156 Chief Justice Cushing Hwy, Hingham, MA 02043, USA
Owned By: Wompatuck State Park, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
This 1.5-mile rail trail connects the Cohasset MBTA station with Whitney and Thayer Woods, Turkey Hill, and Wompatuck State Park. Composed of graded crushed stone, it is suitable for bicycles and wheelchairs. Stroller-friendly.
The trail is the newest (2014) part of Wompatuck State Park. The 3,500-acre Massachusetts state park served as the Hingham Naval Ammunition Annex from 1941 to 1965. It stretches into four towns – Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate and Norwell, and features numerous seasonal campsites, plus fishing, non-motorized boating and seasonal ice skating on the Aaron River Reservoir. There are 12 miles of paved bike paths, plus off-road trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Stroller-friendly in some sections.
The land at Wompatuck State Park originally belonged to Wampanoag chief Josiah Wompatuck. English settlers purchased the land from Wompatuck in 1655. In the 1700s, early settlers and ship captains held title to the area, but the land was never extensively developed. During the 1800s, families maintained woodlots and grazing lands here, and the streams powered the Stockbridge Shingle Mill. Water from Mt. Blue Spring was commercially bottled.
In 1941, the United States government established the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot Annex (known by locals as the “Cohasset Annex”) and the site. Land was acquired from private homeowners for the purpose of expanding the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot nearby. It remained in use until 1965, and served both World War II and the Korean Conflict.
Scattered throughout the property are over 100 decommissioned military bunkers, which were used to store ammunition. Explosives such as TNT loaded depth charges, bombs, fuses, projectiles, and cartridges were produced and stored along with the assembly of rocket motors. Many of these bunkers have been backfilled, but some remain exposed, including one which housed parts of the Navy’s first nuclear depth charge in the 1950s. There are several old military buildings on the property, as well as an extensive network of abandoned railroad. Most buildings have had their roofs and windows removed and are open to the elements.
The U.S. Navy deactivated the Cohasset Annex in 1963 and declared the land as surplus. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts took possession of the land in 1966, and began developing it as a public park the following year. The park itself opened in 1969. Since then, 725 acres have been added.
A rail spur, the Whitney Spur, once connected the Ammunition Depot to the Old Colony Railroad’s Greenbush Line. In 2003, the DCR sold the land for the Cohasset commuter rail station and parking lot to the MBTA, in exchange for the construction of a rail trail on the former rail spur. The 1.5-mile Whitney Spur Rail Trail now connects the Cohasset MBTA station to Wompatuck State Park.
This particular trail is about 1.5 miles in length. It begins at the MBTA Commuter Rail station in Cohasset, and is paved up until the point where it meets Route 3A. On the other side of 3A, all the way to Wompatuck proper, it is composed graded crushed stone. The trail is wide, and relatively flat, with a slow but undemanding uphill climb. It connects in several places with trail networks in the park as well as in Whitney and Thayer Woods and Turkey Hill.
Wompatuck State Park offers numerous woodland trails for hiking, dog-walking, horseback riding, cycling, and cross-country skiing. For mountain bikers, the park is home to one of the longest section of switchbacked singletrack in the state. The Wompatuck Trail is ADA accessible.
Habitats and Wildlife
The lower portion of the Whitney Spur Rail Trail lies within the watershed of Hingham Bay. This includes the Great Swamp, which drains to a stream called Turkey Hill Run. The upper portion of the trail lies within the watershed of the Aaron River and Cohasset Harbor.
The trail extends through forest and the Great Swamp wetlands. Look for maple, oak, beech, pine, hemlock, yellow birch and greenbrier. There are also some rocky outcroppings and the occasional glacial erratic boulder. Streams run along both sides of the trails.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: Trail is 1.5 miles / Park is 3526 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Designated free parking at the Cohasset MBTA station, 110 Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A), Cohasset.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Benches, trail receptacles, informational kiosk.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Great Swamp (Hingham Bay watershed), Aaron River (Gulf River/Cohasset Harbor watershed)