When looking for a hike with a short(ish) drive from Boston, I referred to AMC’s Massachusetts Trail Guide Book for some ideas. The goal was simple: To get outside. With a few hiking miles under my belt (including Mount Monadnock and the Welch-Dickey Loop), I knew I was ready to hit the trails more consistently. My back injury from September 2021 was no longer a perceived limitation. The mountains are my happy place and I am feeling like I’m coming back home – to myself and to nature.
My cousin, Daniel, and I headed to Mount Watatic for a sunny, albeit windy day in the mountains. (Wind appears to be a springtime theme in MA/NH?) We opted to stay at lower elevation and closer to home because higher summits were forecasted for thunderstorms and rain. The perks of doing research and being prepared really helped us out! We needed this time to connect and explore together. As with our backpacking trip to Mount Carrigain in the summer of 2021, this trip was not short of quality time and conversation.
Read on for the trip report for Mount Watatic and what to expect if you decide to head there!
Date Hiked: Wednesday, April 20, 2022 (mountain high >> other high)
Distance: 4.0 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 745 feet
Highest Elevation: Mount Watatic summit (1,832 feet)
Route: Ascended via Wapack/Mid State Trail to Watatic Summit/Nutting Hill, then continued to MA/NH border, and return via Mid State Trail Bypass. Similar to “Wapack Loop” on AllTrails.
Parking/TH: Parked at MA 119 parking area in Ashburnham, MA. No “facilities” at the trailhead (woods are good for peeing though).
Drive from Boston: 1 hour, 15 minutes (NICE!)
Weather/Conditions: Beautiful and sunny in the low 60s. Windy, especially on Nutting Hill which is more exposed than Watatic summit. Beat the rain/thunderstorms projected for higher elevations/summits! No snow or ice, but gloves would have been nice (it was cold!).
Highlights: Lots of history (old ski mountain and some unclear details about an old fire tower?!), views of the Boston skyline, and quality time with my cousin. There are many different trail systems in the area and you can hike all the way north to Monadnock. I’ll definitely come back!
Only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Boston, this was a solid find for a Wednesday! Want to explore the peak of Mount Watatic without leaving home?! Check out this pretty rad PeakVisor… just kidding, keep reading and #optoutside as always! (But seriously, how cool is the PeakVisor??)
Daniel and I were ready for a day in the mountains! I’m glad I brought Daniel a jacket to borrow because it was definitely a little more chilly (and windy) than we expected on the trail. From the parking area on Route 119, we followed the yellow-blazed trail of Wapack/Mid State Trail to the summit of Mt. Watatic. The trail meanders through rocky, hemlock-lined paths for about 1.2 miles until getting to the summit of Watatic (and cue your summit dance)! It’s not really a big surprise, nor is it a lot of work to get there (I say subjectively). I could see this being a nice hike to bring the family on!
At the summit, the trees have grown to block the view of Mount Monadnoc in the distance, but there are excellent views of the Boston skyline. You will also find a stone with a very intense passage about how standing on this summit carries high importance and is unlike any other stone you’ll ever see… ever.
“Other stones in other places may commemorate the histories of people and things now dead and gone. This stone marks the site of a mountain that lived, a mountain that lives on because of people who cared, people who started with nothing but a dream and the will to work for it, until the dream became as real, as solid as this stone, as sure as this ground beneath your feet, as true as this mountain on which you stand this mountain holding you up to meet the sky.”
From the summit, we continued northwest towards Nutting Hill which, in my opinion, has a better view than the summit of Watatic! Nutting Hill is 2 miles from the trailhead (or a mere 0.9 miles from Watatic) where you can see Wachusett Mountain and the west side of Mount Watatic. The ledge is more open than at Watatic, meaning it was also more windy. Like… a lot more windy (prepare yourself!).
On Nutting Hill, we met a local guy who was stoked to share some history about Mount Watatic… and awkwardly mention there are some nice “spots” to have a picnic on top of the mountain. We decided not to tell him we’re cousins. He also shared his father has hiked the NH48 three times! Either way, he explained Mount Watatic used to be a ski mountain, which opened ~1940 with a rope tow, then later closed in 1984 (sadly to bigger mountains in the area). An attempt to reopen the ski area failed in 1988. For backcountry enthusiasts, there is some skiing to still be had on Mount Watatic per this Eastern Mountain Sports article. I also stumbled upon some rad photos of the history under this blog, which could be a feast for you history buffs.
Allegedly, there also used to be a fire tower on Watatic’s summit, but our local claimed some dude from CT created a road and drove it to his property one day. Allegedly once more, this guy has FOUR fire towers on his property?! Wikipedia suggests otherwise, mentioning a cell phone tower was meant to be built on Watatic in 2000, so a road was blasted to the top of the mountain. However, in 2002, the mountain was purchased for a whopping $2,500,000 by the “Ashby Land Trust, the Town of Ashby, the Ashburnham Conservation Trust, the Town of Ashburnham, Mass Dept of Fish and Wildlife and Mass Dept of Conservation and Recreation” (source). This meant no cell phone tower could be built, but the road was already created, so now some people ski on it (see above from Eastern Mountain Sports).
Instead of turning left (southwest) to return to our car, we continued north on the Wapack/Mid State Trail towards the New Hampshire Border. At about 2.4 miles into our trip, we reached the state line between MA/NH! Beware, the passage from Massachusetts to New Hampshire is perilous – filled with lots of mud, seemingly as a detour to prevent southerners from reaching the Live Free Or Die state. We followed the fancy rock fence separating Massachusetts and New Hampshire along the “Midstate Connector Trail,” following signs to MA RT 119, which was 1.25 miles away.
We headed south towards the parking lot along the Mid State Trail Bypass (blue blazes), which eventually merges to meet the Wapack/Mid State trail once again to carry you home to MA 119.
The map of our adventure I created using Gaia and Microsoft Word (this is high tech, people):
We arrived at the car hungry with visions of a warm bowl of chili. We did a quick Google machine search once we had cell phone services and located what seemed to be a great option for a bite. At Slatterys, we could have left once we walked in and saw the appearance of a knitting club in one corner and a business meeting in another, but our grumbling bellies convinced us to stay. We debated whether a bowl fo chili would be enough for lunch. I asked the waiter and he convinced me that it’d be sufficient, so I ordered a bowl of chili without knowing it would be presented in a Porcelain “Lion’s Head Bowl.” This new information was obtained by Daniel while I used the bathroom.
I returned to the table with the most unappetizing appearance of chili I have feasted my eyes on. Actually, can we get rid of the “feasted”? I just Google searched what the antonym to the phrase “feasted my eyes” would be and it said “blindness,” but this isn’t true. I vomited my eyes upon this chili. If they would have added just a little water, maybe it’d be more appetizing. The chili looked (and tasted) like it was made on Saturday and left in the pot to rot until Wednesday. I tasted it and regretted ordering it immediately. Gratefully, the waiter was able to get me a replacement meal… but wowee, I will not be returning to this establishment!
This day kept me laughing and smiling, even with the horrific attempt at ordering and eating chili. We made jokes*** around the punny trail names, exclaiming we’d pack whatever we needed. Do you need hiking boots for this trail? I don’t know, WA-PACK-IT! I also 100% wish I recorded Daniel reading aloud the stone saying because it was EPIC. (***Okay, fine… Daniel made the jokes and I repeated them).
Would I return to Mount Watatic? 100% yes. I’d just find a new place for chili afterwards… hehe.