Daily Update 4/4/10: Hiking and Walking Locations Beyond Boston

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Let’s go beyond Boston today for places to go hiking. Let’s start with hills and mountains, and I’ll get to parks tomorrow.

There aren’t many hills in the metro area. Boston basically sits at the bottom of a basin, which is why you can see the city so clearly driving in (and down) from Route 2 or Route 93. I’ve enjoyed climbing to the top of Summit Avenue in Brookline, and there’s the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, which I’ve never been to. However, there’s a big park right on the subway called the Middlesex Fells, which covers parts of Malden, Medford, Stoneham, Melrose, and Winchester. While convenient, it’s hard to become truly isolated from people there, and the constant use by city denizens leaves marks.

That’s why I recommend The Blue Hills, which is south of the city in Canton, MA. They also have a ski resort there, and it’s especially fun to go hiking in December or March and be able to see skiers from the peak making do on the limited snow. Hiking in cold weather means you never sweat, too. They also have a small nature museum and several park programs there. That elevation is only 635 feet, not very impressive, but the park is extensive. Get a map and get lost in it rather than sticking to the main trail and main peak. Once I discovered a group of rapellers.

That is pretty much it within an hour’s drive of Boston. However, Wachusett Mountain beckons and it’s my favorite. It’s so much closer than the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and it’s the only ‘real mountain’ around, at only 990 feet elevation but that’s better than nothing. Like the Blue Hills, there is a totally separate public park and ski resort. (If there’s a public park for hikers at Nashoba Valley, somebody tell me.) Wachusett Mountain holds a number of summer festivals that I’ve found both expensive and cheesy, but it certainly is a great location, and you can ride the chairlift to the top if you are a lazy hiker (it costs extra and is not included with admittance to a summer festival). My most common day trip is to hike Wachusett Mountain in the late morning and visit Davis Farmland, the family farm and giant corn field maze, on the way back.

If you’re up for a long trip, of course there’s the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts (2 hours) and the White Mountains of New Hampshire (3 hours) which I’ll talk about separately. But did you know that there’s something closer? Try Mt. Monadnock, less than two hours away and just over the border of New Hampshire. It’s an easy hike up to 3,165 feet with fantastic views, and somebody once said it was the 2nd most popular peak to hike in the world, so of course that’s now written in stone for the ages. It’s high enough that you escape the tree line and the top is totally bald. The best time to go is the Fourth of July, when you can see the fireworks from the peak. Bring flashlights.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about state parks. There are really too many but I do have some secrets and favorites.

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