Throughout the many forested hollows and valleys of the area are miles of trail loops for private and public wilderness pursuits alike.
Many public trail networks such as those designed by the Rochester/ Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA), are designed for outdoor adventurers of any age or technical skill level. The goal is a free and open space where users can hike bike, ski, or snowshoe across the landscape in a responsible manner.
RASTA has been dedicated to developing open-access trails in the area since 2013.
Now, the non-profit group is putting a new focus on building entry-level trail networks around Randolph.
In a recent phone interview, RASTA Vice President Zac Freeman of Braintree said trails are now being built on the Ellis Lot, near Randolph’s North Reservoir.
Freeman said the design-build process for new trails requires hours of volunteer labor—and a willingness to iron out wrinkles as they arise.
The inaugural RASTA women’s group ride leaves the trail head at the Ellis Lot in Randolph recently. Photo by Seth Butler.
“You don’t really know how something’s going to ride until you actually ride it,” he said.
Once the trail is laid out, a team of volunteers continues to find areas that need to be adjusted—and they do the work.
“That whole network is riding really nice,” Freeman said.
The goal is to have everything in the network mapped and labeled with appropriate signage for next spring.
RASTA will also update its map and rate all the trails according to technical difficulty, before promoting the finished trails throughout various trail-sharing communities.
The access to the Ellis Lot., which lies above Greenhouse Avenue, is just a short walk from Randolph’s downtown.
This little-known trailhead opens first into a vast expanse of open fields, with panoramic views and a picnic site, as well.
There is also a simple welcome kiosk to help visitors orient themselves within the trail network. A map details the more established trail routes on the hill, along with others that are being upgraded.
Signs at the kiosk caution users to enjoy the trails at their own risk, and temporary flagging marks those trails still under construction. Other signage reminds users to follow “leave no trace” trail ethics.
Transitions & Loops
Upon entering the Ellis Lot trail system, users will find a rhythmically looped network of switchbacks that meander up to the hill summit, and skirt the ridge-line.
Some are relatively flat, while others cross more steeply up the slopes of the surrounding hills.
There is plenty to see.
Trails are surrounded by ferns and a diverse mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. There are also brief glimpses into Randolph’s agrarian history, in the form of mossy rock walls that align at intersections within the network.
Freeman said that Ellis Lot trails are designed with relative accessibility in mind, with easier trails located closer to the parking lot, and more difficult trails in development further from the central trailhead.
The primary goal for RASTA is to show people that trail design and shared public land access may be achieved in a mutually beneficial manner to local land owners—”if you’re transparent, and you put a plan together, and you approach it the right way,” he said.
He has not encountered many people resistant to the idea of more open public land access in Randolph, Freeman noted.
Freeman said that he sees multiple benefits for residents from the growing trail network.
The trails, he hopes, will encourage local youth and adults alike to unplug more frequently and get outside to ride bikes, or go hiking in small groups of friends and family .
He said that although RASTA is approaching some of its trail development from a mountain biking perspective, this new trail network is largely built to mutually appeal to those who enjoy trail running, hiking, walking, snowshoeing, and most other types of year-round non-motorized trail use.
RASTA has recently scheduled weekly club rides on Thursdays and Fridays at the Ellis Lot, Freeman said.
“It’s great when [the trails] are all done and you just get to go ride, but everybody loves to ride, not everybody loves to come out and do trail work,” he said.
Having great trails, he emphasized, requires having volunteers willing to lay out and maintain those trails.
Freeman also promoted joining RASTA as a supporting member, since the organization is funded in part through its membership fees— and there are costs associated with building trails and erecting signs and kiosks.
Directions to Ellis Lot
When traveling at the intersection of Routes 12A, 12, and 66 at the north end of Randolph village, take a sharp, uphill turn onto Elm Street. Follow Elm for a short stint until the hill levels out, make a left onto Greenhouse Avenue, then an immediate right before the intersection of Friend Street, to ascend along the gravel of North Reservoir Road, while bearing to the right.
Stop at the trail kiosk, then proceed up the hill. Park on the right near the picnic table, then gear up and follow the signs for the trail network.
-- SETH BUTLER