Despite being a decidedly urban area, there are tons of hikes of various lengths and difficulty levels conveniently located within an hour of Boston’s city limits. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorites below, (note: in no particular order.) Happy trails!
1. Noanet Woodlands, Dover
One of the lesser-known places to hike in the Boston area is the Noanet Woodlands. Located about a half an hour away from downtown Boston in Dover, MA, this outdoor woodlands park is perfect for an easy 2-hour hike.
There are 17 miles worth of trails to choose from and you can even get a great view of Boston from one of the overlook points on the yellow Noanet Peak trail. We spent most of our time on the blue Peabody Loop trail, which is the longest at 2.6 miles. A detour to the peak on the yellow trail puts you right at 3 miles for the full loop.
- Set your Google Maps to the Noanet Woodlands Parking Lot at 61 Powisset St, Dover, MA 02030. If you just search “Noanet Woodlands,” Google Maps will take you to a residential area about 10 minutes away, which is the wrong location. We would have never even noticed if the residents of the houses here didn’t have signs saying “Google Maps is wrong.”
- There is a $5 fee to park, and note that the parking lot is relatively small– 30 car capacity. Towing is enforced if you park on the street.
- Dogs must be leashed at all times. If you forget a leash, you can borrow one in the parking lot.
Mountain biking requires a special tag that you can get at the Ranger Station in the parking lot or online (takes up to 14 days to process.) Biking isn’t allowed during mud season (March/April) or cross-country skiing season (winter.) If you’d like to bike, check out the process here. The cross-country skiing is also super recommended here!
With those items in mind, the 17 miles of trails that make up Noanet Woodlands are yours to explore. We found that the trails were well-marked in some areas but not so great in others, so grabbing a map or taking a picture of the map is a smart idea.
As we mentioned above, the most transited portion of the woodlands has got to be the Peabody Loop, which is indicated by the blue blaze. This path is great for anyone looking for around an hour’s hike with a normal difficulty level. If you have been hiking anywhere in New England, the nature will feel largely similar to you, as the trees and scenery are reminiscent of other hikes we have been on. While on the Peabody Loop, make sure you check out the Third Iron Pond and Upper Mill Pond for relaxing views over the water.
We were feeling somewhat adventurous and decided to incorporate some of the other paths to extend our visit. This is super easy to do. After going on the Peabody Loop for a little bit, link up with the orange Larabee Trail. If you want to see the Boston skyline, you can hop onto the yellow Noanet Peak trail from the Larabee Trail, that will take you straight to Noanet Peak.
Note: While the Noanet Peak summit claims that the vista point is supposed to be where you can see the Boston skyline, we were not able to see it when we went, unfortunately. Unsure if this is because we went in the summer (lots of leafy trees around!) or perhaps it was a little overcast… but if you have seen Boston from this peak, be sure to let us know in the comments!
All in all, Noanet Woodlands is a great place to get an easy hike in with your dog and/or your family, or it is a good place to hike solo too! We found the trails to be well-marked and well-maintained for the most part, and there seemed to be a good mix of easy paths and small inclines. Well-worth the thirty-minute drive out of the city!
2. Purgatory Chasm, Sutton
Located in Sutton, MA (about 45 minutes from Boston), Purgatory Chasm State Reservation was founded in 1919. It is a great place to see unique rock formations and to climb through the chasm that gave the area its name. While hiking through the chasm itself is worth the trip alone, there are also a few other trails here that are great in their own right.
- Parking is $5 for MA residents and $20 for those from out-of-state– they check your license plate to determine your fee.
- There is a Visitor Center with bathrooms and water fountains near the entrance of the park, as well as a lovely picnic area across the street.
- Be extra, extra careful when descending through the chasm! We found the rock scramble portion to be pretty treacherous despite wearing hiking shoes, and we definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this after a rain.
The main reason why so many people come to this state park is the large chasm flanked by tall granite on either side. This half a mile or so is very cool to behold, especially the imposing rock face on either side of you while you’re walking/climbing through. There are a variety of rock shapes and sizes, many jagged and jutting out of the ground. Geology heaven! Be sure to take care with your foot placement here, because there were a few times that we were scrambling over rocks.
Once you emerge on the other side of the chasm, you can loop all the way around back to the starting point. This is a quick jaunt of less than an hour of hiking and is perfect if you are pressed for time. There are several great places to have a picnic or grill as well when you are back in the main area (near the Visitor Center.)
