Charles River headwaters, seen from Echo Trail, Hopkinton


Echo Lake, headwaters of the Charles River

Many of us are familiar with the Charles River, and if you have been to Boston, you probably have driven over, walked alongside, or simply understand that the Charles divides Boston and Cambridge. But the Upper Charles is another matter. Echo Lake in Hopkinton is the headwaters. But where is it? And how can you see it? One of the newest trails in Hopkinton makes getting views of Echo Lake much easier, and even has a small parking lot to accommodate visitors.


John Ritz, passionate advocate for trails in Hopkinton

I met John Ritz, of the Hopkinton Trails Club, at the trail head of the Echo Trail on Granite Street. From Rt. 85, I turned onto Granite Street,


Looking back out to the street. Space for about four cars makes visiting much easier than in the past

then took the first driveway on the left. John tells me that a sign on Granite St. will soon be posted, making it easier for visitors to find the trail.


Gloomy skies made the lake look much duller than it really is in person. Another visit is needed on a brighter day!

The overcast sky on the day we walked means the pictures I got weren’t as pretty as I might have hoped, but this simply means I have a great excuse to return again to this well-built trail. The path near the lake is broad, flat, and built on a former railroad right of way, so the walking is easy.


INterpretive sign along the trail

Granite was quarried in the area, and an interpretive sign explains a little of the history of the area’s quarrying activity.


New bridge, with old stone work below visible for visitors to enjoy

A small bridge built by an Eagle Scout carries travelers from one side of a solid stone culvert to the other. We enjoyed admiring both the bridge work, and the stonework below the bridge, remnants of the railroad that was built in the past.


Fall is already showing itself along the shoreline of Echo Lake

The lake is visible through the trees, and will be much easier to see from the crushed stone dust trail once the leaves have fallen. Several footpaths lead down to the lake. HOWEVER: Echo Lake, the source of the town of Milford’s water supply, is privately owned by the Milford Water Company. Visitors are not welcome. We walked to the edge of the lake to get a look, and we know local fishermen regularly come to the shores of the lake to fish, but the lake is not available for recreation.


The end of the trail, for now

I look forward to visiting this trail again on a brighter day. To look, but not touch this headwaters of the Charles River. Many communities along the river’s path are touched by the “Mighty Charles.” And it all begins in Hopkinton.


beech cliffs 2018

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.

She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

4 responses to “Charles River headwaters, seen from Echo Trail, Hopkinton

  1. Mary Chitty

    would love to see more of the charles out your way sometime. love mg

    Mary Chitty MSLS Library Director & Taxonomist cell 617 861 7410 work 781 972 5416 Cambridge Healthtech, Needham MA

    On Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 1:51 PM Marjorie Turner Hollman wrote:

    > marjorie561 posted: ” Many of us are familiar with the Charles River, and > if you have been to Boston, you probably have driven over, walked > alongside, or simply understand that the Charles divides Boston and > Cambridge. But the Upper Charles is another matter. Echo Lake in Ho” >

  2. Jeff metzgar

    Are there canoe Trips available on the Charles River in Hopkinton? If so, can you share what hours and what days they are available,? Are there companies that rent boats there

    • Marjorie

      The Upper Charles River begins in HOpkinton, its headwaters, but this body of water ir privately owned. The Upper Chrles al the way thorugh Milford, Bellingham, and on into Medway is barely navigable. Some hardy sold have paddled (mostly portaged) their water craft through these waterways, but they are truly difficult to navigate. No, no guided tours are available in this area of the Charles River. Hopkinton St ate Park has kayak, canoe sailboat and paddleboard rentals. You may rent kayaks along the charles river in Newton and their other locations–but reservations are required presently. Please check out this website for full details.

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