Hikers looking for worthwhile trails beneath dazzling canopies of color this fall have plenty of options in Massachusetts.
“Fall foliage season is a great time to be anywhere in New England, but it is especially beautiful here in Massachusetts where we have nearly half a million acres of DCR property from which you can view the colors,” said Jim Montgomery, commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), in an email.
Look no further than Massachusetts for fall colors that are “pure New England,” according to Montgomery.
“On Cape Cod and the islands, you will discover oak trees turning bright shades of red and orange under the right conditions,” Montgomery wrote. “In Central Mass. and on the North Shore, where our forests blend, the red maple turns a vibrant ruby and mixes with a radiant array of colors from various oak and birch trees. As you head west, the northern hardwoods in the western part of the state are home to sugar maples, red maples, beech, and birches, which will produce the full gamut of fall colors that are pure New England.”
Montgomery says leaf peepers can view the foliage “in all its breathtaking glory” by exploring a DCR park, rail trail, or hiking trail.
Ahead, discover nine parks the DCR recommends for hiking this fall season.
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Cheshire
This 12.7-mile rail trail, which connects the towns of Adams, Cheshire, and Lanesborough, is an excellent place for leaf peeping, according to Keiko Matsudo Orrall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. It offers a “10-foot wide, gentle-grade, universal-designed path,” noted DCR, and has four parking areas along the trail.
Benedict Pond Loop Trail in Beartown State Forest in Monterey
You’ll enjoy views from a 35-acre man-made pond on this 1.7-mile interpretive trail in the 12,000-acre forest. The pond was named for dairy farmer Fred Benedict (1866-1930), who owned the surrounding area.
Bent Rim Trail in Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Assonet
There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails in this 5,000-acre forest and this easy, two-mile trail is a great introduction to them, according to DCR. The forest also contains a Wampanoag reservation, an old quarry, and historic Civilian Conservation Corps structures.
Hallockville Pond Loop Trail in Kenneth Dubuque Memorial State Forest in Plainfield
Hikers on this scenic 1.2-mile hike around Hallockville Pond pass by an “immense” glacial erratic, according to DCR. It’s also worth checking out the “impressive” stone ruins of a sawmill, tannery, and dam on the Mill Site Trail, DCR noted.
Mahican-Mohawk Trail in Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont
Treat yourself to “gorgeous” views of the Deerfield River and the Deerfield River Valley on this 4.1-mile loop, according to DCR. From the park’s headquarters, hikers should hike to the end of the road, take a right onto the Indian Trail, and then bear right onto the Mahican-Mohawk Trail. This hike is considered difficult.
Pocumtuck Ridge Trail in Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation in South Deerfield
“Excellent views will be your reward, especially in the fall when the surrounding trees start turning brilliant colors,” wrote DCR about this 4.2-mile roundtrip journey that includes the summit of South Sugarloaf along with North Sugarloaf vistas. This trail, also known as the Summit Trail, is considered difficult.
Skyline Trail at Middlesex Fells Reservation in Stoneham
Check out the fall colors from Wright’s Tower on this 6.9-mile loop, which rewards visitors with “spectacular views of Boston and the surrounding area,” according to DCR. Hikers will find trailheads at Bellview Pond, Long Pond, and Sheepfold parking area.
Southern New England Trunkline Trail in Douglas
It’s one of the longest rail-trails in southern Massachusetts, stretching 22 miles from Franklin State Forest to Douglas State Forest. The trail, often called SNETT, is mostly gravel and has marked entrances in all six towns it runs through: Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Franklin, Millville, and Uxbridge.
Wallis Pond Loop Trail in Douglas State Forest in Douglas
Soak in the pond views on this easy three-mile path. To get to it, park on Webster Street (Route 16) and head north on the gravel path before turning right on Ridge Trail and then left onto Wallis Pond Loop Trail.