After completing the Chasm Loop, we wanted to hike some more so we set out for the longer Charley Loop. This is a more standard 1.7-mile hike that has a bit of elevation change but nothing as extreme as the chasm rock scramble. We found this Charley Loop to be very enjoyable and not too difficult. Once you are getting close to the starting area you will notice that there are several good views of the Chasm so be sure to take a few pictures from up here.
Purgatory Chasm is a great place to spend a few hours, and is about an hour’s drive from Boston and a little southeast of Worcester. See the state reservation map here. Be sure to check out Worcester afterward!
3. Middlesex Fells
The closest hiking destination to downtown Boston, the Middlesex Fells Reservation is a true gem and not to be missed.
Comprised of 2,575 acres, the reservation is surprisingly large for being so close to Boston. It borders the towns Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, and Winchester so there are ample ways to enter the park. There are several parking lots, or you can take public transportation if you so desire: you can take the Orange Line to its terminus at Oak Grove and walk from there, or there is also the 100 bus that takes you closer to the park.
- Bring water– trail-side sources are not necessarily potable, and there aren’t many places to find water inside the Fells.
- There are a variety of places to find free parking (scroll down to “Parking” here for directions.)
- While boating and sailing are available at Spot Pond (for rental only, you can’t bring your own), please note that several of the other ponds and lakes are town water sources with strict no-trespassing ordinances.
- The Fells is well known for its excellent mountain biking! If you’re interested, see the trail options and rules here, and note that biking is prohibited during mud season here as well.
Once you arrive at the Fells, there are a multitude of trails that you can take: for a trail map, see here. It seems like the most popular trail is the Skyline Trail, which is 6.9 miles in total and takes the average hiker about 5 hours to complete. This trail has excellent views of the Boston skyline and is definitely worth checking out in whole or in part. Other great hikes in the Fells include the Reservoir Trail and the Crystal Spring Trail.
The Reservoir Trail (our favorite) is great because, as its name implies, it follows the three reservoirs on the western half of the reservation. These are beautiful little lakes and seeing them from a variety of different angles is great. We loved taking photos of the bodies of water and the surrounding scenery.
Wherever you decide on hiking in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, you will not be disappointed. If you live close to Boston you can easily come back here several times a year and check out different routes in different seasons. This is one of our favorite places to hike in Massachusetts, and it will certainly be one of yours as well!
4. World's End Reservation, Hingham
World’s End Reservation in Hingham is only about 45 minutes from Boston, and is an absolute delight.
This spot is located south of Boston on the coast, and is a peninsula beautifully surrounded by iconic New England maritime views. The 4.5 miles of old carriage paths (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted!) are perfect for a calming and rejuvenating walk year-round, and are a great way to immerse yourself in peaceful nature.
Fun fact, the area was once considered as a possible site for the United Nations Headquarters, ultimately built in New York City.
Compared to the other hiking spots mentioned in this post, World’s End has a different kind of feel. The park is less woodsy than the others, and instead has more wide open spaces that make it ideal for having a picnic or a nap under some trees. We could really feel the history of the area present in the park as we walked around, imagining animals wandering on the footpaths and relaxing horseback rides.
World’s End has beautiful rolling hills that are not very tall and make for super enjoyable walking. Be sure to check out the Boston skyline when you are about two-thirds of the way out, and the gorgeous water views from a variety of viewpoints.
Life hack: if you’re visiting the area and don’t have time to do the 5 hour trek from Boston up to Acadia National Park in Maine, we found the waterfront scenery in World’s End to be quite similar in the summertime– the rocky promontories, greenery, and curving shoreline are almost a “mini-Acadia.” While the views aren’t quite as majestic at World’s End (Acadia has gorgeous sweeping views from Cadillac Mountain and other points), World’s End is not-too-shabby of a substitute if you can’t make it all the way up to Acadia!
We loved the majestic tree-lined boulevards that make up much of World’s End. In summer, the trees fill up and make a canopy, which shades the various paths around World’s End, cooling the whole place. You definitely want to take some water when you visit, as even though the park is not that big you don’t want to be thirsty on the way back.
There are two medium-sized parking lots for visitors, and to enter these paid lots you had to reserve online beforehand when we visited here. The price for this parking pass is $10 for weekdays and $15 for weekends, and it’s valid for a full day. Dogs are welcome on-leash.
