Travel

10 Places to Go for a Hike This Summer in Massachusetts

For when you’ve already explored every inch of the Blue Hills.


great island trail wellfleet

Photo of the Great Island Trail in Wellfleet by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

There are only so many times you can criss-cross the trails of Middlesex Fells or the Blue Hills without wondering what else is out there. While Greater Boston isn’t exactly the place you go to scale mountains, there are scores of beautiful places to hike that are only a short drive from downtown.

Here, find 10 less obvious options to try, keeping in mind that many on-site buildings and restrooms are closed because of COVID-19. And don’t forget the hand sanitizer.

1. Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary
Where: Sharon
Driving time from Boston: 30 minutes

The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s oldest and largest property is tucked away in Sharon—and is home to one of the area’s most underrated hikes. A 3-mile loop connecting several trails features old barns, stone walls, chimneys, a fire tower, and a former cistern. The highlight of the journey is Bluff Overlook, a rocky ledge showcasing forest views and a glimpse of Gillette Stadium. It concludes with a gentle descent through the woods and over gurgling streams.

2. Noanet Woodlands
Where: Dover
Driving time from Boston: 35 minutes

A stone’s throw from West Roxbury, the Noanet Woodlands are a source of leafy solace for Bostonians in the know. The not-so-hidden gem is run by the Trustees, and offers 17 miles of shady trails for hikers and mountain bikers. The reward of this reasonably easy climb is Noanet Peak, a rocky ledge with lovely views: on a clear day, you can spot the city skyline to the north. The descent is followed by a leisurely stroll past a scenic pond and former mill site. A word to the wise? Get there early before the 30-car parking lot fills up.

3. Lynn Woods
Where: Lynn
Driving time from Boston: 27 minutes

The Lynn Woods make up one of the largest city parks in the United States. At 2,200 acres, it’s more than twice the size of Central Park in New York City. And although it’s not far from the blinking signs and honking horns along Route 1, the forested sanctuary feels worlds away. There’s a lot to see on an easy 4-mile walk through the woods, including stone steps that lead to Dungeon Rock, a stone marked by pirate lore, plus a stone tower that offers views of Lynn’s waterfront and the Boston skyline. If you’re setting out in July, keep an eye out for wild blueberries flanking the paths.

4. Whitney and Thayer Woods
Where: Cohasset and Hingham
Driving time from Boston: 45 minutes

For a gentle walk through a forest dotted with flowers, brooks, and streams, head to the Trustees-run Whitney and Thayer Woods. In early June, the place bursts with bright pink azaleas and purple rhododendrons. There’s plenty to see during other months, too, like a former hermit’s cave, old carriage roads, a rock that resembles a rooster, and a grove of American holly. Plan for about two hours to explore it all.

5. Mount Watatic
Where: Ashburnham
Driving time from Boston: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Once you’ve scaled Great Blue Hill and Mount Wachusett, head for Mount Watatic in Ashburnham. The 1,832-foot monadnock, or rocky hill rising from a mostly level landscape, offers a solid workout. A journey to the top rewards you with views all the way to the Green Mountains in Vermont, to the peaks of southern New Hampshire. If weather permits, Boston can be seen in the east. Much closer, though, are the markers of rural Massachusetts towns: farms, hills, a firetower, and more.

6. Borderland State Park
Where: Easton and Sharon
Driving time from Boston: 40 minutes

Though it may not seem like it at first glance, Borderland State Park is a movie star of sorts. A former estate within park boundaries is home to a 1910 stone mansion, the interior of which was the filming location for Knives Out. And on a pondside trail in the woods, there’s a small stone lodge that was featured in the movie Shutter Island. Aside from its Hollywood cred, Borderland State Park offers hiking trails that span 1,772 acres. Water lilies thrive in the park’s six ponds, while deer, rabbits, otters, and other critters make their homes on land. Once you’re done exploring it all, you can play a few holes of disc golf on the park’s course.

7. The Great Island Trail
Where: Wellfleet
Driving time from Boston: 2 hours

If you’re spending some time down the Cape, there’s one hike you absolutely cannot skip. The Great Island Trail, located within the boundaries of the Cape Cod National Seashore, is rich in coastal panoramas. An almost 7-mile hike begins with an easy walk tracing the shoreline of “the gut,” where the Herring River lets out into Wellfleet Harbor. Then, it climbs up into a pitch pine forest, offering stunning views from cliffs overlooking Cape Cod Bay. The trail emerges from the woods and traverses sandy dunes leading to Great Beach Hill, and ends with a breezy walk along the shoreline.

8. Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary
Where: Natick
Driving time from Boston: 30 minutes

Mass. Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary is a 10-minute drive from the Natick Mall, but you wouldn’t know it from the quiet beauty of its 624 acres. The refuge acts as a home for hundreds of different species of animals and birds—among the wildlife that nests in Broadmoor are otters, turtles, beavers, bluebirds, hawks, and sparrows. They live in a range of habitats in this single property: by the Charles River, alongside streams, on the shores of a former mill pond, in oak and pine trees, in grasslands, and inside swamps and marshes. This spot is for gentle walks both long and short.

9. Dogtown Woods
Where: Gloucester
Driving time from Boston: 45 minutes

The Dogtown Woods are downright strange. And that’s what makes them so great. Their strangeness comes partly from philanthropist Roger Babson. In the 1930s, he had an idea for this abandoned colonial settlement in Gloucester. To give unemployed skilled workers jobs during the Great Depression, he purchased the land and commissioned stonecutters to carve sayings into more than 20 impressive boulders scattered around Dogtown Commons, the settlement’s former town center. Babson, who founded Babson College in Wellesley, had some words of advice carved into the stones: “Keep Out of Debt” and “Be on Time,” are just a few nuggets of his wisdom. Hiking here means meandering along mostly flat trails between these boulders.

10. Wompatuck State Park
Where: Hingham
Driving time from Boston: 35 minutes

Wompatuck is easy to get lost in. Not only is the park huge—it covers a large swath of Hingham, as well as parts of Cohasset, Norwell, and Scituate—but it has 40 miles of only subtly marked trails. Hiking them showcases natural beauty and more modern wonders, like a deactivated munitions bunker called N-9. The space was renovated by three Eagle scouts in 2008. You can stop inside to see its colorful graffiti—visitors are encouraged not to post photos of the spot online, so as to preserve its hidden feeling.

You can find 40 more hikes like these in 50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts.