How To Hike the Mass. Midstate Trail

Stage a day-hike or backpacking trip on one of the longest trails in central Massachusetts. 

The 92-mile Midstate Trail stretches across the length of Massachusetts, from Mount Watatic at the state’s northern border to Douglas State Forest at its southern boundary. Along the way, the route threads between urban centers, connecting a necklace of parks, forests, and green spaces so deftly that it’s easy to forget you’re hiking across one of America’s most populous states. 

Because you’re never too far from a trailhead or resupply, the Midstate Trail is exceptionally easy to thru-hike, and section-hiking options are endless. Here are a few local favorite day-hikes and weekend trips on the Midstate Trail, plus tips on doing the whole thing border-to-border. 

Midstate Trail History 

The ground beneath the Midstate Trail is the ancestral homeland of the Nipmuc, Abenaki, Wabanaki, and Pennacook tribes, all of whom took advantage of the area’s rich natural resources—including fish, game, and fertile cropland—for thousands of years. When European settlers arrived in the 1600s, they forced the land’s Native inhabitants out. Indigenous cornfields and hunting grounds were soon replaced by the farms, roads, cow tunnels, and other infrastructure you’ll see along the trail today. 

The Midstate Trail was conceived of and built in the 1970s, intended to be a recreational link connecting the state from border to border. The route continues to be maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Midstate Trail Committee. Today, the trail represents a full tour through Massachusetts's geologic, cultural, and natural history. 

How To Thru-Hike the Midstate Trail 

It takes most hikers at least a week to complete the Midstate Trail from end to end. The trail is marked with yellow blazes, but because it connects a number of different paths, roads, and greenways, good navigation tools are a must. The Midstate Trail website publishes a free trail guide with detailed notes on every section, in addition to a full-length guidebook and a comprehensive digital map

There are a few shelters along the way, but be sure to pack appropriate water filtration, a tent, a good tick repellent, and everything else you’d bring for a typical backpacking trip. Dispersed camping isn’t typically available, so it’s best to book lodging in campgrounds, inns, or hostels along the way. 

Because there are so many towns within walking distance of the trail, it’s easy to replenish food and supplies as you go. However, if you want to ship yourself a resupply box, you can simply send it to a USPS post office ahead of your trip. Be sure to address it to the post office and put your name and “General Delivery” on the label. The small post office near Oakham (just north of the Lake Dean Campground) is very close to the trail’s halfway point.  

Best Midstate Trail Backpacking Trips 

Don’t have time to knock out the full trail? Start section-hiking the Midstate with one of these short backpacking trips.

Wachusett Weekend: 22 miles

Tag an iconic peak, skirt green meadows, and camp beside a glassy pond on this weekend overnight. To do it, park at the Mount Wachusett visitor center (check in with the center first to get permission for overnight parking). From there, head up to the summit of Mount Wachusett, soak in the views of the valleys below, and then head south along the Midstate Trail. Follow it until you get to Wachusett Meadow, at which point you’ll veer west, following a system of paths and roads to get to the tiny town of North Rutland. Here, head north along River Road to reach the Pout and Trout campground. Spend the night before retracing your steps back to your car. 

Rutland State Park to Douglas State Forest: 45 miles

Knock out half the Midstate Trail on a three-day weekend. First, stash one car at Rutland State Park and another at Douglas State Forest (call both ahead of time to get permission for overnight parking). You’ll start your trek in Rutland. From the parking area, head west, then hop on the Midstate going south. Hike about 15 miles the first day and plan to camp at the Sibley Farm Tent Pitches (call ahead to reserve a spot; be sure to mention you’re backpacking the Midstate Trail). 

The second day, hike about 12 miles and camp at Buffumville Lake (you can reserve sites in advance online). The final day saves the best for last with 18 miles of roads and forested trails that culminate at the trail’s southern terminus. 

Best Midstate Trail Day-Hikes 

There are a number of incredible day-hikes along the Midstate, but it’s bookended by two particularly scenic options. Here’s how to do them.

Mount Watatic Summit Hike: 4 miles 

Located in the midst of a wildlife sanctuary, Mount Watatic is one of the most undeveloped peaks left in Massachusetts. To hike to its rocky, 1,832-foot summit, park at the Mount Watatic Trail parking area off state Route 119. Hike north to reach the Midstate Trail’s northern terminus, which is marked by a granite monument that sits astride the New Hampshire state line. Then follow the Midstate Trail to the summit of Mount Watatic. Savor the spin-around views, then descend via the Blueberry Ridge Trail to get back to your car. 

Douglas State Forest Terminus Hike: 11 miles

This out-and-back will take you from the glittering blue waters of Wallum Lake to the iconic stone monument marking the Midstate’s southern terminus. Start at the parking area on the northern end of Wallum Lake. Pick up the trail on the west side of the parking lot and head west across rolling hills for about 0.6 miles. At this point, you’ll reach the Midstate Trail. Take a left and go south, following yellow blazes until you reach the trail’s southern terminus. Retrace your steps to get back to your car.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.