The air was cold and crystal clear on the afternoon we headed over to Pegan Hill in South Natick for one of our favorite local winter hikes. If you’re looking for a nice mid-day leg stretch that offers expansive views with minimal effort, Pegan Hill is the place. We parked in the small, rustic Trustees of the Reservation parking lot on Pegan Lane, off Pleasant Street, and set out from the well-marked trailhead.
The 48-acre Pegan Hill area is part of the ancestral home of the Massachusett tribe, and also has a short history of Colonial-era farming as evidenced by remnant stone walls and the hill that was cleared of forest to make way for cropland and grazing pastures in the mid-1600s. The fields are a great place for kids to run around and play, but only in the winter months. As soon as the temperatures rise into the mid-40s for even a couple of days in a row, the ticks rear their blood-thirsty heads. Once truly beautiful weather hits, ticks absolutely own that particular playground.
On the trail expect soft leaf litter underfoot, as well as roots, mud, and icy patches. We were able to do the walk easily wearing our hiking boots, but bring your Yak Traks if the weather has been snowy or rainy lately. The trail was weekday quiet. We saw a couple of hikers walking their dogs, and heard multiple crows cawing in the distance. Two common flickers rose up from the field as we approached. The large woodpeckers mostly migrate south for the winter, but we always see a few lazy (or hardy) ones that call Natick south enough and stick around for the winter.
We love the part of the trail when we can see that soon we’ll emerge from the woods.
Follow the trail across the meadow and up the gentle rise of the hill for the money views.
Can you believe the view you get, just by ascending to a 410-foot elevation, Natick’s highest point? That’s Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire, almost 60 miles in the distance. Mount Wachusett (Worcester county) and the Blue Hills in Canton, MA can also be seen from the top of Pegan Hill, as can Boston. Our iphone couldn’t capture it, but on this day we spied mountains upon mountains far beyond Mt. Monadnock, such was the clarity of the day.
A picnic table plunked down in the field makes for a good lunch spot. We looked around for the double Adirondack chairs that are usually under a big tree nearby, but they’ve been removed. Hopefully that comfortable seating will come back when the weather warms up. We remember a particularly nice summer morning when we brought our oatmeal, piping hot in thermoses, and the newspaper (yes, we’re those types who still get a morning paper delivered to our doorstep), and started out our day in nature, ensconsed on Adrirondack thrones. We’d like to repeat that, maybe on a weekly basis if we can get our acts together.
We walked along the stone wall with the idea that we’d hike a loop back to the parking lot. We never learn. Although the signs (and map) suggest you can get back to the trailhead parking area, we say, don’t bother trying. Hike to the top of Pegan Hill then retrace your steps back through the woods and to the parking lot. It will be a more satisfying experience. The mud only gets worse and the trail more brambly the farther along you go. We’ve found this to be true in every season we’ve been here.
Ah, back to the safety and beauty of the open fields. We’ll be back soon for another good walk up Pegan Hill.
TRAIL ACCESS: parking lot on Pegan Lane, off Pleasant Street, Natick, MA
TRAIL MAP: Trustess of the Reservation map
Natick hike—the Coolidge Woods area
Beyond Natick—winter hike at Ashland State Park
Beyond Natick—hiking at Ravenswood Park in Gloucester; bookstores; and lunch
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