Monday, September 15, 2008

Ponkapoag Pond, Canton

Most hikers who come to the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston tend to stick to hiking trails north of Route 128. Indeed, many hikers don't even realize that the reservation extends south of this highway. But some of the best hiking in the Blue Hills can be found on the other side of Route 128, notably in the Ponkapoag Pond area which is mostly in Canton.

photo of Great Blue Hill from Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MAThere are relatively few trails in the Ponkapoag area, with the most popular trail being the loop that goes around the pond. Access to this trail can be found at the Ponkapoag Golf Course, which has a parking lot that hikers can use. Starting at the clubhouse, hikers can walk along the main road through the golf course, reaching the pond after a few minutes. From this point, folks can go either clockwise or counterclockwise; to go counterclockwise, continue straight along the trail (rather than turning left) where the golf course ends and the pond begins. The trail here is mostly wide and flat, and after about a mile, a remarkable view of Great Blue Hill from the pond (see photo) can be had from a small beach. From this point, hikers can continue along the lake, eventually turning left and coming to the Ponkapoag Camp where cabins can be rented on or near the pond. This is a perfect spot for lunch, as there is a boardwalk below the cabins that extends a short distance out into the pond and a number of picnic tables up on the hill where many of the cabins are.

photo of boardwalk at Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MAFrom the Ponkapoag Camp, the trail continues near the pond for the most part and gets a bit hilly (there are also a few trails that veer off to the right in this area, mostly meandering through the woods). About a half mile before the trail meets up with the beginning of the loop by the golf course, there is a boardwalk that extends a good ways out into the pond by way of wetlands and marshes (see photo). This boardwalk is a must-see as long as the water isn't too high; if it is, the boardwalk can sometimes be under water in parts, and a bit dangerous as it becomes slippery. The boardwalk goes on for about a quarter mile, stopping at a spot with nice views of the lake. After backtracking to the main trail, it is an easy, mostly level walk back to the start of the loop and the road through the golf course that heads back to the parking lot.

The entire Ponkapoag loop is about 4 miles or so, with few difficult parts, making it a great walk for beginning hikers or folks wanting to take a leisurely stroll without much in the way of hills.

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