Mount Wachusett, Princeton MA

• 4-star hikes
• 1.3 to 3.9 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 600 to 1080 feet
• Princeton MA | Central Massachusetts
• Driving Directions: See trail reviews below.

Robust fire tower atop Mount Wachusett
The robust fire tower atop Mount Wachusett.

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Popular throughout the year, Mount Wachusett is one of the commonwealth's most visited natural attractions, and at just over two thousand feet in elevation it is also the state's highest peak east of the Connecticut River. The ski slopes on the mountain's northern flanks are busy in winter months, while the rest of the year people are attracted to the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation for hiking and bird-watching.

We have explored most of the ways to hike to the summit of Mount Wachusett and present them here for your choosing. By far the busiest trail is Pine Hill, which begins at the busy visitor center and takes you up its stone steps to the summit in just 0.6 miles. The visitor center is also the only paid parking lot on the mountain whereas all other trailheads are free. Note that the MA government is charging vehicles with out-of-state licence plates a quadruple parking fee - shame on them.

The visitor center is also the start of the mountain road to the summit, which is topped with a parking lot as well as a large fire tower. It's good to see mountain summits that are accessible to all, but if you're looking to hike a mountain that leads you to a more pristine and tranquil summit then you may prefer to check out Mount Watatic instead.

red icon Pine O&B, yellow icon Pine Loop, purple icon Mountain House, green icon Harrington, blue icon Old Indian Expand Map

The trails we list in this review are all rated 4-stars and will provide you with a great Mount Wachusett experience. Before we get into more detailed descriptions of each of the trails, here's a comparison to help you determine what works best for you.

red icon Pine Hill Out
& Back
Shortest & busiest.
Paid parking.
yellow icon Pine Hill Loop
Variety over O&B route.
Paid parking.
purple icon Mountain House
Loop Trail
Quieter than Pine.
More natural trail.
green icon Harrington Trail
Less popular
wooded route.
blue icon Old Indian &
Semhuhenna Trail
Longer route. Views
from ski slopes.

All trails we've charted on this mountain are classified as of moderate difficulty, mainly due to the partly rocky terrain and elevation gain. Pine Hill is the easiest of the trails, having being built out as a series of rocky steps for most of the route. We saw many children enjoying this route, though some of the steps are a little on the larger side.

Hiker climbing up the wide, stepped trail; surrounded by trees.
Hiking the steps on the well-built Pine Hill trail.

red icon Pine Hill Out & Back 4★
1.3 mi, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 600 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File
Driving Directions: Visitor Center (paid)

The default trail for many who want to hike to the summit of Mount Wachusett is also the shortest at 0.6 miles. Beginning at the visitor center by the only paid trailhead parking on the mountain, the rock-paved steps up the wooded eastern flanks make things even easier. Returning the same way is the popular option, though you may also want to consider a descent of the Loop Trail instead.

yellow icon Pine Hill Loop Trail 4★
1.7 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 600 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File
Driving Directions: Visitor Center (paid)

The Pine Hill Loop offers a shallower gradient, a variety of terrain and even a viewpoint on your way back down. From the summit parking lot pick up the Mountain House Trail heading south and take left turns at the next three trail junctions before reaching the Loop Trail. Tackling is looping route in a counter-clockwise direction is the easiest on your knees.

For those wanting to hike the Pine Hill loop but balk at the parking fees - particularly the punitive charges for out-of-state vehicles - we've identified a link from the Mountain House trailhead. Roadside parking is free here, and you can link to the Pine Hill Loop via the 0.5 mile Bicentennial Link. Note that though there's no elevation gain on Bicentennial there is a talus field of boulders to cross that makes the hiking a little more technical (or fun!).

Hiker trekking on a woodland trail surrounded by green trees and ground cover.
Hiking Jack Frost Trail on the Mountain House Loop.

purple icon Mountain House Loop Trail 4★
2.0 mi, Part-Loop, Medium, Gain 780 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File
Driving Directions: Mountain Rd (free)

Mountain House Loop is our favorite short way up the mountain. We recommend a counter-clockwise approach that tackles the rockier Mountain House Trail first, then returns on the more meandering Jack Frost Trail with its lush ground cover and wildflowers. There's even a distant viewpoint at the junction of High Meadow Trail and Bicentennial Trail, and a bench from which to appreciate the view even more.

green icon Harrington Trail 4★
2.9 mi, Out & Back, Gain 810 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File
Driving Directions: Westminster Rd (free)

Hiking the Harrington Trail from Westminster Road is mostly a wooded affair. The sounds of the nearby wind turbine near the trailhead gradually fade away as you make your way along the mostly gradient-free first mile. As is common for many New England mountains, the southern slope of Mount Wachusett is populated heavily with pine trees, making for a green experience all year round. The final hike to the summit up the last rocky section of the Harrington Trail will bring you directly to the fire tower.

Hikers passing large boulders stacked on each other. Spring season with bare trees and dead orange leaves on the ground
Hikers hang a right at Balance Rock heading for Old Indian Trail.

blue icon Old Indian & Semhuhenna Trails 4★
3.9 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 1080 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File
Driving Directions: Bolton Rd (free)

This route is a great option for those looking to stretch their legs for longer. Though still a popular route up the mountain, you're likely to have sections of trail mostly to yourself. Features along the way include the picturesque Bolton Pond, a pair of erratic boulders known as Balance Rock, and some distant New England scenic views as you traverse three different ski slopes along the Old Indian Trail.

Crowd of people at the fire tower with binoculars, looking for hawks.
Wachusett's fire tower is a great vantage point for the fall hawk count.

Silhouettes of mountain peaks on the horizon, with a red and white striped antenna in the foreground.
Impressive distant mountain views deep into New Hampshire.

• Trail Links: MA State Parks, Public Maps at AllTrails
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