Scenic Stridings– From the May/June 2021 issue of New England Runner
Castle Neck Dunes – Ipswich, MA (All photos by Ben Kimball)
Uphill on a dune on the outer (oceanside) part of the Red Trail.
As outdoorsy New Englanders, we greatly treasure wild stretches of undeveloped Atlantic coastline. As runners, we love striding through wide-open scenic landscapes. Not too far north of Boston, you can combine both those things for a terrific jog on the magnificent (and surprisingly hilly) trails of Castle Neck Dunes adjacent to Crane Beach in Ipswich.
The very start of the dune paths entering the Green Trail.
The trail network consists of several color-coded loops, each marked with occasional blazed and numbered wooden posts along the way. Trails range in width from several-foot-wide cart paths to narrow singletrack ribbons. Always stay on the marked trails to preserve the fragile dune system vegetation.
Through the woods on the estuary side of the Green Trail loop, just north of Wigwam Hill.
Every run starts with the Green Trail, a 1.7-mile loop around the wooded interior of the island. This part is the easiest, with gently rolling terrain. Next is the 2-mile Red Trail loop, which significantly bumps up the difficulty level with more challenging elevation changes, including a doozy of a climb up Wigwam Hill (there’s a great view from the top).
A bit further along the Green Trail.
A spur off this loop leads south through wavy beach grass and marshy cordgrass to open water at the edge of Castle Neck River. The 0.3-mile Orange Trail connects the Green and Red trails with a narrow strand of path through open dunes just above the beach; this stretch is fantastically scenic. The Blue and Yellow Trails continue southeast another 1.1 miles, and the Black Trail goes yet another half mile southeast from there. Loops can be combined for a 5-6-mile trail run/ankle workout.
Although short in length, the Orange Trail is grand in scenery, following a single track through foredunes above the beach.
To get there, drive to the eastern end of Argilla Road in Ipswich, MA and stay right when you get to the beach parking lot; the dune paths trailhead is on the eastern side of the lot. The site is extremely popular (especially in summer, for the beach) and has a visitation fee. For more information, visit the Trustees web page for the Crane Estate