A bit more than halfway through, the forest opens up to remarkable views of the bog, then the forest returns before another breathtaking view …
Massachusetts has some of the most varied terrain in the country, with such features as high mountains, rolling farmland, deep forests, rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, and raging rivers all found within its rather compact space. Another geographic feature is one that gets frequently overlooked, perhaps because it’s difficult (or impossible) to walk across, and is rather spongy and filled with decaying plants.
Sound rather unappealing? Well, it shouldn’t, as bogs can be some of the most beautiful places in the entire state—if not all of New England—and you usually don’t need special hiking equipment to get to them. The cranberry bogs in the southeastern part of the state (including Cape Cod and the islands) are perhaps the best known of them, but other bogs can be found as well, including some that are pretty close to Boston.
If you’d like to go bogging (and the fall is a great time to see bogs when the colors tend to explode), read on to find several of the most interesting places in the region in which to find them.
Massasoit State Park, Taunton
Near where Routes 495 and 24 meet, this conservation area is right in the heart of cranberry country, and being that it resides in a small city, Massasoit has the feel of a municipal park in a way, with dog walkers, kids playing loud music, hardcore runners, day hikers, and families all sharing the space together. And right in the heart of it all is a bog that sits across the street from the headquarters along the main road, making it one of the easiest of the bogs to access. But even though it’s a piece of cake to get to, this compact wetland area is stunning to see, especially in October as the cranberries really start to ripen. If the short walk around the bog isn’t enough for you, Massasoit has miles of other trails to explore, including ones that head to several lakes and ponds.
[Parking along Massasoit Park Road. GPS coordinates for parking and bog: 41.880497,-70.9913664. Map: mass.gov/doc/massasoit-state-park-trail-map/download]
Cranberry Bog, Carlisle
A lot of people assume that all of the cranberry bogs in Massachusetts are south of Boston, and while most do reside there, you can also find them scattered about here and there in other parts of the state, including one tucked away in this far northwest suburb of Boston. Simply called “Cranberry Bog,” this tremendously peaceful spot includes an active bog area along with a couple of reservoirs, and all of it can be easily accessed from parking areas along Curve Street. The bog also has some educational information along the perimeter of the wetlands, which makes this a particularly good place to go with kids. (Note: Part of the conservation area extends northward into Chelmsford as well.)
[Parking at two areas along Curve Street. GPS coordinates for parking: 42.5510659,-71.3696793. Map: carlisletrails.pbworks.com/f/cranbog.pdf]
Burrage Pond, Hanson
If you took part of the Great Plains in the middle of the country and filled it with water, it might look somewhat like this sprawling area south of Boston that was once home to one of the largest cranberry bogs—if not the largest bog—in the entire world. Today, it is a wildlife management area that is popular with birders (fish and turtles can also be seen here as well), and the trails are basically flat as a pancake, which, combined with a mostly treeless terrain, gives the whole area a bit of a “big sky” feel that is quite rare in New England. The cranberry bogs may no longer be active, but this fascinating place is a must for indescribable scenery and very easy walking, be it a short jaunt from the main lot or a daylong hike along its 15 miles of trails.
[Parking in lot off of Hawks Avenue. GPS coordinates for parking lot: 42.0306984,-70.8565395. Map: nemba.org/sites/default/files/BurragePond_Aug_2014.pdf]
Horn Pond, Woburn
Ok, so this isn’t a cranberry bog and it’s also not in the southeastern part of the state, but the bog area in the back section of this popular park is something special. After a right off the busy pond loop just after the Sturgis Street entrance (and just before the causeway), the landscape quickly changes, becoming a quiet area of marshes and smaller bodies of water and getting wild and remote after passing a bridge on the left. It can be tough to see exactly where the bogs are, but they’re mostly on the left after that first bridge, and if you eventually take a sharp left and loop back along the other side of the wetlands, you’ll continue to see the bogs on the left as you head back toward the main loop—and a hidden dead-end trail to the left near a little shelter will get you right in the middle of the bogs, where it’ll feel like you’re nowhere near Boston, which is only a few miles away.
[Parking along Sturgis Street. GPS coordinates for parking: 42.4736658,-71.1595629. GPS coordinates for bog area: 42.4709321,-71.1677796. Map: woburnrec.com/forms/6048_walking_woburn_horn_pond_map_final.pdf]
Ponkapoag Bog Boardwalk, Canton
Much of the time, this trail—which is accessed off the northwest part of the loop trail around Ponkapoag Pond in the Blue Hills—can’t even be done because it’s submerged, but when conditions are dry, the bog path is very doable, and in its short length (about 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile) you’ll find more of interest than in many hikes that are 10 times longer. The trail is made up entirely of boards, and it starts out in a thickly-wooded area that almost feels like a rainforest. A bit more than halfway through, the forest opens up to remarkable views of the bog, then the forest returns before another breathtaking view opens up, then it’s briefly back into the forest before the trail peters out in the middle of Ponkapoag Pond. And yes, you heard right—you’re in the middle of the pond because about a third of the pond is made up of bogs and wetlands. After doing the bog trail, hit the entire pond loop if you can because it’s also quite scenic.
[Parking at golf course off Route 138. GPS coordinates for parking lot: 42.1918427,-71.1175111; GPS coordinates for bog trail: 42.1981086,-71.1056839. Map: mass.gov/doc/blue-hills-trail-map-guide/download]
O’Brien Bog at North Hill Marsh, Duxbury
It would take a paragraph just to describe the conservation area here, as it includes an Audubon wildlife sanctuary, a town forest, and a preserve, all of which are part of something called the Eastern Greenbelt, and buried within it all is a cranberry bog that is rather tough to find if you don’t know about it. The O’Brien Bog is actually very close to a parking area along Mayflower Street, but it feels a million miles away with its bucolic wetlands surrounded by the type of thick pine forest that you tend to see as you get closer to Cape Cod. This is an outstanding place for a picnic, and if you have some extra time, definitely explore the many other trails that cut through the 1,000-acre area, including paths along pristine North Hill Pond.
[Parking in lot along Mayflower Street. GPS coordinates for parking lot: 42.0355505,-70.711773. GPS coordinates for bog: 42.03657,-70.70216. Map: massaudubon.org/content/download/8090/145521/file/northhill_trails.pdf]
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.