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Natural Awakenings Boston

Hiking and Walking Trails Near Boston

Jul 31, 2017 09:16AM ● By Nancy Somera

Arnold Arboretum

Many walking and hiking routes in and around Boston include gentle hills to climb for views of the city skyline and miles of trails along the rivers and bay. Disappear into nature at one of these spots: Stretching from Back Bay to Dorchester, The Emerald Necklace is an inviting green space that connects people and nature, just as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted intended when he designed it more than 100 years ago. Today, the six parks under the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s stewardship offer a range of experiences —from quiet time on a shaded bench to recreational activities like sailing, hiking, golf or softball. With an arboretum and a zoo, the Emerald Necklace’s attractions are as diverse as the New England seasons. Birding takes place in all the parks; birding kits are available at the Shattuck Visitor Center with binoculars and a birding book in a knapsack. 

The Battle Road Trail is a 9.2-mile moderately trafficked out-and-back trail located near Concord, Massachusetts, that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Located only minutes from the bustle of downtown Boston, the Blue Hills Reservation stretches over 7,000 acres from Quincy to Dedham, Milton to Randolph, providing a green oasis in an urban environment. Rising above the horizon, Great Blue Hill reaches a height of 635 feet, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills chain. From the rocky summit visitors can see over the entire metropolitan area. With its scenic views, varied terrain and 125 miles of trails, the Blue Hills Reservation offers year-round enjoyment for the outdoor enthusiast.

Halibut Point and the Atlantic Path in Rockport is a must-see for anyone visiting Cape Ann. On Saturdays, from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend, quarry tours are offered at Halibut Point State Park which include a granitecutting demonstration. Other programs spotlight the park’s natural history, including wildflower walks and tide pool programs during the summer and seabird walks during the winter. The Atlantic Path, a three-hour public pathway along Rockport’s rugged northerly coastline, extends from Halibut Point State Park and Reservation to Cathedral Avenue in Pigeon Cove. Andrews Point, located along the Atlantic Path and accessible via a public right of way, offers panoramic vistas and is a noted bird-watching site.

World’s End, with its tree-lined carriage paths and sweeping views of the Boston skyline, only 15 miles away, is a special place. The 251-acre coastscape includes rocky shores, broad hillsides, and open fields bracketed by pockets of woodlands. The property is ideal for walking, picnicking, jogging, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or simply enjoying nature and the outdoors.

The Charles River Reservation is a linear park stretching from Boston Harbor up the river for 20 miles. The lower half of the reservation, from downtown Boston to the Watertown Dam, is the Charles River Basin, which includes the Esplanade on the Boston side. The basin abuts the campuses of MIT, Boston University and Harvard. The Upper Charles River section of the Reservation begins at Watertown Square and meanders to Riverdale Park in West Roxbury. The Reservation has many recreational opportunities for urban dwellers. Whether your interest is walking or birdwatching, canoeing or in-line skating, the Charles River is a wonderful resource.

Open year-round, dawn to dusk, Breakheart Reservation is a 640-acre hardwood forest with jagged, rocky outcroppings, two fresh-water lakes, and a rambling section of the Saugus River. Seven rocky hills, over 200 feet high, provide vistas of Boston, southern New Hampshire and central Massachusetts. An extensive trail system through the woodlands guides visitors to various areas of the reservation. The supervised swimming area at Pearce Lake, one of the few fresh-water swimming spots north of Boston, draws crowds in the summer.

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