Your guide to New England’s best hiking trails

Plan your next outdoor adventure with this roundup of the best hiking trails near Boston and beyond.

The beauty of New England can be found amid mountain ranges like the Whites and the Berkshires, or on the edge of bustling cities like Boston — and there are plenty of hikes you can enjoy year-round. With a sturdy pair of hiking boots, the right clothes, a map, and the appropriate surplus of non-alcoholic brews from Athletic Brewing Co. (for refueling, mid-hike and afterward, of course) you’ll be ready for a ramble on any of these beautiful New England trails.

A boardwalk at Wells Reserve Miles Howard

Easy

The Wells Reserve at Laudholm
Wells, Maine

The coast of Maine is a briny mosaic of woodlands, estuaries, and pebbly beaches, some of which are only reachable by foot. The Wells Reserve — a 2,250-acre labyrinth of conservation land trails — is a stunning concentration of Maine’s biodiversity, and one of the most charming seaside strolls in New England. Here, you’ll wander amid red oaks and sugar maple trees, observing bristly aster and great blue herons from grassy paths, boardwalks, and observation platforms. There’s no singular trail to choose here — consider the plethora of paths here a literal “trail mix” — but from the visitor’s center parking lot, it’s one mile by foot to Laudholm Beach, the crown jewel of the reservation and an ideal place for an electrifying dip in the Atlantic or a sip of a Cerveza Atletica. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 2+ miles
  • Elevation gain: 100–300ft
  • Brews for the views: 1 Athletic brew

Long Pond Woods
Hopkinton, Rhode Island

It’s not often that a New England hike brings to mind wandering through a jungle, but that’s the unique vibe of Long Pond Woods. Tucked away from Providence and Newport, on the forested Rhode Island-Connecticut border, Long Pond is a watery mirror to the surrounding woodlands, which are bristling with rhododendrons and mountain laurel. Otters and painted turtles make regular appearances in the pond’s shallows. Wes Anderson was so smitten with Long Pond that he used it as a filming location for Moonrise Kingdom and luckily for first-time visitors, the pond is easily reachable by way of the Long Pond Trail. This two-mile out-and-back path veers on the more challenging side of easy, with brief but steep roller-coaster rock scrambling as the trail traces the serene shoreline of Long Pond. TRAIL MAP 

  • Distance: 2+ miles
  • Elevation gain: 469 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 2 Athletic brews

World’s End
Hingham, Massachusetts

Toward the south end of Boston Harbor, boaters will often marvel at a peninsula with four hills that resemble mossy footstools. These hills, formed by glaciers many years ago, are called “drumlins” and they’re the star attraction of World’s End. This 251-acre park is accessed by carriage paths built by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect responsible for Central Park in New York, as well as Boston’s Emerald Necklace. The view of the Boston skyline from atop the drumlins is the perfect backdrop for an afternoon hike, an outdoor dinner, or a spot to stop and enjoy a Run Wild IPA. The stony coves and salt marshes along the carriage paths sweeten the ambiance. With New England’s largest city to the west and the Atlantic to the east, World’s End more than earns its name. Like Wells Reserve, there are many trails to choose from, but a full traverse of the park is around 4.3 miles. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200–300ft.
  • Brews for the views: 2 Athletic brews
Middlesex Fells Miles Howard

Moderate

Hamilton Falls via the West River Trail, Ball Mountain Dam, and the Hamilton Falls Trail
Jamaica, Vermont

In a tranquil pocket of the Green Mountain forest near Brattleboro, a rip-roaring monster of a waterfall awaits. Hamilton Falls cuts through an expansive rock face, crashing 125 feet into a pool below and eventually emptying into the West River. Most waterfall chasers will reach the falls by taking the Hamilton Falls Trail from Jamaica State Park along the river at a flat grade for 2.9 miles and then doubling back. But a more interesting alternative route lies north of here. Follow Ball Mountain Lane to its terminus, pick up the West River Trail from a small parking lot on the left, and you’ll find yourself atop a massive dam that cuts the West River in half. After crossing the dam on a wide gravel path, tread carefully down a series of steep switchbacks that descend into the valley and link up with the Hamilton Falls Trail, making for a 4.2-mile out-and-back hike. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 974 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 3 Athletic brews

The Middlesex Fells Skyline Trail
Stoneham, Massachusetts

It’s often difficult to train for a mountain expedition in the shadow of a city, but the Middlesex Fells — a 2,575-acre wonderland of native forest at the northern edge of Boston — offers a startlingly robust hiking experience. The Skyline Trail, which climbs nearly 1,000 vertical feet over eight miles, is a comprehensive tour of the Fells’ breezy ridgelines, vernal pools, peaceful reservoirs, and its many thickets of wildflowers. The craggy trail climbs and plunges with regularity that will tone your quads and require the use of both hands at times. There are several trail access points to choose from, but the Sheepfold dog park offers the most parking volume. Wherever you begin, the visual highlight is the view of Boston from atop Wright’s Tower, which looms above an exposed cliff. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 8.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 938 ft. elevation gain
  • Brews for the views: 3 Athletic brews

