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The Commonwealth Blog

Monday, October 23, 2017

Most Scenic Hikes and Trail Runs Outside of Boston

Photo Credit: Mark Fickett, WikiCommons

Boston has plenty of great trails, from the Emerald Necklace to the Charles River Esplanade, but you’ll find some truly astounding places to walk and run when you venture outside of the city. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for somewhere scenic to train for the Boston marathon or just want to get off the beaten path so you can let your dog off-leash: Massachusetts has a wide assortment of trails you’ll love.

Below are six of our favorite Massachusetts spots for hiking and running.

Blue Hills Reservation

Location: Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Canton, Randolph, and Dedham (about 17 miles south of Boston)

If you’re looking for a location where you’ll never run out of new trails to explore, head to Blue Hills Reservation. With 125 miles of trails, Blue Hills is best approached with a trail map (especially if it’s your first time visiting). For the best views, you’ll want to hike the 3-mile Skyline Loop, which includes the summit of Great Blue Hill. The Skyline Trail is also a popular training route for trail runners and can easily be expanded beyond the 3-mile loop.

Noanet Woodlands

Photo Credit: Mike Halsall, Flickr

Location: Dover (about 17 miles southwest of Boston)

Well-marked trails and relatively easy footing make Noanet Woodlands a great spot for hikers of all ability levels. This forested area doesn’t see as much foot traffic as bigger reservations like Blue Hills, so it’s also an appealing choice for anyone looking for a little peace and quiet. A hike through the Noanet Woodlands will give you a chance to enjoy sights such as rolling hills, placid ponds, an old mill, and the Boston skyline (visible from Noanet Peak). Long-distance runners looking for a challenge will be happy to know that the trails at Noanet Woodlands connect to Hale Reservation, and a loop of the two areas can be at least 20 miles.

Western Greenway Trail

Location: Waltham, Lexington, and Belmont (about 12 miles northwest of Boston)

The Western Greenway trail system is mostly made up of carriage roads, although you’ll also encounter a boardwalk crossing a bog. There isn’t much elevation change, and the terrain is mostly smooth, but there are some stretches with roots, rocks, and logs that will provide an interesting challenge for hikers and trail runners. Picturesque scenery is a guarantee when you visit, and you may also spot some wildlife, such as wild turkeys, foxes, and great horned owls.

Purgatory Chasm Reservation

Location: Sutton (about 50 miles southwest of Boston)

Purgatory Chasm may be home to rock formations with names like The Coffin and Lovers’ Leap, but don’t let the ominous names scare you away. Purgatory Chasm Reservation is a one-of-a-kind hiking area and a must for anyone who doesn’t mind scrambling over a few boulders. Chasm Loop Trail is a relatively short hike (just half a mile) but provides a moderate challenge thanks to the rocky terrain.

Middlesex Fells Reservation

Location: Medford (about 6 miles north of Boston)

Hikers, runners, and dog walkers alike will love the 100+ miles of trails at Middlesex Fells Reservation. Highlights include the Sheepfold Field, a 10-acre field where dogs can go off-leash, and the 7-mile Skyline Trail. The Skyline Trail will mostly take you through wooded areas, but it also includes a few steep climbs to rocky overlooks where you can enjoy stunning views of the greater Boston area.

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Topsfield (about 30 miles north of Boston)

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is a large preserve with more than 12 miles of interconnecting trails, so you’re likely to have long stretches of your hike or run to yourself. The sanctuary encompasses forests, meadows, and wetlands, and the wildlife here is diverse (don’t be surprised if you see a few bird watchers). Sights you’ll want to check out include the observation tower, vernal pool, and the rockery—a network of caves and narrow passages.

No matter where you live in Massachusetts, you’re sure to discover beautiful hiking and running spots that are just a short drive away. Get outside and find out what wildlife sanctuaries and nature preserves are in your backyard.

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