Sure, Boston is full of skyscrapers, brownstones, and concrete, but thanks to the city’s public transportation, fresh air, greenery, and dirt paths aren’t too far away or inaccessible.
“If you live in Boston, you are really fortunate to be able to experience getting out of the city into a more wooded atmosphere if you choose to do so,” said Julie Martin, director of visitor services and programming at the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
Ahead, check out recommendations for nine hiking areas you can get to by riding the MBTA and/or the commuter rail, courtesy of the DCR. The spots are all open from dawn to dusk, unless otherwise noted.
In the Boston area
Hammond Pond Reservation
Take the Green Line to Chestnut Hill Station, then make your way to this Chestnut Hill reservation, comprised of natural forest, wooded trails, large rock formations, and a scenic pond. The trails are usually quiet, mostly well-shaded, and covered overhead by an urban canopy of old growth trees. Here’s a trail map. Nearby Webster Conservation Area also offers walking trails.
Brook Farm Historic Site
Hike a National Historic Landmark when you visit the 179-acre Brook Farm Historic Site in West Roxbury, accessible via the #52 Dedham Mall-Watertown Square bus. An experimental society of Transcendentalists lived in a commune on the property in the 1840s. The farm’s members and visitors included famous authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In later years, the farm was used as a poorhouse, Civil War training camp, and orphanage. Now trails cut through the mix of wetlands, meadows, rolling fields, and woodland.
Stony Brook Reservation
“It’s a quiet place to escape city life,” Martin said of Stony Brook Reservation. To get to it, take the Orange Line to Forest Hills or take the bus to Turtle Pond Parkway. The 475-acre Hyde Park reservation has 12 miles of hiking trails, mapped here, throughout its tree-covered hills, valleys, and wetlands. Bonus: Visitors can make a day of it by fishing for sunfish in Turtle Pond and enjoying the playground, tennis courts, picnic area, and swimming pool.
Cutler Park Reservation
There’s a section of the Charles River on the 600-acre Cutler Park Reservation that stretches from Needham to Dedham. Map out your hike here before you take the Needham Heights commuter rail from South Station. The reservation also offers fishing, canoeing, and mountain biking, and includes a large freshwater marsh and Kendrick Pond, where visitors can watch for great blue herons, warblers, and hawks.
South of Boston
Blue Hills Reservation
Stretching across parts of Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Canton, Randolph, and Dedham, Blue Hills boasts a whopping 125 miles of hikes for all skill levels (mapped here) and includes forests, ponds, swamps, marshes, meadows, and an Atlantic white cedar bog. Central and eastern sections of the Blue Hills Reservation are accessible by taking the Red Line to Ashmont Station and connecting with either the Mattapan High Speed Line or various bus routes. Hike to the 635-foot summit of Great Blue Hill, the highest of the 22 hills on the 7,000-acre reservation. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Boston from Eliot Tower. You’ll also find the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, a National Historic Landmark founded in 1885.
Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor Islands
Take the Blue Line to the New England Aquarium. Walk to Long Wharf North and jump on the public ferry service to the islands. Now choose from a gradual or steep 5-mile climb up Spectacle Island’s North Drumlin, the highest hill on the Boston Harbor Islands. Once at the top of the 157-foot hill, relax in a gazebo and enjoy the view. “There [are] spectacular views of the harbor and city once you are out there,” Martin said. “And you can also experience just spending the day at the beach.” The 105-acre island has a marina, visitor center, cafe, and beach with lifeguards, as well. Find out about hiking on all of the Boston Harbor Islands here, and check out a trail map here.
North of Boston
Middlesex Fells Reservation
Explore Virginia Wood, the site of a former mill village called Haywardville. Go on a historic, self-guided tour through Spot Pond Brook Archaeological District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, using a brochure linking points of interest. It’s part of the 100 miles of trails—mapped here—for all levels of hikers, as well as mountain bikers, horseback riders, and rock climbers, on the 2,575-acre Middlesex Fells Reservation in Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, and Winchester. Hikers can also climb Wright’s Tower to enjoy sweeping views of the city. At Spot Pond, visitors can rent a canoe, kayak, or rowboat, and dog owners will delight in the off-leash area in Sheepfold Meadow. “I really love the Fells because there is so much to explore,” Martin said. You can access the reservation by riding the Orange Line to Oak Grove or Wellington Station and hopping on various bus routes.
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation
From 9 a.m. until dusk, you can explore the 241-acre Belle Isle Marsh Reservation in East Boston by taking the Blue Line to Suffolk Downs Station. There are landscaped hiking paths, benches, and an observation tower. Beginner hikers can try the Belle Isle Meadow Loop, an easy 0.6-mile trail that starts at the main parking lot off Bennington Street in East Boston. There’s no trail map available for this location, according to the DCR.
Rumney Marsh Reservation
Take the Orange Line to Oak Grove or Wellington Station and use various bus routes to get to the 600-acre Rumney Marsh Reservation in Saugus and Revere. This reservation offers free history walks in addition to hiking. Visitors can also kayak, and watch for birds and marine life in the salt marsh. According to the DCR, no trail map is available for this location.