Sleeping Giant via the Blue and Violet Trails
Hamden, Connecticut

Compared to the 4,000 footers of northern New England, the hills of rural Connecticut might appear understated. But there’s nothing modest about Sleeping Giant. If you’re up for a hike that’s a bit more difficult at times, then this is your pick. Formally designated as “Mount Carmel,” this standalone mountain resembles a snoozing giant plopped down in the middle of otherwise placid woods and fields north of New Haven. The mountain terrain is rugged, with vertigo-inducing traprock cliffs, and even microclimates where hikers can experience sudden temperature shifts. Several trails lead to the summit tower, but one of the most curious routes is the 4.2-mile Blue and Violet Trails loop (at the summit, connect from the Blue Trail to the Violet Trail using a short stretch of the Red Trail.) Not only is the rock scaling along the Blue Trail more varied and challenging, but the vistas of nearby farmlands are the stuff of dreams. When J.R.R. Tolkien cooked up The Shire — home of the hobbits — this is probably what he envisioned. (If only Frodo and Sam had a Free Wave Hazy IPA.) TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,692 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 4 Athletic brews
The view from Tumbledown Mountain Miles Howard

Challenging

Mount Chocorua via the Champney Falls Trail
Albany, New Hampshire

“Lumbering” is the word that comes to mind when describing the broad profile of the White Mountains. But Mount Chocorua is different. This 3,478-mile-height heap of granite along the Kancamagus Highway brings to mind the Paramount Pictures logo — its jagged, pointy summit cone is recognizable from a distance. The final scramble to the top of that windswept peak feels like bonafide mountaineering. (Handholds are required in places!) But the climb and the views are just half the fun. The most exciting trail to the top of the mountain is the 6.9-mile Champney Falls Trail, which visits two of the most stunning waterfalls in the Whites: first, the fan-like Champney Falls and then Pitcher Falls, which spills into a narrow gorge. Climbing beside these falls on carved stone stairs, feeling the alpine breeze, is New Hampshire hiking at its best. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 6.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,244 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 5 Athletic brews

Tumbledown Mountain via the Loop and Brook Trails
Weld, Maine

Inland Maine is a mysterious realm of dark forests and jagged peaks that only a handful of travelers will visit each year, relative to the Maine coast. Tumbledown Mountain is worth the detour. Looming over Lake Blue and several bogs through which moose often wander, Tumbledown is a series of showstoppers. The sheer rock faces along the 3,054-foot-tall mountain are unusually dramatic for New England, reminiscent of the Sierras. Near the summit, an alpine trout pond awaits hikers who’ve endured the journey. The Brook Trail offers a 5.2-mile out-and-back hike at a moderate grade, but the Loop Trail is a wilder beast. After a steep, almost vertical ascent up boulders and granite slabs, the trail squeezes through a chimney cave with interior ladder rungs! Combine it with a descent down the Brook Trail and a stroll along Weld-to-Byron Road for a 5.6-mile loop hike. TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,952 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 4 Athletic brews

Mount Race and Race Brook Falls
Sheffield, Massachusetts

Mountains often transcend state lines. Take New York’s Taconic range, which spills into southwestern Massachusetts and serves as the gateway to the Berkshires for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. From the summit of Mount Race, at 2,365 feet above sea level, hikers can gaze out at the heft of the Berkshires to the east. But climbing Mount Race via the Race Brook Trail offers another sublime treat — a trio of big waterfalls that crash through deciduous woods blooming with wildflowers. This constellation of cascades is Race Brook Falls and visiting all three of them justifies the steep climb up the eastern side of Mount Race. The ascent continues past the final waterfall, with plenty of scrambling, before merging with the A.T. and climbing a sunny ridge to the peak at 3.2 miles (one-way). Might we recommend an Upside Down Golden Ale for the occasion? TRAIL MAP

  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,639 ft.
  • Brews for the views: 4 Athletic brews
Looking out over Mt. Lafayette

Legendary

Franconia Ridge via the Falling Waters and Appalachian Trails and the Old Bridle Path 
Lincoln, New Hampshire

Mount Washington may be the tallest mountain in New England, but the more epic climb in the White Mountains is the Franconia Ridgeline. Comprised of six towering 4,000 footer peaks — the highest being Mount Lafayette, at 5,249 feet —Franconia Ridge is a breezy moonscape of lichen-crusted rocks and panoramic views of the Whites and beyond. The path along the spine of the ridge is a masterwork of trail construction, and better yet, you won’t find souvenir shops or chili dogs up here: just pure alpine ambiance. The ridge can be traversed in a challenging 8.4-mile loop that involves a quad-quivering 3,812 feet of climbing. Plan to start early — to beat sundown in spring and fall, or the crowds that swarm the trailhead at sunrise during the summer — at the Lafayette Place Campground parking lot off I-93. Take the Falling Waters Trail up to the boreal zone, by way of three heavenly waterfalls, to reach the exposed ridge by midday. After summiting Mount Lafayette, pick up the Old Bridle Path for a steep but scenic descent to the valley, with a pitstop at Greenleaf Hut, the perfect spot to stop and sip (or share) an Athletic All Out Stout. Greenleaf is one of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s high-mountain huts, where water refills, trail advice, and freshly baked bread are dispensed in equal measure. TRAIL MAP  

  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,812 ft.
  • Brews for the views: A six-pack of Athletic brew
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