Best Day Hikes Near Boston

February 10, 2016

The following day hikes come from AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Boston. For more information, check out the book.

1. ARNOLD ARBORETUM

Arnold Arboretum

Paved roads and footpaths pass botanical collections  and lead to scenic hilltops with long views to Boston  and the Blue Hills.

  • Location: Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain)
  • Rating: Easy to Moderate
  • Distance: 4.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 230 feet (includes both hills)
  • Estimated Time: 3 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, public transportation, X-C skiing
  • Maps: USGS Boston South, www.arboretum.harvard.edu
  • Other Activities: Bird-watching, viewing botanical displays, bicycling on paved roads
  • Public Transportation: Take the Orange Line to Forest Hills and exit through the Arnold Arboretum door. Continue under the Arborway Overpass left to the gate. Or take the #39 bus to Custer Street in Jamaica Plain, then walk left on Custer three blocks to the Arboretum.

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Boston)
Renowned for its beautifully landscaped grounds and historical botanical collections, the Arnold Arboretum is a highlight of the Emerald Necklace, a 5-mile-long chain of urban parks totaling more than 1,000 acres that extends from Boston Common west and south through the city to Franklin Park. Spread throughout the Arboretum’s 265 acres are more than 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines representing some 4,500 species from around the world.

This route, which combines paved roads and two gravel paths, passes most of the Arboretum’s diverse botanical collections and leads to a pair of sweeping vistas atop 240-foot Peters Hill and 200-foot Bussey Hill. The walking is easy, and detailed maps are posted at major junctions. In addition to the paths described in this hike, there are self-guided trails that allow visitors to explore and enjoy the collections. The Arboretum’s website and printed maps include information about the species and the best times to see them.

2. CRANE BEACH LOOP

Crane Beach

Five miles of trails wind through more than 1,200 acres of white sand beach and dunes along both sides of Castle Neck.

  • Location: Ipswich, MA
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 270 feet
  • Estimated Time: 2.5 hours
  • Features: Fee, dogs allowed, public transportation, X-C skiing, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Ipswich and Rockport; www.thetrustees.org
  • Other Activities: Birding, swimming
  • Winter Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing
  • Public Transportation: Commuter rail to the Ipswich Station, then take the Ipswich Essex Explorer bus. For schedule and rates, visit www.ipswichessexexplorer.com.

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Boston)
One of the most beloved and popular beaches in Massachusetts, the Crane Beach offers visitors miles of pristine white sandy beach as well as historic homes along the coast. The Crane Beach Reservation is part of a network of preserves owned by The Trustees of Reservations in a scenic area where finger-shaped Castle Neck juts into the ocean at the mouth of the Castle Neck River and Essex Bay. An extensive pitch-pine forest, carnivorous plants, and cranberries can all be found here. The area is also known for its bird-watching and fall foliage. This walk combines the reservation’s Green and Red trails to form a 3-mile loop that explores the western portion of the neck. Though it isn’t overly long—it can be completed in less than two hours at a good pace—this isn’t a hike to be underestimated. Most of the route traverses soft sand; open, sun exposed areas; and rolling terrain as the trails wind along and over a series of dunes. Visitors should bring plenty of water and sunscreen. For a shorter outing, you can walk the Green Trail alone, or follow a portion of the Red Trail to the beach and walk back along the shore to the entrance. The trails are well marked with numerous numbered posts and maps at key junctions.

Castle Hill, which is just west of the beach at the end of Argilla Road, is home to the historical Crane Estate and its beautifully landscaped grounds. The nearby Crane Wildlife Refuge consists of 697 acres of islands, salt marsh, and intertidal environments. More than 3 miles of trails explore this area, where more than 200 species of birds have been observed. For more information about both areas, visit www.thetrustees.org. There are restaurants in the center of Ipswich along and off Routes 133 and 1A.

 

3. BLUE HILLS: SKYLINE TRAIL

Blue Hills Skyline Trail

This trail is the longest in the Blue Hills, extending from Fowl Meadow in Canton east to Shea Rink on Willard Street in Quincy.

  • Location: Canton, Milton, and Quincy, MA
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Distance: 9 miles (full traverse); 2.4 miles (North and South Skyline trails loop)
  • Elevation Gain: Approximately 700 feet cumulative, North and South Skyline trails loop
  • Estimated Time: 6 hours (full traverse); 1.75 hours (North and South Skyline trails loop)
  • Features: Dogs allowed, public transportation, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Norwood; www.mass.gov/dcr; AMC’s Massachusetts Trail Map 4
  • Other Activities: Fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, paddling, picnicking, rock climbing, and swimming are all permitted in various parts of the park.
  • Public Transportation: Take the MBTA Red Line to Ashmont Station, then take the high-speed trolley line to Mattapan. From there, take the Canton and Blue Hills bus services to Blue Hill River Road, then cross the road and walk 1 mile east on Hillside Street.

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Boston)

For those looking for a true long-distance hiking experience within a few miles of downtown Boston, the Skyline Trail makes a 9-mile, east-west traverse of the Blue Hills Reservation, passing over most of the major hills along the way. For most of its length, it is a one-way route, but from the summit of Great Blue Hill to Hillside Road, it splits into two branches called the North Skyline Trail and the South Skyline Trail.

Blue Hills Reservation is open year-round from dawn until dusk. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/dcr. Trail information and maps are available at the Trailside Museum as well as at the reservation headquarters at 695 Hillside Street, Milton, MA, 02186, behind the state police station.

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