Winter, Hamilton

When the snow flies, head out the door for nordic skiing at Appleton Farms and Grass Rides

WHAT:The best nordic skiing on the North Shore
WHY:Because there's something special about getting outside on a winter's day

Like much of New England, Boston’s North Shore has experienced less snow and more yucky weather during the winter in recent years. That said, there is often enough snow — perhaps for a few days or a few weeks — for successful cross-country ski outings. 

I look for good trail networks that provide both easy loops for casual skiers and longer routes for those looking to stretch it out further and faster. For either, there is no better place on the North Shore than Appleton Farms in Hamilton, which includes the adjacent Grass Rides. The Trustees property totals some 658 acres. The two trail networks abut one another and provide distinctly different skiing experiences. Appleton Farms trails consists of more open-field skiing with spectacular vistas in every direction, while Grass Rides trails meander through the woods, which is a nice alternative for those looking for shelter on a windy day. 

The real bonus of skiing here is that North Shore Nordic Association grooms much of the trail network, laying down classic tracks and a wide rolled skate-skiing path when conditions permit. Be sure to check their grooming report before heading out. In the best snow conditions, their grooming rivals Jackson, NH, Bretton Woods or other far-north XC destinations for ski-ability. 

To plan your visit, first pick a parking lot for a starting point. The property has three parking lots. Be aware that parking requires a Trustees membership number or payment at a lot kiosk. Appleton Farms has both a central parking lot near their headquarters and a lot at the corner of Route 1A and Waldingfield Road. The Grass Rides lot is accessible on the west side of the property on Asbury Street. If it’s full, there are a few slots on nearby Cutler Road, which is a good no-parking-fee hack in any case. 

If you don’t own snow shoes or ski gear, head to Sports Stop on Route 1A in Wenham and you’ll find rental gear waiting for you. It’s a short drive from there to Appleton Farms.

FUN FACT: Appleton Farms maintains a herd of cattle, so don’t be surprised to ski by a few curious cows (safely behind fences) when you visit. 


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