Few cities offer such unique opportunities for inner-city hiking. In Boston you can lace up your boots and embark on the two and a half mile long Freedom Trail, challenging yourself with absorbing historic facts and conquering a few minor hills along the way. Or, you could catch one of the ferries servicing the Harbor Islands and hike along the island trails with the Boston skyline as your backdrop. In case you're looking for a more rustic get-away, and you're willing to spend a little time getting out of town, there's an abundance of New England trails within reach by car or public transportation.
The Boston Chapter of The Appalachian Mountain Club, the club's oldest, offers activities such as skills training workshops and hiking programs for various experience levels, most of which take place within the limits of the 495 beltway. (www.amcboston.org)
There are several other local clubs if you want to join a group with a hiking mission. "The Boston Hiking Meetup Group" is for people who generally enjoy the outdoors and hiking in particular. Its groups venture out to the beaches of Cape Cod, to the mountainous terrain of New Hampshire, and to the plentiful trails of southern New England. (www.meetup.com/boston-hiking/)
Fitness Singles focuses on bringing together like-minded people who share an enthusiasm for fitness, and in this case, the great outdoors. Through this online Boston backpacking/hiking club, you can seek partners for hiking experiences. (www.fitnesssingles.com)
If you want to hike with a guide, options exits for this as well. "Backroads," a travel company that focuses on active vacation packages - hiking trips included – arranges trips to locations across the globe. On the menu you'll find a "Vermont in Fall" for the New England enthusiasts. (www.backroads.com/walking-trips#USA-Vermont)
"Urban Escapes" in Boston offers adventure-focused expeditions for young professionals, and can arrange custom trips for private and corporate groups. On the schedule for 2010 is a "Zen Escape: Hike and Yoga" - a daylong yoga and hiking trip to southern New Hampshire. (www.urbanescapesusa.com)
"Fatpacking" is an option for those whose goal is to combine hiking with a weight loss and fitness program. A nine day backpacking and hiking adventure is planned for August 2010 along the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut and Massachusetts. (www.fatpacking.com)
You always have the choice to grab a map, pack a lunch, and plan your own outing in the great outdoors. Listed below are areas with trails at least two miles long, all within 30 miles of Boston. (This list is not inclusive.)
The Blue Hills Reservation
Purchased by the Metropolitan Park Commission in 1893, Blue Hills Reservation was one of the first areas dedicated to public recreation. On the summit of Great Blue Hills is a weather observatory and science center, which is open to the public for tours and programs. In addition to 125 miles of scenic hiking trails, you can find places to boat and fish (Ponkapoag Pond & the Neponset River), cabins for camping, and mountain biking trails, as well as ice skating, cross-country, and downhill skiing during the winter months. You can purchase a trail map either at the Reservation Headquarters or at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum.
- Location: Reservation Headquarters, 695 Hillside Street, Milton, MA
- Phone: 617-698-1802
- Website: www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/metroboston/blue.htm
- Directions: (MBTA) Red Line to Ashmont Station; from Ashmont take the high-speed line to Mattapan. The Canton and Blue Hills bus service takes you to the Trailside Museum and the Great Blue Hills (on Route 138.)
Boston Harbor Islands
All Harbor Islands with visitor services are equipped with walking and hiking trails (Georges, Peddocks, and Bumpkin Islands have paved trails.) Peddocks Island, Thompson Island and Worlds End have more elaborate and extensive trail systems while Grape Island offers the best nature hikes. This island is known as a wildlife haven with its abundance of berry bushes, marshy lowlands with salt tolerant vegetation, and a great bird population. Wooded campsites are available on the island for overnight excursions. If you prefer a hike with historic flare, try out the grounds of Fort Warren on Georges Island. Peddocks Island offers the longest stretch of beach for those who choose the shoreline for their hiking experience.
- Website: www.bostonislands.com
- Directions: As peninsulas, Deer Island, Nut Island, Webb memorial Park, and World's End Park can be reached by public transportation or by car.
- Ferry departures:
- Boston at Long Wharf: Frequent departures to Spectacle and Georges Islands (and free service between the two). You can connect to other islands from Georges Island.
- South Boston at EDIC Pier: Limited service to Thompson Island. Free connections to Spectacle Island
- Quincy at Fore River Shipyard: Ferries to Georges Island, with free connecting ferries to Spectacle Island
- Hingham at Hingham Shipyard: Ferries to Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, Georges, and Lovells Islands with free connecting service to Spectacle Island.
- Hull at Pemberton Point: Ferries to Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, Georges, and Lovells Islands with free connecting service to Spectacle Island.
- For fees, schedules and to purchase tickets on-line, visit www.rezweb.com/wtaor call 617-223-8666 for more information.
Borderland State Park
Located about 20 miles south of Boston, Borderland has been a state park since 1971. The park is frequently visited by bird watchers - or those "birding by ear" - as well as those hoping to catch a close-up glimpse of turtles, dragonflies, and damselflies. The park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, with a choice of easy to difficult hiking, and six ponds spread out over the area. Trail maps are available at the Visitors Center, but no services other than restrooms are offered in the park (no restaurants or stores).
With an extensive trail system through the 640-acre woodlands, you can hike on rocky hills, along the rambling Saugus River, and nearby two fresh water lakes. Park rangers offer programs to educate visitors on the plant and animal life of this hardwood forest, lake, pond, and river area. The park is closed to all motorized vehicles past the entrance. The Ridge Trail, measuring a little less than two miles, offers the most strenuous trail with mostly hilly and rocky terrain, including some steep inclines.
- Hours: Open dawn to dusk, year-round
- Location: 177 Forest Street, Saugus, MA
- Phone: 781-233-0834
- Directions: Route 1 to the Lynn Fells Parkway exit; follow the parkway and take a right onto Forest Street. The park entrance is after the Kasabuski Rink.
- Website: www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/metroboston/breakhrt