Cat Rock and 80 Acres hiking loop, so two shorter loops may be followed by sticking to the brook's east or west bank, or you can do the whole thing in just a few hours.

Dogs should be on-leash when not relaxing by your side atop Cat Rock
Cat Rock is on the west side loop. To get there directly I'd suggest taking the Fitchburg Line to Kendal Green, walking north on Church Street, taking a left onto Route 117, and then a quick right onto Drabbington Way. Trail spurs are at the end of Drabbington, on either side of the ball field. The quickest route to Cat Rock from here is taking the left trail spur. Take it into the woods and veer left in the clearing to ascend the old abandoned ski run, and then down the mushroom-clad hill that leads downhill to the west and north here and do the entire loop toward an open meadow, and Hobb's Pond.

Fells-like rock formation in northeaster section of Cat Rock Park
The trail to the right of the ball field will take you away from Cat Rock, to a footbridge where you can cross to the east side loop and into the woods. Straight ahead you will find a street exit to Lexington Street, which runs north-south and forms much of the eastern edge of the woods. Straight and to the right you will find the southern exit to Page Road, which curves east once exiting the park and also leads to Lexington Street. Continue to the north past Hobb's Pond and across the meadow and you will find the northwestern corner of the park, which is also fun to explore. There is a large rock formation similar to what you will find in the Fells.

After exploring Cat Rock Park, to return to Kendal Green either go back to the trailhead you came in on via Drabbington Way, or take Lexington south to Route 117, where you will take a right and then a left onto Church, which slopes down hill toward the station.

Here are the quick stats for Cat Rock Park:

Trailhead: Parking lot at the end of Drabbington Way in Weston, Mass.
Distance: 1 to 5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: approximately 300/300 feet
Map: You can obtain a map of Weston Conservation Lands for $10 from the town hall at 11 Town House Road, Weston, MA 02493, or by calling 781-786-5000.  A book with trail descriptions is also available from Weston Conservation Commission for $15. An interactive online map of Cat Rock and other conservation lands is available from the Weston Forest and Trail Association.
Hiking Time: Trails within the park extend as far as the Weston/Lincoln border in the northwestern extreme of the park - doing the main loop and the long spur up to Lincoln will garner you a fairly nice hike of about three hours. This is a great place to walk around for as little or as much time as you have.
Best Times to Hike: This hike is great year-round. Watch out for seasonal flooding.
Difficulty: Easy

If you're living in or just visiting the Boston area, I'd really recommend checking this place out. It's a lovely diversion from the fast pace of city life. And if you're close enough, it's a great spot to enjoy regular hikes without having to venture too far from home. If you're looking for more strenuous hikes in the Boston area, check out these three hikes.

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