But first, a little history....
The Blue Hills Reservation has a long history of usage & settlements, including the Native American Massachuset tribe, who called this home for over 9,000 years before the early European settlers came in the 17th century, building homes, logging and clearing the woods for farmland. The quarry industry came in the 1800s to extract granite rock used in buildings across the nation. And scientists came as well, building one of the first weather observatories in the US, atop the park's highest point, Great Blue Hill.
|Skyline Trail noted in blue, parking in purple. Full size map|
So in early April, a group of 5 gathered for the double traverse at the far east end of the reservation, at the Shea Memorial Skating Rink parking lot. We left a car here containing extra water, food and clothes which we would access at the midpoint of our hike, and piled into another car to drive 10 min to the west end on RT 138. This parking lot isn't located at the true end of the Skyline, there's about a mile of wet marshy trail to the west, which dead ends at Rt 95. Which we decided to skip that section and head east, in the direction of our midpoint. (If you want to do a true Skyline Traverse, your best bet is to start at the east end of the park at the Shea Skating Rink, head west to the far marshy area, and then turn back around).
Heading east from the Rt 138 parking lot, the Skyline Trail crosses the road takes you straight up the rocky steps to the highest hill, Great Blue, where you can visit the Blue Hill Weather Observatory & Science Center, which offer public tours on Saturday, and walk up the granite Elliot Tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, for excellent views of the reservation, Boston Skyline, the Harbor Islands and beyond.
|Charles Elliot Tower, , named after the landscape architect & founding father of the Metropolitan Parks System|
|The Boston Skyline from the Elliot tower|
|Small quarry area|
A few of our party left at the midpoint, taking one of the cars home, while the other 3 of us carried on & back to the start. I had never done the traverse in this direction before, and it was fun to see landmarks and views we hadn't seen going the other way. I was feeling tired by the time we got to Buck Hill again, the unofficial mid point in either direction. But after a brief rest and second lunch, we were bouncing along the rocky trail once again, up the Great Blue Hill and down to our car. If you have 8 hours to spare on a nice day, I highly recommend the 16-18 mi double traverse (with our without the 1ish mile of marshy trail to the west).
If you go: I find trail running shoes to be best for gripping the rocky, sometimes steep trails on the Skyline. Maps can be bought for $3 at the Reservation Headquarters on Chickatawbut Rd, which is a small house next to the State Police barracks. There are various parking lots to start and end your hike, whatever milage day you choose.