Between the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge construction and sweltering summer heat, many Bostonians may feel the need to escape the city. For those who want to spend a day in nature without making the trek to faraway destinations like the White Mountains in New Hampshire or Acadia National Park in Maine, check out our list of awesome hiking trails that are an hour or less away from Boston.
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Topsfield, about 40 minutes from Boston proper, this wildlife sanctuary boasts 12 miles of hiking trails. Fauna enthusiasts will be able to spot plenty of birds and other forest creatures in this Mass Audubon Society operated park. A day at the sanctuary should include visits to the vernal pond, which fills with water in winter and then dries out later in the summer, and the rockery trail, where you can walk on narrow paths carved out by stacks of boulder arches. Audubon Society members can explore the beautiful Ipswich River by canoe.
Middlesex Fells Reservation
It’s hard to find a hiking spot so vast yet so close to the city. Sitting in Malden, Medford, Stoneham, Melrose and Winchester, the Fells offers over 2500 acres of woodland paradise and over 100 miles of trails. The reservation has something for everyone; experienced hikers and mountain bikers can take advantage of difficult, rocky trails and more casual nature lovers can enjoy easy strolls around the beautiful Spot Pond and visit the Sheepfold, a 10-acre dog park. Be sure to check out the historic Wright’s Tower, opened during the day, for unbeatable views of the Boston skyline.
Blue Hills Reservation
The Blue Hills Reservation is over 7000 acres of woodland just south of Boston, lying between Milton and Randolph and Dedham and Quincy. This nature reserve is named for the 22 hills of the Blue Hills Chain, which includes the 635-foot-tall Great Blue Hill. If you make it to the top, you can check out the Blue Hills Weather Observatory, a National Historical Landmark built in 1885, which still collects meteorological data and is open to visitors. The observatory is just one of the 16 historical landmarks spread out through the reservation. Aside from history, outdoors-types can take advantage of the ample opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, skiing, rock climbing and swimming in Houghton Pond.
Located in Sutton, about an hour away from Boston and just south of Worcester, Purgatory Chasm is one of Massachusetts’ most unique natural landmarks. Scientists believe a sudden release of damned-up glacial meltwater carved out the 70-foot deep rock chasm. The trails through the chasm are all less than a mile but don’t think this hike is a walk in the park; hiking boots are recommended for the rocky and occasionally slippery terrain. Be sure to check out the rock formations on the way, with enticing names like The Corn Crib, The Coffin, The Pulpit, Lovers’ Leap and Fat Man’s Misery, and the buzzing flora and fauna.
Head to Dover, about 40 minutes outside of the city, for a quintessential New England hiking experience. Noanet Woodlands is slightly less than 600 acres and offers several well-marked trails, ranging in difficulty level. Traces of the woodlands’ history pepper the site; you can see remnants of Noanet’s past life as an agricultural and milling center. You shouldn’t leave without climbing up the 387-foot Noanet Peak, which boasts great views of Boston.