Summer is more or less here once again, and thoughts for many turn to such activities as hiking, picnics, and the like. And wouldn’t it be nice to combine hiking and picnicking and also be able to do it without having to drive all that far? Below are 10 such places to do both, with some leaning more toward simple walks than hikes for those looking to do something easy and a few that are also on or near bus and subway lines for those who live in the city and/or are without wheels. (Note: Total times do not include picnic breaks.)
Walden Pond Peninsula (Lynn Woods), Lynn
Yes, there is another Walden Pond in the region, and this one is every bit as beautiful as the one in Concord. And if you take a trail to the right off the Great Woods Road path (just after where Ox Pasture Road Path forks to the right), you’ll encounter a long lakeside trail that reaches a small peninsula just before the trail ends, and it’s a place where you can savor some great lake views before heading back.
[Approximately 4 miles round-trip from Great Woods parking lot, 2 hours total via lakeside trail that runs parallel to Great Woods Road. Map: flw.org
Nahanton Hill Overlook (Blue Hills), Quincy
One of the more difficult hikes in the Boston area, the section of the Skyline Trail from its eastern terminus at the Shea Rink in Quincy to a little side trail that forks to the right that leads to a ledgy area on this broad hill is well worth the effort, as the views from the ledges include the Boston skyline, the harbor, and much more.
[Approximately 5 miles round-trip from Shea Rink, 3 hours total via Skyline Trail. Map: mass.gov
Corey Hill Outlook (Summit Hill/Corey Hill), Brookline
Basically an urban walk that feels more like a mountain hike in some ways, the Summit Path is a steep and seemingly endless staircase that leads from Beacon Street between Coolidge Corner and Washington Square up to to the top of Corey Hill, where you can enjoy tremendous views from a large grassy area that is just made for picnics.
[Approximately 0.5 miles round-trip from Beacon Street, 0.5 hours total via Summit Path. Map: issuu.com/walkboston
Ponkapoag Pond Camp (Blue Hills), Randolph
If you like the feeling of being 100 miles away from Boston while actually being only 15 minutes from the city, the “Ponky Loop” is about as good as it gets. And at the far end of the pond from the golf course is the Ponkapoag Camp of the Appalachian Mountain Club, which consists of a number of primitive cabins and a dock on the pond that is perfect for getting some sun and enjoying a snack.
[Approximately 5 miles round-trip, 2.5 hours total via road from golf course parking lot on Route 138 in Canton to start of loop. Map: mass.gov
Pier 7 (Charlestown Navy Yard), Charlestown
A true city walk that is flat as a pancake, Pier 7 (also known as Constellation Wharf) is actually very easy to miss, as it looks solely like a private residential spot. But just after the parking entrance to the right, you will see a pathway squeezed between the lot and the water below, and this path eventually leads to a public area with memorable views—and a mix of tables and benches where you can relax for awhile while catching some sea breezes.
[Approximately 0.5 miles round-trip, 0.5 hours total via Harborwalk north from USS Constitution Museum. Map: .nps.gov
Noon Hill Summit (Noon Hill/Shattuck Reservation), Medfield
About as remote a place as you’ll find inside Route 495, this hike southwest of the city is one of the best walks to do if you want great views with relatively little effort put in. A wooded trail gradually climbs to the top of Noon Hill, affording views from its ledges that are a must for an extended photo break, along with a quick lunch stop or a picnic from its somewhat large and flat overlook.
[Approximately 2 miles round-trip from Noon Hill parking lot, 1 hour total via yellow and red-blazed trails. Map: thetrustees.org
Horn Pond Mountain (Horn Pond Conservation Area), Woburn
While perhaps not a true mountain, this rise (also known as Mount Towanda) overlooking Horn Pond is pretty big for being so close to Boston—and it was actually once home to a ski area. A switchback trail leads steeply up to the summit across from the substation near the parking lot, then veers right and continues along a plateau until it mostly ends at a large grassy area by the power lines where a stunning view awaits.
[Approximately 2 miles round-trip from main parking lot, 1 hour total via paved road (off-limits to cars) and Horn Pond Mountain trail. Map: woburnmaps.com
Granite Railway Quarry (Quincy Quarries), Quincy
A definite “best bang for the buck” hike, this is really more of a short walk than a true hike, but the 10-minute stroll from the parking lot to the easy—albeit slightly tricky—scamper up the far ledge on the left leads to a view of Boston (and on the other side, the other ledges) that will make your knees weak. The flat areas at the top are ideal for a picnic or lunch break, but just make sure you don’t get too close to the edge (especially if people are rock climbing).
[Approximately 0.75 miles round-trip, 0.5 hours total from Ricciuti Drive parking lot. Map: mass.gov
Eagle Rock (Breakheart Reservation), Saugus
A little tough to find but definitely worth the effort, this huge, bare ledge allows for dizzying views almost straight down to Pearce Lake (also known as Lower Pond). And while there are a few scenic trails to get to Eagle Rock, if you aren’t overly adventurous you can easily get there by taking Pine Tops Road from the rustic visitor center to a left at Elm Road (both closed to traffic), then a left at the end of Pearce Lake.
[Approximately 3 miles round-trip, 1.5 hours total from visitor center. Map: saugus.org
Vernal Pool (Minuteman National Historic Park), Lexington/Lincoln
Sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of history in with your hikes, and taking the Battle Road Trail is one of the best places to do this. And there happens to be a “secret” trail opposite the Hartwell Tavern (near where a road to a parking lot meets the Battle Road Trail) that eventually leads left to a boardwalk, which ends at a sitting area in the middle of a vernal pool that you can almost always have to yourself.
[Approximately 5 miles round-trip, 2.5 hours total from visitor center via Battle Road Trail and unmarked trail by Hartwell Tavern. Map: nps.gov
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.