5. Blue Hills Reservation, Boston
Blue Hills Reservation is located super close to Boston, near the Dorchester and Mattapan parts of town.
Great Blue Hill, the highest of the 22 hills in the reservation, reaches an altitude of over 600 feet, boasting a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, likely the best of any of the viewpoints mentioned in this post. The Great Blue Hill Trail is fairly easy despite the incline, and only about a mile in length– perfect if you’re crunched for time and want to see the skyline.
In addition to the “red dot” trail to Great Blue Hill, there are over 125 miles of trails in Blue Hills to explore, and depending on the season you can also mountain bike, ski, horseback ride, and swim as well! Check out the trail map here, and make sure to save the PDF to your phone or print it out to have it for reference.
The most popular trail at Blue Hills (that we super recommend!) is the Skyline Loop Trail. It actually includes Great Blue Hill within its 3 mile distance, as well as several other hill peaks.
Parking is free, or you can access Blue Hills by taking the MBTA red line to the 716 bus.
6. Lynn Woods Reservation
Just north of Revere along the coast is the city of Lynn, known for its colorful history which brought about a famous rhyme– “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin!”
We think Lynn has one of the best municipal parks in the state– the Lynn Woods Reservation. This 2,200 acre park is great for those who want some basic hiking or to relax by the water.
Some highlights include: the Stone Tower, the Steel Tower, and Dungeon Rock, but you’ll find that beautiful nature abounds really anywhere here. There is also a lovely body of water called Walden Pond here.
For those of you who are not New Englanders… beware– this is not Thoreau’s Walden Pond! We repeat– this is not Thoreau’s Walden Pond! That Walden Pond is located near Concord, MA, and is also absolutely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We parked at the Lynn Woods Reservation Parking Lot-Trail Head on the east side of the park and started our hiking from there, but another parking lot can be found on the southern entrance to the park at Penny Brook Road if that is easier to access. For a great list of official and unofficial parking areas, check out this link. Parking is, miraculously, free here!
If you have been to other wooded park area in Massachusetts you will be familiar with what to expect at Lynn Woods– excellent tree cover, scenic ponds, and small panoramic viewpoints for checking out the surroundings. It reminded us of the Sherwood Forest in Robin Hood!
There are many routes you could take through Lynn Woods depending on how much time you have and what you want to see. Likely the most popular route is the 4.4 mile loop that takes you all the way around the reservation. We really recommend doing this in whole or in part. Be careful, though– the path has numerous rocks jutting out and a few inclines.
Lynn Woods is another great option for those wanting to get some quality nature time without driving too far outside of Boston. Dogs are welcome here, too, just so long as they are leashed!
7. Breakheart Reservation, Saugus
A lot of the time, it’s challenging to pick a favorite destination, especially on a list of 10! But without a doubt, our favorite on this list of hikes near Boston is Breakheart Reservation.
Located very close to the Lynn Woods (#6, above), Breakheart is comprised of over 650 acres of forest paths, scenic overlooks, two ponds, and a beach! We really liked that there are different paths depending on whether you want to walk on a paved path or go on one of the trails for a more rugged experience.
We decided to hike the Ridge Trail (unpaved), which forms a big loop around the reservation, starting and ending in the Saugus parking lot. It is a bit over 4 miles long, and we would say it’s definitely the most challenging hike on this list. Most of the first half is uphill, over fairly uneven terrain– do not attempt in sandals. To hope on the Ridge Trail starting from the parking lot, go clockwise following the signs, and follow the orange blazes.
After walking for about a mile, the Ridge Trail starts to get significantly more rocky as the elevation increases. We found that there was a bit of rock scrambling to get up and over some spots, but it was not anything too difficult. You are certainly not climbing K2 here, but still be aware of the pockets of difficulty. One of the highlights of this route is the wraparound views of Boston from the various vista points. There is one spot in particular near the northwest edge of the park that has views of Boston that certainly rival the Middlesex Fells or Blue Hills viewpoints!
Once you continue on from this last viewpoint, there is a part of the Ridge Trail that goes under some power lines and then juts back into the woods.
