60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Of Boston: Sixth Installment
This chunk of five hikes includes hikes #26-30. The research and revisions for 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Boston is now officially half done. I am just a little excited. Now on to the rest of the summer and the rest of the hikes! There are plenty of longer hikes coming up—the Skyline Trail at Blue Hills and Mount Wachusett—and a couple of new hikes out on the Boston Harbor Islands. Stay tuned!
The woods that make up the Goldsmith Reservation are just beautiful. The mostly dense forest is a fairly even blend of deciduous and coniferous varieties, with several deep dense groves of tall majestic pines and spruce. Plus, this reservation is just a comfortable place to hike. The trails are well marked and well defined, and there are plenty of spots with benches to just sit and bask in the spectacular forest. The fact that you’re just outside the town of Andover (and places for ice cream) and right near the intersection of state Route 125 and 28 won’t dampen your wilderness experience in the least.
Goldsmith Reservation isn’t a huge place, but there’s plenty of room to spend the better part of the day hiking around some of the different loops and hanging out at the special spots. I shared the company of my son, Devin, and his girlfriend, Ashley, on this hike, which always makes a good hike better. Spend some time out on Bessie’s Point, either up on the hill sitting on a bench overlooking Foster’s Pond, or down at the water’s edge marveling at the Zen-garden type of beauty there at the shoreline.
Nasketucket State Reservation
Nasketucket is a cool combination of open fields, relatively flat hiking trails, and a classic New England rocky beach. You could spend hours exploring here. The forests wrapping around close to the rocky coast are a surreal combination of holly trees and scrubby undergrowth—almost a Dr. Suessian type of landscape.
Most of this area used to be farmlands, and indeed some of the surrounding fields are still part of an active working farm. So the open fields and the columns of tall trees defining the fields are majestic—there’s very much a 100 Acre Wood feel to parts of this hike. And these trails are largely flat, so this is a nice easy hike for families or someone just getting into hiking. Be ready to spend some time on the rocky beach when you come here, especially if the weather is cooperating. You have a nice view out into the bay, and if you have kids with you, there’s an endless supply of rocks to throw into the water.
Bald Hill Conservation Area
If you want to have the forest to yourself and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, this hike in Bald Hill Conservation Area is a good choice! I get the impression this isn’t the most popular hiking spot in the greater Boston area. It’s not because the forest isn’t spectacular—it’s just a bit out of the way. It does also include part of the Bay Circuit Trail, which ties it into other reservations to the north and south.
Most of the trails throughout Bald Hill are fairly well marked and well defined, but there are also some that aren’t. I may have wandered off the trail here and there, but there are ponds—Towne Pond, Fuller Pond, Pout Pond, and Crooked Pond—and hillsides that help you orient yourself if you feel a bit turned around. The dense forest surrounding the ponds makes you feel like you’re deep in the woods of northern New England, even though you can occasionally hear a passing vehicle.
The trails immediately circumnavigating the swampy Towne Pond toward the center of the reservation may be a bit tough to follow, but the views of the pond and marshlands are quite something, like a scene out of Jurassic Park.
This is a beautiful and relaxing hike in Winnekenni Park—a respite from the industrial gritty city of Haverhill in which it’s located. It’s easy to find and fairly close to 495, so it’s quite accessible as well.
The castle atop the hill is quite a marvel. Seeing this is a nice reward at the end of the hike, although truth be told, the rest of the forest and Kenoza Lake around which the trails wrap is reward enough. This is also a fairly busy place, being right in Haverhill, but if you venture off the main trail (which is more like a carriage road), you’ll find some solitude in the woods.
Blue Hills: Hemenway Hill
The Blue Hills Reservation is a fairly unique place. It is huge, and it is quite close to Boston. There are actually two hikes in the Blue Hills profiled in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Boston—the full Skyline Trail (and eight-hour point-to-point hike) and this one, the shorter, mellower Hemenway Hill loop. The trails throughout the Blue Hills range from wide, carriage-road type trails to the classic twisty, windy trail leading through the fairly dense forest. And you will have company. The Blue Hills is quite a popular spot for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and, on some of the trails, even those on horseback. Nevertheless, you’re bound to still find a corner of the Blue Hills to call your own.
It really is a great resource to have so close to Boston. Even prior to signing up to revise this book, I’ve been hiking throughout the Blue Hills more times than I can remember. And I was so happy to be one-half done with my hiking research! I have never skied here, though… perhaps I need to change that this winter, as there is indeed an alpine ski area on one side of the mountain.