Middlesex Fells is one of the largest and most accessible swaths of greenspace in the Greater Boston area. It’s also one of the few natural reservations open to mountain biking. That’s a good thing, too: Thanks to its mix of woodland paths, forest roads, and mellow singletrack, the Fells are home to some of Boston’s best beginner terrain. Whether you’re getting into mountain biking for the first time, returning to the sport after years away, or just looking for a fun outing with friends, the Fells is the perfect place. Use the following guidance to make the most of your next ride in the reserve.
- About Middlesex Fells
- Recommended Rides
- Permits and Access
- Other Activities
- Getting There
About Middlesex Fells
“Fells” is derived from an Old Norse word referring to craggy rock outcroppings, which you’ll find throughout the park. Composed of various rock types—including granite, felsite, and basalt—these outcroppings provide vital habitat for a number of animals and plants (and give the Fells its rugged feel and perfect topography for dynamic trails.)
Once inhabited by the Pennacook, Naumkeag, and Massachusett tribes, the Fells were an important source of fish and game. Indigenous Americans also gathered plants from the hillsides and planted corn, squash, and other crops in the rich soil of the bottomlands. Their way of life didn’t begin to change until Europeans arrived in the 1500s and 1600s, bringing new diseases and a hunger for new territory.
Over the next few hundred years, Native peoples were slowly forced from their territory while Boston expanded inland. By the late 1800s, the Fells were at risk of development, and concerned citizens encouraged the Metropolitan Parks Commission to protect Greater Boston’s precious greenspace. In 1894, the Parks Commission acquired its first parcel of land. Today, the Fells encompasses about 2,200 acres of forest and rocky hilltops, and is one of Boston’s most beloved parks.
Middlesex Fells contains miles of trail and endless loop options. Here are a few local favorites.
Mountain Bike Loop Trail (6.2 miles):
The Mountain Bike Loop Trail provides a beginner-friendly tour of the Western Fells. While it does contain some singletrack, the route mostly sticks to fire roads, which tend to be level and spacious. Between that and the clear route markings, it’s an ideal choice for families and new riders alike. Simply start at the Sheepfold parking area and follow green blazes to take the loop in either direction.
Western Fells Reservoir Trail (5.2 miles):
Weaving in and out of hardwood forest, the Western Fells Reservoir Trail offers a slightly shorter (albeit more difficult) alternative to the Mountain Bike Loop. Mostly singletrack, this route offers short climbs, flowy downhills, and stunning lakeside scenery. To do it, park at the Sheepfold lot, then follow orange blazes.