Fitness Al Fresco: Hike

The area's woods, beaches, and mountains have inspired thinkers for hundreds of years. Follow their example with these top four hiking trails.

On the trail at the Blue Hills Reservation. (Photo by James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth.)

With so much varied terrain so close to the city, picking the right trail can be a challenge. You can’t go wrong with one of these scenic hikes.

Kitchamakin Hill
Blue Hills Reservation, Milton

New Hampshire holds most of the mountain glory in these parts, but there are still a few hilly stashes here that simulate the Granite State. The best are in the Blue Hills, and the farther east you go, the better it gets. Skip the always-busy Great Blue (or run it, page 101) and head east from Houghton’s Pond to Buck Hill, which has an excellent view of the city skyline and the Harbor Islands. East of Route 28, you’ll come across 517-foot Chickatawbut Hill and the overlook on Kitchamakin Hill. “The valley looks completely different in all four seasons,” says Robert Winters, the local walks leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) in Boston. “You can’t see a road from the high point.” And don’t worry about getting lost: The trail system is marked with numbers that can help you figure out exactly where you are, and maps are available at the reservation or online.

Peters Hill
Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain

Accessible by T but never quite as crowded as other parks, the Arboretum provides the maximum dose of nature for minimum effort. Start from the Forest Hills T station and traipse around the stroller-friendly gravel and paved paths. Off the main routes you’ll find the shade of mature hardwoods on the Oak Path, and breathe in the pine-scented air along the Conifer Path. Be sure to hit the summit of Peters Hill for a view that makes the Pru and the Hancock Tower look tiny.

Duxbury Beach

Surf, sun, and plenty of room to spread out—what more could you want? True, this South Shore beach can be mobbed on summer weekends, but few people are willing to tote their gear far from the parking lot. That means this hike gets less crowded the farther you go. Pack a hat and plenty of sunscreen, and take a swim whenever you’d like. The barrier beach continues on for 6 miles to the Gurnet, a popular vacation spot, but because you return by the same route, you can tailor your hike to the time you have. Parking fills up quickly, so arrive early (the sunrise over the Atlantic is spectacular).

Overlook Trail
Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn

The northern side of this 2,300-acre park boasts crowd-drawing sights like Balanced and Pirate boulders and the Wolf Pits. The southern side features Stone Tower atop 285-foot Burrill Hill. But for true solitude, aim right for the middle and skirt the southern edge of? Walden Pond from the Great Woods entrance. The flat path is cooled by periodic breezes off the water and shade from the overhead canopy. “On the westernmost stretch is the single best lunch spot you’ll ever find,” says the AMC’s Winters. “You can sit on the rocks and be wrapped on three sides by the water.”

Ponkapoag Trail
Blue Hills Reservation, Randolph

Come summer, the air around the Blue Hills’ lowland pond comes alive with dragonflies, birds, and the scent of flowers. Experience the best of it on a loop around Ponkapoag Pond. Hike east to do the trip clockwise and save the best for last: the boardwalk that extends over Ponkapoag Bog to the edge of the water. “It’s almost like a rainforest,” says AMC hike leader Marc Hurwitz. “You can barely see the sun through the trees. And when you get to the end, it feels like you’re halfway out into Ponkapoag Pond.”