Warm weather has arrived after an unusually cold and snowy March. Which means you are probably itching to get out and go hiking. Here are three of my favorite spring hiking destinations in southern New England, plus a few other recommendations to get you started.
First, to get a quick handle on which locations are now snow-free, I always consult the latest snow cover maps for New England and New York. As you can see here, there’s been a major meltdown over the past week; as of Easter Sunday, all of southern New England and most of southern New Hampshire are now down to bare ground.
1,831-foot Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, Mass., is the closest peak to Boston that offers a bare summit with sweeping views. A short 1.1-mile hike brings you to the outstanding summit vista; from there the Wapack Trail heads north for another 20 miles and provides the closest overnight backpacking option for Boston-area backpackers. (There’s even a new shelter (the East Glade Shelter) available for overnight use, plus this excellent updated map for the trail.)
More than 100 miles of trail criss-cross the Blue Hills Reservation, which is located just south of Boston and features many surprisingly rugged hiking adventures. A multitude of rounded hilltops with quality views can be found within the reservation’s 7,000-plus acres.
My personal favorites are the trails emanating from the Chickatawbut Overlook trailhead (including Fenno, Nahanton, and Kitchamakin hills) and the short—but steep and scrambly—ascent of 635-foot Great Blue Hill, with a bonus visit to the animals and exhibits of Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum (a great outing for young hikers).
Hikers looking for the full Blue Hills monte—and an excellent warm-up hike for the rugged trails of the White Mountains—should consider tackling the rugged 9-mile Skyline Trail, a point-to-point adventure that traverses the entire reservation, including nearly all of its high points. You’ll definitely want to have the official reservation map for your hike to help you navigate the many, many trail junctions you’ll encounter. (The map is also available for purchase at the Trailside Museum.)
Water pours strongest in spring into the deep grotto of Royalston Falls. Located at the northern end of the Tully Trail—a tranquil 22-mile backpacking loop—this delightful waterfall is easily accessed from the trailhead for Royalston Falls Reservation on Route 32 less than a mile south of the New Hampshire border. The hike to the falls is a short 1.5 miles round-trip; you could also turn it into an easy overnight trip by staying at the shelter on Falls Brook along the way (free; first-come, first-serve).
While you’re in the area, also consider hiking to the top of Tully Mountain, which offers the best views on the Tully Trail; or the roaring cataract of Doane’s Falls, located in Doane’s Falls Reservation a short walk from Tully Lake Campground.
Here’s the map of the full Tully Trail.