The Wilderness at Franklin Park - Trail Running

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Aptly named, the peaceful trails in Boston's Franklin Park serve as a wooded sanctuary for trail runners.

Written by

Allie Aylward


1.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

4.2 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The variation in terrain — from trails with paved portions, to grassy singletracks, to wood chips, to gravel, to dirt, to rocks and roots — may be bothersome for runners who rely on steady footing to find their pace, while others may find it keeps them mentally present.

Time To Complete

0 hours

Running routes in Franklin Park can be customized, but the winding Wilderness Loop is about 1.0 miles. To explore the entirety of The Wilderness at a relaxed pace, allot 35 minutes.


All Seasons

Franklin Park's dirt trails can easily become muddy and flooded during the Spring, and trail erosion is of particular concern to the area's conservation groups. To help maintain the land's natural features, runners should avoid going off the recommended course.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits




Spanning 527 acres across Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Dorchester is the historic Franklin Park, the largest park in greater Boston's network of greenways known as the Emerald Necklace. Inside its acreage, Franklin Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, a zoo, a sports stadium, and—best of all—a network of trails that wind through preserved natural woodlands. Found in a 65-acre section of the park that is aptly named "The Wilderness," these trails provide runners with a way to escape the city bustle without having to leave the metro area. The trails at Franklin Park are often host competitive races, and the trails that border The Wilderness and circle the golf course mark the beginning and end of the Boston Half Marathon.

What Makes It Great

The Wilderness at Franklin Park is best for trail runners looking for a moderate to quick workout without the same trail traffic common in other popular running destinations in Boston. The trail's varied footing could be an asset or a liability according to your outlook: those who need steady terrain may find it distracting, while those who struggle to achieve a runner's zen may find it engaging.

For newcomers, these trails are incredibly accessible--both by public transit and to those lacing up their sneakers for the first time. The wooded trails at Franklin Park intersect often, allowing runners to customize a route as short or as long as they'd like. Inclines are gradual and losing your way inside The Wilderness is unlikely, as you're never too far from civilization.

Ultimately, these trails won't be the most challenging you've ever visited, nor the most scenic, but what The Wilderness at Franklin Park has in spades is accessibility for Boston area residents. For urban athletes, it can be challenging to train for a backcountry trip. But the fact that Franklin Park's secluded trails are just minutes from the urban sprawl in Jamaica Plain makes it incredibly valuable to its community.

Of course, the park is not a cornerstone of its community only for its trails. Franklin Park was designed by the legendary landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who created Franklin Park's Overlook Shelter. Now left in ruins from a fire, the shelter first served as a boys' sports clubhouse, then as a park police station, and finally repurposed after the fire as a playhouse in the 1960s where great artists like Duke Ellington and the Billy Taylor Trio once played. Park visitors today can visit the ruins, which are located on the northern edge of The Wilderness.

Who is Going to Love It

Trail Runners, Nature Walkers, Hikers, Dog Walkers, Families.

Runners looking to get off the roads or those who frequently trail run will enjoy the wooded paths at Franklin Park. Along the perimeter of the golf course, there are paved trails for road runners to use, but trail runners will likely prefer the pine-padded paths within The Wilderness. If the limited duration of your trail run is a concern, try combining the trails within The Wilderness with those that trace William J. Devine Golf Course, which adds another 2.5 miles.

Hikers, dog walkers, and those looking for a leisurely stroll in a more remote area of the park will also find retreat here. Terrain is mild enough for walking shoes, so no need to break out the mountaineering boots.

Lastly, although they could be better marked, the trails at Franklin Park are perfect for families to give their young ones the outdoors experience without leaving city limits. Best of all, after spending an hour in the woods you can treat them to a trip to the nearby Franklin Park Zoo.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

By car, take I-93 S to Exit 15 Columbia Road. Parking is free at the small lot at the Circuit Drive entrance to The Wilderness in Franklin Park, but the lot is fairly small. 

To reach The Wilderness at Franklin Park by public transit, take the Orange Line from Downtown Crossing to Forest Hills. Then take the 16 bus to Circuit Drive at Glen Lane and walk 0.2 miles to the trailhead.

Dogs are permitted on leash.

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Franklin Park - Trail Running

Boston, MA, 02124
42.304973, -71.095726

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