Hike Your Way Through Boston’s Backyard

Whether you’re outside for a day or for a week, you and your family will enjoy these close-to-home summer escapes.

Some of the best summer memories involve being in nature. Whether camping with the family or discovering frog eggs and climbing trees, the warm hours of endless freedom and fun are best-enjoyed outside. Sometimes, it can be difficult to not feel trapped in the loud and fast-paced city, but The Nature Conservancy has come up with a list of family hikes located within an hour of Boston. Whether you’re outside for a day or for a week, you and your family will enjoy these close-to-home summer escapes:

1. Sandy Neck Preserve – Sandy Neck Road, Barnstable, MA

Town of Barnstable & The Nature Conservancy
Summer and sand go together like light on a lightning bug. But while swimming and beach-combing are traditional and enjoyable beach activities, visitors of Sandy Neck Preserve engage in a much wider range of possibilities. The six miles of barrier beach is known for its dunes and swales as well as being the nesting and feeding grounds for migratory shorebirds and diamondback terrapin turtles. Site offers beach, dune, and marsh trails. Take your family to the preserve to catch some rays, build some sand castles, and experience coastal ecology at its finest. The beach is open from dawn to dusk and you must pay to park. A nature trail begins at the property’s gatehouse.

2. David H. Smith Preserve and Fire Trail – Oyster Pond Road, Edgartown, MA

The Nature Conservancy
The largest remaining coastal sandplain habitat on Martha’s Vineyard, the David H. Smith Preserve serves as an educational nature walk where visitors can learn the effects of fire both natural on the Vineyard and controlled for restorative purposes. The ¾ mile Fire Trail is the only maintained trail on the preserve. Wildlife includes pitch pine, oak forests, sweet fern, blueberries, hairy woodpeckers, quail, and hermit thrush. To get there, take the Oak Bluffs Ferry or the Vineyard Haven Ferry. Admittance is free. Parking is available at the site and a kiosk of trail information is located at the trailhead.

3. Blue Hills Reservation – Hillside Street, Milton, MA

Massachusetts DCR
Accessible by bus and located only minutes from downtown Boston, Blue Hills Reservation’s 125 miles of trails are a boundless and fuss-free escape from the bustle of city life. There are 22 hills in the Blue Hill chain, dotted with scenic outlooks and home to interesting and safe-to-climb rock structures. Nearly 7,000 acres of oak and hickory forests, streams, meadows, and a range of plant and animal wildlife give this expansive reservation its far-away feel. Cool off with a swim in Houghton’s Pond or learn the cultural and natural history in the Trailside Museum for a well-rounded trip to inspire curiosity and appreciation for the natural world. Admittance is free. Reservation is open from dawn to dusk and camping is available with permit. Parking and public transit are available as well.

4. Boston Harbor Islands – Boston, MA

US National Park Service
Either go camping or make a day to ride the ferry to one (or more) of the harbor’s 12 islands and peninsulas. Rich in history, the islands are home to the remains of farmhouses, hospitals, and civil-war era forts. Shipwrecks and Native American history are also woven into the harbor’s fascinating past. Land and sea give way to double the amount of wildlife. Search for clams, barnacles, seals, and rabbits; and before July be sure to watch for the nesting and feeding grounds of shore birds. Remember, look, enjoy, and don’t disturb! There are a few different ferry sites in the Boston area. Design your family’s perfect plan at the Boston Harbor Island’s website.

5. Noanet Woodlands – Dedham Street, Dover, MA

The Trustees of Reservations
Take your family to Noanet Woodlands for a beautifully memorable day trip. The 17 miles of shady trails and woods roads allow you to choose the duration and intensity of your hike. The scenery and breath-taking views make visitors feel much farther from the city than they actually are. Kids will particularly enjoy the .5 mile walk down Caryl Trail to an old mill site. The four ponds on site are home to painted turtles and bullfrogs, and wildflowers dot the land and marsh. The site is open from sunrise to sunset. Admittance is free and parking is available at Caryl Park, on Dedham Street.