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Beyond Cross Country on the Wapack Trail

Scenic Stridings
Binney Pond as seen from an overpass on the Wapack Trail. Photo by Ben Kimball.

The Wapack Trail is one of the Northeast’s best and oldest trails. It was constructed in the 1920s and continues to be well-maintained. The Wapack Trail’s southern terminus is in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, at a small parking lot along Route 119. It stretches north for 21.5 miles to Greenfield, New Hampshire. The trail cuts through woods, across meadows, along a few fire roads, over bald mountaintops, and past plenty of scenery. In the summer, the trail is dotted with wildflowers and blueberries. In the spring until late May, it is covered in moss and mud—making it
slick, especially on the rocky sections. Most of the trail is singletrack, although some areas (like the fire roads) offer more elbow room. There are a few spots along the trail that are impossible to run and a little scrambling is involved, but 80% of it is completely runnable. Runners follow painted yellow triangles marked on trees; along the summits and bare rocky ridge lines runners follow cairns. The trail is very easy to follow, but it is remote so carrying water and supplies is highly recommended.

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The southern terminus starts with a dash over a river and a 580-foot climb in the first mile to ascend Mount Watatic. At mile 3.5
is the dirt stripe called Binney Hill Road. The trail meanders alongside a pond and over Mount Pratt and the larger New Ipswich Mountain. Barrett Mountain at an elevation of 1,853 feet is around the 10K mark. Descending Barrett takes runners through the Windblown Cross Country Ski area, a private property that is closed to hikers and runners during winter and “mud season” through early May. The Wapack Trail skirts along the edge of the property, then crosses Route 124. The hills are relentless on the Wapack; there are about 4,600 feet of elevation gain from end to end. After Barrett Mountain, the next big summit is Temple Mountain. The most difficult—and least runnable—portion of the trail is the few miles leading to the northern terminus. Runners cross rocky Pack Monadnock and rockier North Pack Monadnock Mountains before descending root-covered wooded trails to the parking lot in Greenfield. There is a trail race held annually in May that runs the length of the Wapack Trail. The Trail Animals Running Club, a.k.a. TARC, puts on a 21.5-mile race along with a 43-mile “Wapack and Back” and a 50-mile version (the 43 miler plus a trip back up and down Watatic to make it an even 50). There are also several shorter races run along sections of the Wapack Trail.
—Emily Raymond

All photos by Ben Kimball/Northeast Photography

More Info on Wapack

http://www.wapacktrailrace.com/

This site is for the Wapack and Back race.

https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=34928 – Great elevation map at this site.

http://ninasilitch.com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/05/trail3.gif

Rudimentary trail map of the Wapack.

http://wapack.org/ – More info about the trail history and recent developments.

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