From here we have to admit that the loop gets a bit confusing, as it’s a bit hard to navigate exactly where you’re going by the Lower Pond. The views of the pond are beautiful, and we enjoyed the relaxed elevation on this wooded path. Peep our friend Nate’s pup Maya enjoying the Lower Pond (above right.)
Altogether the route took us a bit over 2 hours, but we certainly could have hiked more in Breakheart. We got caught in a downpour that forced us to cut our hike a bit shorter than we would’ve liked (gotta love that New England weather!)
Overall, we really enjoyed this area! Unlike many of the other hikes on this list, parking is free, which is certainly an added bonus. Dogs are welcome on leash.
8. Allandale Woods, Boston
Did you know there’s an 86-acre wood, right in the middle of Boston?
Neither did we, until we stumbled upon Allandale Woods.
This stretch of woodlands is great for a short, impromptu hike, and you don’t even need to leave the city! The downside is that there are no trail markers, so you really should have the trail map up on your phone or printed out for when you arrive.
Despite being really close to the Arnold Arboretum, one of our perennial favorites, we had some difficulty locating the entrance, as there is not a clear sign marking where to go. We ended up walking through the parking lot of the Hebrew Senior Living Center to enter, as that is how Google Maps recommended we go. Once you are in the park, there are some nice hiking trails with minimal elevation. At some points you will be fooled into thinking that you are far out of the city, when really you’re merely a few blocks from some of Boston’s busiest thoroughfares.
There is a 2 mile hiking loop in Allandale Woods for those who want to get the most out of these woods, along with a small pond and a rustic stone wall area that are worth checking out.
Tip: We biked to the Arnold Arboretum and walked (about 20 minutes) to get to Allandale Woods. If you want to go straight here, the #38 and #51 buses both stop near here. Perhaps driving is the easiest way to arrive.
While the Allandale Woods is certainly not the premiere spot for hiking near Boston, it will certainly scratch that hiking itch for anyone wanting to be out in nature while staying within city limits.
9. Borderland State Park, Easton/Sharon
Borderland State Park sits on 1,843 acres of pristine wildlife surrounding the Ames Mansion, built in 1910. One of the best state parks in Massachusetts, there are an abundance of hiking trails, bike trails, fishing areas and more to discover in the park.
We decided to take a big loop around the park, which was over 4 miles of hiking. We mostly followed the Ridge Trail on our way out, which had a bit of elevation but nothing major at all. We felt like we had the whole park to ourselves because we encountered almost no one on the whole hike, it was marvelous.
For the loop back, we took the Friends Trail to the Pond Walk Trail, which had very nice views of the water. The peaceful Leach Pond and Upper Leach Pond made for excellent scenery with the trees all around the pond. This was one of our favorite parts of the hike… until it started raining that is. As always, make sure you check the weather before heading out as New England is infamous for its very, very fickle weather!
Once you make it back to the entrance area, be sure to check out the Ames Mansion, which was the filming site for some famous movies like Knives Out and the recent Ghostbusters remake. This large home is a beautiful backdrop for some stately photos!
All in all, we were pleased with our visit to Borderland State Park. We feel that there is a lot to do here, whether that is hiking or relaxing by the water, you will find it here.
10. Callahan State Park, Marlborough
Our last hiking destination for now (but certainly not least!) is Callahan State Park in Marlborough. Situated on almost 1000 acres less than 45 minutes from Boston, this is a gem for hiking, walking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. In the summer, there’s a beautiful field of wildflowers that blooms.
Dogs are welcome here, and you can even hike with them off-leash– a rare treat for parks in the area. (Check out our very happy hiking buddy, Maya, off-leash in the above left photo!) Note that if it’s crowded, it’s best to keep your dog on-leash, and the park also asks that dogs only be allowed off-leash if they listen to verbal commands. When we visited there was almost no one there, which was the perfect off-leash environment.
Full disclosure, we found the trails a bit tricky, and not for technical reasons. While the paths themselves were great (not too hilly, not too rocky), there were some conflicting trail signs on the trail we chose (the Backpacker Trail), and we ended up having to backtrack a few times after going totally off-trail by accident. It is overall a bit too easy for our liking to go off-trail, and we had to check our phones often to make sure we weren’t going the wrong way. Luckily, the cell phone service is fairly good here– but this is something to keep in mind if you’re planning to hike here.
Parking is free, but the parking lot is quite small and fills up quickly.
Thanks for reading! Let us know what you think in the comments.
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