If you live in Boston, going for a hike doesn’t need to necessitate a day trip too far beyond the city limits. With a population of more than 673,000, Boston is New England’s largest city and factoring in the 4.7 million people in the metropolitan area, it’s easy to feel congested by the number of people and skyscrapers. Fortunately, the area has over 2,000 acres of open space, much of it accessible by public transportation, and Boston shows its love for park systems and nature in many different parks around the city.
You’re never far from a greenway when you’re in Boston. It’s also home to the oldest public park in the United States. The highest point in Boston is Bellevue Hill at 330 feet (100 m) above sea level, and the lowest point is at sea level, making it the perfect area to traverse and climb if you’re looking for topographical adventure and a little bit of cardio. So, if you need something magnificent to do in Boston and you’re looking for an urban hike within the city, we’ve got you covered.
The Emerald Necklace is a 1,200 acre series of interconnected parks that encircle the city of Boston. The Emerald Necklace offers an array of activities within city limits, and each park in the system is designed to be a uniquely delightful adventure. It was designed over a century ago by a landscaper and urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park among many other sites. Here are a few of specific parks within the Emerald Necklace circle and what to expect when you hike them.
This gorgeous, historical park is the home of the formal Kelleher Rose Garden, the Fenway Victory Gardens, originally planted in 1941 to help in the war effort, the World War II, Vietnam, and Korean War Memorial, and the Shattuck Visitor Center, home of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. It also has a 17th-century Japanese Temple Bell, ample paths for walking and running, basketball courts and ballfields, and a running track for the more athletically adventurous.
The Riverway boasts 34 acres of hiking and bicycle paths that meander along the recently restored Muddy River. Home to over 100,000 plantings, the park has many picturesque stone bridges and was designed specifically to look like a feature within the natural landscape that had always been there. Look out for the stunning bridges and gazebos amongst the wooded hillside.
This park was designed in a dual-path system, to allow bikers and hikers their own roadway area. Olmsted Park has it all: hiking, biking, and walking trails and three separate ponds. It hosts a series of free Summer Sundays in the Park concerts are held at Allerton Overlook during the summer and the event draws large crowds who lounge on the parks greenway wildflower meadow.
The largest recreational space in Eastern Massachusetts, the Boston Harbor Islands National, and State Park offers a variety of activities for visitors. Adventures galore await, such as birding, beaching, boating, or fishing. The park rangers even offer specially designed tours and programs to fit curious visitors interested in getting their hands dirty through conservation. If, for the purposes of this article, you’d like to stick with hiking, read on.
One of the most diverse islands in the harbor, Peddocks Island is close to the mainland and easy to access—featuring historic structures, hiking trails, unique geologic features, and even solar energy installations. Hike around an island that has been home to American Indians, militiamen, prisoners of war, farmers, summer vacationers, and others.
Take in landscape plantings and roads planned by legendary Frederick Law Olmsted, the same architect who designed the Emerald Necklace parks noted above. See rocky beaches, ledges, cliffs, salt marsh, and freshwater marsh. Walkers, hikers, birders, and others will find plenty to do throughout this 275-acre circuit of natural wonder.
Accessible by public transportation, the Blue Hills Reservation is a state park that extends beyond Boston into Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Canton, Randolph, and Dedham. There are countless opportunities to hike and explore the many trails of the park, which are kept up by the Friends of the Blue Hills, who have made it their mission to preserve the ecological landscape and help visitors explore the area. Check out their comprehensive hiking guide to prepare for your hike once you’ve fallen in love with one. Hikers with kids ought to try the Chickatawkbut, which is perfect for young children who love a little rock scrambling. For something a bit spookier, try the Old 128, an evergreen path along the old highway that’s slowly been returned back to nature. Buck Hill Orange to Blue Blaze, Hancock Hill, and many more destinations abound at the Blue Hills Reservation Park.
Jayson is a recent graduate of Arizona State University who lives in Phoenix. Being a lover of food and travel, he’s always ready to try new restaurants and visit new places. He started writing in hope of sharing his experiences with fellow foodies and travel bugs. To connect with Jayson you can follow him on Instagram or connect with him on Linkedin.