What is trail running?
At its most basic, trail running is exactly that: running on trails. However, every trail running experience can be as unique as the trails you traverse. Each trail offers its own challenges and surprises depending on the setting and season.
When trail running, it’s important to stay in tune with your body and adjust as you need. Running on trails creates different stresses on your body due to the high-impact movement on soft and uneven ground. Even if you’re an experienced hiker or track runner, make sure you stretch thoroughly beforehand, start off slow, and take breaks as you go. One of the great benefits of running through nature is that your breaks will be as fascinating as your run!
Trail running can also quickly put you far away from modern conveniences, so come prepared. Wear a hat, sunblock, sunglasses, and bug spray in the spring and summer. Year-round, you may want to pack water and a snack in a bag that you can comfortably run with. In the colder months, warm but breathable synthetic layers are a must — avoid cotton clothing, which loses its insulation when damp. Finally, when you stop to tie your laces on a cold day, you may be grateful you remembered to bring along a pair of gloves.
Remember, trail running is all about your experience on the trails. Don’t overtax yourself, take time to enjoy your surroundings, and be careful to not step on any small critters along the way!
Where can I go trail running?
Within the Buzzards Bay region’s 432 square miles of watershed land, there are many great trails to explore on foot. Here are 13 suggestions for places to go for your next trail run.
1. Gooseberry Island (Westport)
Part of Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Gooseberry Island in Westport is a small island that’s connected to the mainland by a short causeway. If you’re looking for a less challenging run, hit the island’s relatively flat and wide trail that stretches half a mile down the island to the shore. For those looking for more of an adventure, navigate the trails around the perimeter of the island, which range from hard-pack to sand and rocks. We recommend coming here for a sunrise or sunset run to experience the island’s colorful, panoramic views of Buzzards Bay.
2. Destruction Brook Woods (Dartmouth)
Despite its intimidating name, Destruction Brook Woods offers a peaceful network of trails that span over 10 miles. Alongside plenty of flat trails that cross wetlands, streams, and even historic sites, experienced runners can seek out more challenging tracks at this Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust property: much of the land was shaped by the last Ice Age, leaving behind steep hills to climb and massive glacial rocks to dodge around.
3. Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve (Freetown/Fall River)
The vast swath of land in the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve is one of the largest unfragmented forests in eastern Massachusetts, crisscrossed with dozens of trails perfect for running. If the reserve’s size feels a bit daunting, we recommend you try starting on one of Freetown-Fall River State Forest’s 50 miles of trails or in smaller Copicut Woods, which offers quiet seclusion within the city limits of Fall River.
4. Nasketucket Bay State Reservation/Shaw Farm Trail (Fairhaven/Mattapoisett)
Nasketucket Bay State Reservation is made for those looking for a steady run with stunning views. With 400 acres of coastal forest and five miles of trails to choose from, it’s no wonder this location is a favorite of outdoor explorers. The Coalition’s Shaw Farm Trail connects the reservation with the Phoenix Bike Trail, giving you the option of extending your run onto another five miles of paved paths.
5. Mattapoisett River Reserve (Mattapoisett/Fairhaven)
The Mattapoisett River Reserve encompasses over 500 acres and four properties – The Bogs, Tinkhamtown Woodlands, Tripps Mill, and New Boston Trail – which add up to more than five miles of trails and an extraordinary variety of local habitats. Watch the land change around you as you run, from birdsong-filled beech groves to vernal pools croaking with frogs to vibrant cranberry bogs and rare freshwater swamps.
6. White Eagle (Marion)
From forest to bog, the White Eagle Parcel of Aucoot Woods is a beautiful place for trail runners to explore. As such, don’t be surprised if you find yourself constantly waving to other runners along your journey! Whether you find yourself on the larger, muddy red and white trails or the more serene bog trails, this Sippican Lands Trust property is a great place to run, especially at golden hour just before sunset.
7. Great Neck Conservation Area (Wareham)
You might not expect the beauty that awaits you at Great Neck Conservation Area from its unassuming, tucked-away trailhead. Yet this Wildlands Trust property provides runners and hikers with four miles of trail that meanders through pine forest and along salt marshes. And with several benches along the trail, runners have plenty of places to stop, rest, and take in the view.
8. Myles Standish State Forest (Carver)
The 12,000-acre Myles Standish State Forest is the largest recreation area in southeastern Massachusetts, with 13 miles of hiking trails and ponds galore. The forest offers dozens of potential options for short runs and long-distance trips alike. You can even camp here or take a swim after your run to fully explore all this great location has to offer!
9. Halfway Pond Conservation Area (Plymouth)
Another Wildlands Trust property, Halfway Pond Conservation Area is a favorite for trail runners and nature lovers to explore. Over five miles of trails meander through these 400 acres of protected land that are nestled between three peaceful ponds – so get ready to spot wildlife like turtles, bald eagles, and woodpeckers on your journey!
10. Four Ponds Conservation Area (Bourne)
With towering oak and pine trees reflecting on wetlands filled with turtles, fish, and singing frogs, Four Ponds Conservation Area is a popular trail running spot on the Cape side of Bourne. This town-owned conservation area offers both short forays through the woods and two longer, three-mile trails that snake around the ponds and through neighboring Bourne Town Forest. As you run, keep an eye out for fast-moving mountain bikers, who are also fond of these trails.
11. Wing Pond Woods, Bourne Farm, and Cardoza Farm (Falmouth)
Tri-athletes interested in combining a trail run with a bike ride will love Wing Pond Woods, Bourne Farm, and Cardoza Farm, where the Shining Sea Bikeway connects with several miles of trails through scenic farms, fields, coastal forest, and working cranberry bogs. We recommend taking a run here in the fall, when the cranberry bog is at its most vibrant and the pumpkin patch at Bourne Farm is full.
12. Beebe Woods and Peterson Farm (Falmouth)
One of Falmouth’s oldest protected lands, Beebe Woods is deeply loved by the Upper Cape community. The shady trails of these glacier-sculpted woods were connected in the late 1900s to the open green spaces of Peterson Farm, altogether creating a network of over seven miles of trails. After a thorough run through woods and fields, end your trip with a swim at the Punch Bowl, a refreshing kettle pond that even has a rope swing!
13. The Knob (Woods Hole)
The Knob is an iconic Woods Hole destination with an out-and-back half-mile trail that’s great for beginners getting used to the movement of trail running. Although the trail is short, the final views from this sandy peninsula are a fantastic treat. We recommend a trip at sunset in the off-season, when the trails quiet down and you can have its stunning Buzzards Bay views all to yourself.