Would you believe there is a 2500 acre park just a few exits North of Boston? If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Boston and find yourself yearning for a taste of the great outdoors then pay attention. Just up the road you will find endless trails winding through thick woods and over hill and dale (not sure what dale really is). There are breathtaking views of the gigantic reservoirs (beautiful lakes you can’t swim in) that are the crown jewels of this easy get away. The views of the city are spectacular as well.
Legal Off-leash Dogs at Sheepfold
Then there is what could be the ultimate Boston Dog Park, Sheepfold, a massive open field pretty isolated from traffic and other urban dangers. You used to find a ton of dogs running and playing together and socializing. The Sheepfold is now a legal place to let your dog run off-leash. The area in about 100 yards away from the upper parking lot in the middle of the giant field. I would suggest keeping your dog on-leash from the parking lot until you are in the off-leash zone. I keep hearing that rangers will ticket you otherwise.
Sheepfold is an amazing space for dog owners to exercise their dogs. However you will still need to have voice control as the area is not fenced. There can be 50-70 dogs on a weekend, day so make sure your dog has basic social skills as well. The Fells Dog Group is been working to have this area recognized as an official off-leash area, consider getting involved to help keep this space for off-leash dogs.
Hiking Trails from Sheepfold
I suggest letting your dog play at Sheepfold until your Fido is fully relived. You really don’t want to carry a bag of poop through out the Fells. If you walk to the back of the Sheepfold area you will find various trails that will take yo to all corners of the park. Download this map (it is the best one I can find) before you go and pay attention as you can get lost in the huge maze of trails. There are trails of various difficulty. I personally love hiking the skyline trail marked with white squares. It is rocky so where good shoes. There are much easier trails as well. Refer to the Fells website for better detail.
The Fells is a multi-use park where you will find hikers, runners, mountain bikers, other dog walkers and evidently a naked runner. If you are going to let your dog off-leash make sure you have solid voice control with your dog as all the different groups don’t necessarily get along. (I know, shocking) You do not however want your dog running in front of a bike or jumping on a petrified stranger.
Quiet and Peaceful Entrances
If you are not looking for a field of dogs playing tag then take advantage of some of the other entrances to The Fells. There are roads which border the park. As you drive you will see small parking lots and turn offs where you can park in order to access the trails. None of these seem to have rolls of poop bags or a place to dispose. But you will have quick access to a quiet walk on some absolutely beautiful trails. I will make an effort to visit more of these entrances and give a better review.
The Reservoirs (Lakes you can’t swim in)
Some of the trails overlook the reservoirs which the Fells surround, the views are magnificent and well worth the hike. One caveat though, these reservoirs are in use providing the drinking water pumped into your home. People and dogs are not permitted to swim in this water due to certain contamination. You will see others doing differently but if caught by the rangers they will be fined. There is another reservoir called Spot Pond which is a back up reservoir and might not be as strictly enforced. It is incredibly important to pick up after your dog when near these bodies of water as e-coli is a serious matter.
Mountain Biking With Your Dog
Inevitably you are going to be questioned when you take your dog mountain biking with you. I know this because we do it all the time. My dog Moose can run like the wind for hours on end. Literally. When he was a puppy we began teaching him to run with bikes and focused on voice control. I will write a separate article on how we did this next week and slip a link to it here as well.
My advice regarding the fells, stick to the mountain bike loop when you have the dog running with you. There is so much tension between the hikers and bikers on the other trails adding a dog to the mix will send someone over the edge. Bikers can be weary of dogs as well. Make sure you have taught your dog not to chase bikes but to stay out of the path of the front wheel.
Voice control when off-leash is essential where ever you go. If you don’t have it now you can still teach your dog. There are fantastic resources available to help both you and fido work things out.
Directions to Sheepfold in The Middlesex Fells
Just head up 93 for a few miles and get off exit 33 and use this Google Location to help you navigate your way. From the Charlestown Navy Yard I can be there in 10-15 minutes. For those without access to a car there is always the MBTA with a stop nearby and dogs are allowed during certain hours.
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