Route: Circum Quabbin (MA)

Submitted by Ryan Williams on Mon, 06/08/2020 - 07:56pm
Massachusetts, US
55.04 mi
Vertical Gain
5,316 ft

(Editor Note: This is a "pick your own exact path" route, with 5 requested obligatory milestones, plus 5 requested restrictions; see text below).

The Quabbin Reservoir sits in the heart of Massachusetts.  Its surrounding watershed has been protected for the sake of preserving the pristine nature of Boston's drinking water supply.  Four towns were disincorporated during the reservoir's creation and relics of their past are found throughout the forest in the form of stone walls, cellar holes, and ancient hardwoods lining old gravel roads.

The accidental wilderness that surrounds the Quabbin has seemingly limitless miles of gravel roads that the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains for access to the reservoir as well as public recreation.  There are also a number of single track trails scattered throughout the preserve, however these are limited to the more popular areas.

Because of the conservation efforts at the Quabbin there is an abundance of wildlife including moose, black bears, bald eagles, and loons.  It is not uncommon to come across any of these if you are out in the early hours.

When looking at a map of the road/trail network around the reservoir it becomes quite obvious that a circumnavigation of the waterbody could be pieced together using a variety of routes with minimal running on paved roads outside the preserve.  NOTE: There are sections of the watershed that are not open for recreation and should not be visited.  Please see this interactive map for more information.

Because there are so many options for a complete loop around the Quabbin it should remain a "pick your own adventure" style route where the runner can create deviations from others' previous attempts.  However I think it's important that each runner share some of the same experience by visiting a number of iconic landmarks within the preserve:

  1. Soapstone Hill - in the northeast corner of the reservoir there is an amazing single track trail up and over Soapstone with an incredible view of the reservoir and surrounding hills.
  2. Dana Common - a little south of Soapstone lies the former site of a village within the disincorporated town of Dana.  This area is kept open by the DCR and has a lot of history as well as some amazing old trees.
  3. Goodnough Dike - one of the retention structures at the south end of the reservoir.  Amazing views are to be had across the top.
  4. Quabbin Hill - one of the taller bumps around the watershed with good views towards the Pioneer Valley.
  5. Winsor Dam - the pile of earth holding all of that water back.  Similar to Goodnough it provides great views along its entirety.

These required points also keep each runner within the preserve rather than trying to make faster time by running on paved town and state roads.  There are route options that are certainly more enjoyable than others but depending on the desired experience you can eliminate some interesting sections of trail for quicker options on gravel or paved road (ex. running Route 202 instead of using the New England Trail).

Some other key considerations:

  • You must start/finish from a publicly accessible gate (there are dozens of locked gates around the watershed, most of which you can enter).
  • You must adhere to all DCR regulations (daylight hours, etc.)
  • You must not cross any restricted areas (as shown in the interactive map, link above)
  • You can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise.
  • If there is a road/trail that crosses over water near any of the inlets or outlets (ex. in the far north of the reservoir) you can cross it.  That is, you don't need to run around ever section of water.

Be warned, although there's a lot of great mapping software to design a route with, some of the Quabbin roads disappear even if the map says otherwise.  Scouting a route beforehand is advised.  A lot of mapping platforms also don't show the restricted areas so please consult the DCR map.

Submitter: Ryan Williams

GPS Track


I love seeing the creativity with route planning!  This run went from 65 to 61 to 55 to 53 miles.  It's probably getting toward the lower edge of how short it can be done but certainly the times will keep going down. Glad to have played a small hand in getting things going around the Quabbin.

Although I didn't specifically call this out when I first conceived of this route, I would suggest people running the Circum Quabbin in the future take the NET on the western side of the reservoir.  It looks like everyone except Andy Reagan did so.  My original intention for the route was to go around the reservoir avoiding paved roads and stay as close to the water as possible (that's why Jason and I had such a longer route compared to the others - the water part).  I think something closer to Wooter and Dan's route is the most logical (utilizing the NET).  That section of trail is much more enjoyable than pounding pavement on 202.  Just my two cents for future attempts.

That said, it is an open course as far as route planning goes and I appreciate all the creativity.