View of Boston from the Blue Hills — Photo courtesy of monkeyatlargeJust minutes outside of Downtown Boston is one special hiking destination: the Blue Hills Reservation. The Blue Hills is the largest conservation land within a major metropolitan area. Maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, it spans more than 7,000 acres and multiple Boston suburbs. The main parking lot and entryway sits on the Milton/Canton border and invites nature enthusiasts to enjoy a variety of activities year-round.
This 635-foot hill (at its highest point) is an oasis for urban dwellers who want to take a hike without heading too far. Offering scenic views, varied terrain and 125 miles of trails, it's no wonder that fair weather days find it packed with people looking to enjoy the great outdoors (and still make it back to the city for a nice dinner at one of Boston's best restaurants).
The best way to get here is by car, and large lots line both sides of the streets near the Trailside Museum Entrance (on the Milton/Canton line) and the Houghton's Pond area. Smaller parking areas are sprinkled alongside the roads where the hill resides and are good alternatives if hiking specific trails nearby. The easiest place to enter, with a good amount of information available, is at the Trailside Museum. Here, you'll find maps of possible routes along the Blue Hills and you'll be able to hike as high (or low) as you choose.
Hiking in Blue Hills — Photo courtesy of ptwo
Well-marked trails cover the Blue Hills and offer varied types of terrain, routes and scenery. Three trail types are the focus of exploration on the Blue Hills: Destination Trails, Loop and Directional Loop Trails. For those looking for a day-long hike, or for those that are equipped with a plan for return transportation back from your end point, a Destination Trail is ideal.
Enjoy the Skyline Trail, a scenic route that spans the entire Blue Hills Range. A hike on the Skyline Trail will take anywhere from four to seven hours to complete, so pack a meal, snacks and plenty of water as snacks are not sold along the way. The Skyline Trail may be a long hike, but it will reward you with spectacular views the entire time. A truly special way to see the city skyline, as well as get a glimpse of the surrounding towns.
Loop Trails return you to your starting point and range in difficulty, number of miles (anywhere from 1/2 mile to 4 miles) and length of time to complete. Directional Loop trails line the woods around Houghton's Pond; these are rugged wooded hiking trails that are ideal for more avid hikers.
If you find yourself loving what Blue Hills has to offer, the best part is that you can easily return, even on the next day. A drive from Downtown to the Blue Hills takes about 20 minutes, making it the closest place for hiking near whichever Boston area hotel you've chosen to stay.