60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Boston—The Final Five
Well this is it boys and girls—my final update post for 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Boston. These were the final five hikes. And after all the research and writing and editing this project entailed, I was quite thrilled to be in the home stretch. Perhaps my next post will be talking about the book being printed, or where you can find some book signings in the Boston area, or where you can find a guidebook author and buy him a beer—just a thought.
#56 Franklin State Forest
This is my home turf. I come here all the time. I’ve got a million names for this place: FrankVegas State Forest, Frankadelic State Forest, Franktastic State Forest, Frankadoodle State Forest, you get the idea. I have petitioned the Massachusetts DCR to rename the place Devin and Dad State Forest. I have not yet heard back. I’ll keep you posted.
Most of the trails at Frankenboogie State Forest are multi-use, and there are quite a few motorbikes here on any given day during the summer. The shorter hike I profiled for the Boston book is the smaller chunk of the forest, the loop east of the power lines. It’s a non-motorized trail—just hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. This loop, which is also one of the MA DCR Heart Healthy trails for most of the way, is a nice brief ramble through the woods. There’s never too much elevation gain or loss, but a few little hills to get your heart pumping.
I have been coming here since I lived in the area. If I had a buck for every time I went hiking or trail running this loop, I’d have… well… I’d have a lot of bucks! This is a great trail to have practically in my backyard, and for that I am definitely thankful.
#57 Douglas State Forest
The hike I did at Douglas State Forest has several notable aspects. First, it is truly in the middle of nowhere. For being within 60 miles of Boston (which I made sure it was), I felt like I was driving around out in western Maine. It was kinda cool, especially once I actually found the forest. Second, it is one of two hikes I did entirely in the slamming down rain. So no notebook. Just taking a ton of pictures and relying on my hopefully not-too-feeble memory.
I will enjoy returning to Douglas State Forest sometime this summer. Wallum Lake looks really cool, it looks like a great spot to spend the day swimming and grilling, and of course hiking. The Coffee House Loop is a perfect mellow hike, not too long but just long enough, not too much up and down, and you pass some dramatically scenic groves and swamp areas. Yep, a perfect day at Douglas Lake would be to set up your base camp down by the picnic area, head out on a Coffee House Loop hike, then jump in Lake Wallum. Although I have no idea where that trail name comes from. Not once hiking through the woods did I see a Dunkin or a Starbucks. False advertising, I say.
#58 Blue Hills: Skyline Trail
There are two trails listed in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Boston called the Skyline Trail. And both will test your endurance. For both, you will want to ensure you have plenty of water and plenty of food. And leave early in the morning. And both—while quite close to Boston—will take you deep in the woods and make you feel like your somewhere way out on the Appalachian Trail.
Within the entire Blue Hills reservation, there’s never a massive elevation gain. The top of Great Blue Hill and Eliot Tower is about as high as you will get, and that’s only 635 feet. Don’t underestimate this hike though. You will do a *lot* of up and down. All the climbing and descending the myriad hills that make up the Blue Hills Reservation make this an energetic and demanding hike. If you added up all the elevation gain, it’s probably not too far off climbing one of the 4,000 footers up in New Hampshire.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to some spectacular open views of Boston and the surrounding area, as well as traversing some dramatically beautiful forests and groves. And you will most likely not be alone. Blue Hills is close, convenient, and a popular hiking destination. You’ll see everything from a guy wearing jeans and work boots carrying a large Dunkin iced to lean point-to-point hikers with top shelf hiking boots and hydration systems and everything in between.
And if you get turned around in the Blue Hills Reservation (which has happened to me about ¾ of times I’ve been in there, if I’m being completely honest!), have a map with you and you can locate yourself with absolute precision at any of the myriad numbered intersections. This is extremely helpful. The trails are often fairly well marked, but there are truly dozens of them all intersecting and overlapping. The trail network is not unlike the paved roads around Boston, which I once heard brilliantly described as resembling a plate of spilled linguine.
#59 Charles River
On the absolute polar opposite end of the spectrum from the Blue Hills Skyline Trail, the Charles River hike—well, it’s really a walk but a lovely walk—is flat, save for a few sets of stairs, and right in the heart of Boston. Again, this is a lovely walk that spans a good section of the Charles and takes you past gardens, playgrounds, boat docks and many other notable Boston and Cambridge landmarks like the classic Fenway Citgo sign and the domed cap of MIT.
Plan this hike for a sunny lazy Sunday; perhaps the day after doing something like the Blue Hills or Middlesex Fells Skyline trails. Again, it’s more of a walk than a hike, but it’s a walk well worth taking.
#60 Crane Beach
Crane Beach was the last research hike I did for the Boston book. It was a calm, warm fall afternoon. I was on my way to Maine. To say I was relaxed would be a colossal understatement. This is also the only hike that I did completely barefoot. You start off down the cool smooth sands of Crane Beach, then head into the dunes.
Plan ahead and spend some time at Crane Beach before during and/or after your hike. I used to go to Crane Beach a lot when I was a kid. I had truly forgotten how spectacular Crane Beach is, with its long sweeping reach out into the often calm waters of the Atlantic; the clean, smooth sand; the gentle ease into the ocean (unlike some of the steep angled beaches of Plum Island and the outer Cape); and of course the network of trails winding through the dune sea. You could easily spend all day here.
As I took my final steps off the beach, I was at once relieved as this was my last hike for the Boston book, but also a touch of melancholy. This was a colossal project, but it was truly a labor of love. Every hike brought something different and something special. Now I can go back and retrace some of my favorites, *without* having to take notes and pictures. I’ve enjoyed the trek. I hope you do as well.