Bay Circuit Trail: Hiking The 230 Mile Emerald Necklace of Massachusetts (Section 1)
I recently came across the 230 mile Bay Circuit Trail after noticing maps for the trail and was instantly intrigued. The prospect of a long distance hiking path I wasn't familiar with, yet that was also within a 3 hour drive from home was irresistible. So began the purchase of the maps (pictured below), research and getting out there.
The Bay Circuit Trail is known as the Emerald Necklace of eastern Massachusetts. Beginning on the shore of Plum Island in Newburyport, the trail heads southwest and encircles the outside of Boston, finishing southeast in the town of Kingston. Some of the trail is still under development and camping is only permitted in a few locations so I'll be hiking the trail end-to-end in sections. In doing so, I'll be hiking the trail twice as out-and-back trips.
I started the trail mid-morning and was rewarded with an incredible sight! Walking along the beach of Plum Island to the northern terminus I came across a couple of snowy owls basking in the sun's cloud poking rays. A highlight of the trail for me and a great way to begin the journey!
Here, standing at the northern terminus for the BCT and the Atlantic Ocean.
Once leaving the beach, the Bay Circuit Trail makes its way to the road and through a small residential area before crossing, by bridge, over the Merrimack River and Plumbush Creek.
Despite hiking on the pavement of Plum Island Turnpike, the views on either side made the road walk more enjoyable.
One more look from the turnpike (pictured above). About 2 miles of road walking from the location, but a couple of additional highlights are along the way.
One of those highlights is Plum Island airport (pictured above). After passing this airport strewn with smaller aircrafts, I made my way off the road across from Joppa Flats and back onto the dirt beginning at Spencer Pierce Little Farm.
From here the trail passes through near the very end of the airport. Following the outer edge of the grassy field I came upon the sign pictured below.
Walking through a small section of high grasses and brush, I found myself walking on a flooded boardwalk. Luckily my choice in footwear on this winter day was planned accordingly and I remained dry and comfortable.
After passing through this wet boggy section, the land opened up and came to one of what I'm sure will be many historic landmarks on the BCT.
Spencer Pierce Little Farm is a National Historic Landmark which fosters animals in partnership with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The manor (pictured above) sits on 230 acres and was built in 1690. Tours are given during the warmer months, but for the day I was simply passing by.
The farm has sheep, chickens, a horse, this little goat (pictured above) and a couple of rather large pigs.
I was hoping to see the pigs during my passing through this section (both times), but they preferred to rest rather than be out.
From the farm it's another 1.7 miles of road walking along 1A and a couple of residential backroads before hitting the next portion of woodlands. The trail seemed to be very well blazed heading south, though some sections weren't as frequently blazed heading back north. Not a problem for me, as I have a good memory and was able to follow the path I had taken out. For now, as the development continues I feel it would be a bit easier to hike this trail North to South rather than South to North.
Old Town Hill is the next section of the BCT that takes you off the road and through woodlands and marshes. If you look at the map pictured above, you'll notice there are multiple trails that lead off of the Bay Circuit. This is a great way to add some additional exploration in if you choose to and can also serve as a nice shorter day hike option.
The marshes of Old Town Hill were beautiful. The one pictured above was just a precursor for what was to come for the next leg of my trip.
Though it ended up becoming a bit more road walking, I found it hard not to enjoy this section of the trail. Marshes continued and after a strange cold spell that left chunks of ice all over waterways in New England, it made for some breathtaking imagery as I passed by.
Looking to my left and right, as I made my way along Newman Rd, the landscape made me feel as if I were somewhere else than in northeastern Massachusetts.
Here is one of the many ice jams I saw along this section of the BCT (pictured above).
From the road walk I entered the woods once again and after a short hike before approaching pavement again, I decided to turn back for the day and make my way to my car at Plum Island.
Section Distance: 8.1 miles
Total Distance Hiked (Out-And-Back): 16.2 miles
Locations: From Plum Island in Newburyport, MA to Newbury, MA