Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Nestled amidst the bustling cityscape of Boston, Massachusetts, lies a collection of pristine state parks that offer a serene escape from the metropolitan hustle and bustle.
Massachusetts, with its rich historical heritage and picturesque landscapes, boasts an array of state parks that entice both locals and visitors to explore the great outdoors. From tranquil lakeshores and dense woodlands to historic sites steeped in the nation’s history, these state parks offer a diverse range of recreational activities and scenic beauty, making them perfect destinations for those seeking respite and adventure just a stone’s throw away from the vibrant heart of Boston.
In this article, we’ll embark on a journey through some of the most captivating state parks in the Greater Boston area, so you can get a taste of everything the city and its surrounding area has to offer.
Adams National Historical Park
Quincy, Massachusetts, roughly a 20-minute drive away from the city of Boston, is home to the Adams National Historical Park. The park most famously preserves the home of United States presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as Charles Francis Adams, Henry Adams, and Brooks Adams.
The Adams National Historical Park and its eleven buildings tell the story of five generations of the Adams family, and although said buildings are the main focal point of the park, the grounds of the park additionally offer a sense of serenity just a short drive out of Boston.
Alewife Brook Reservation
Just under 10 miles from the city is the Alewife Brook Reservation, which offers visitors the chance to hike a well-groomed trail that meanders its way through Cambridge, Arlington, and Medford. As you walk or cycle the path, you’ll almost instantly forget that you’re just 20 minutes from the center of Boston, as the reservation truly provides a slice of country amidst the hustle and bustle.
One of the most popular pastimes at Alewife Brook, aside from hiking, is birdwatching. So be sure to bring your binoculars to improve your chances of spotting the area’s various bird species.
Beaver Brook Reservation
The Beaver Brook Reservation is around a 25-minute drive from Boston, and its kid-friendly playground, splash area, and wading pool have made it a popular State Park choice for Boston families in need of a break from the city.
Whether you choose to picnic on the park’s fields, hike the park’s established trails, or set off cycling down the bike path, a day out at Beaver Brook Reservation offers a perfect respite out in nature.
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation
The Belle Isle Marsh Reservation is Boston’s last remaining salt marsh, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists alike. In just 15 minutes, you can escape the urban jungle and surround yourself with unique plants, interesting wildlife, and fresh air that your lungs will truly thank you for.
One of the highlights of Belle Isle Marsh Reservation is the observation tower that gives you uninterrupted views of the 130-acre marsh and the 250 bird species that call Belle Isle home.
Boston Harbor Islands
One of the best State Parks near Boston is the Boston Harbor Islands. Comprised of 34 islands and peninsulas, the Boston Harbor Islands provide breathtaking views of Boston Harbor, the area’s historical sites, and, of course, Boston’s skyline.
The islands really have something for everyone, as you can walk a Civil War-era fort, explore tide pools, visit historic lighthouses, hike one of many trails, fish, picnic, swim, and even camp right under the stars.
Getting to the islands does require a short ferry ride, but in my opinion, it is well worth it.
The Breakheart Reservation, just 20 minutes out of Boston, boasts 640 acres of forest with impeccable hiking trails, wildlife sightings, and various recreational activites that the whole family will love.
Whether you wish to take the plunge into Pearce Lake, cross-country ski come winter, or climb to the park’s vistas for the best views of Boston, Breakheart has you covered. There is even a playground, picnic areas, and a fenced-off dog leash area, so even your pooch can get involved in all the action.
History buffs will particularly enjoy Castle Island, which is just 14 minutes from Boston’s center. The island’s biggest draw is Fort Independence, the oldest continually fortified granite site in British North America, and whether you choose to take tours of the fort or stroll around at your leisure, you’ll learn plenty about how the fort provided harbor defenses for Boston.
With a playground, beaches, and a snack bar stocked with burgers, fries, ice cream, and beverages, you can spend the entire day on Castle Island enjoying the fresh sea air and immersing yourself in a slice of America’s history.
Charles River Reservation
One of Boston’s best-known parks is the Charles River Reservation, which has 20 miles of green space for residents and visitors to enjoy. Upon arriving at the reservation, you can take part in canoeing or kayaking down the Charles River, picnicking in one of the park’s shaded areas, or letting off some steam at the sports fields and playground.
And the best part is that the Charles River Reservation is just 10 minutes out of downtown Boston, making it the perfect location for those who don’t want to travel far.
Chestnut Hill Reservation
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir was created in 1870 to supplement the city of Boston’s water needs. Today, however, the reservoir is no longer needed as a water supply, but it has created a beautiful outdoor space for those in the Boston area to make use of.
Wrapping around the reservoir is a pleasant 1.5-mile walking trail that visitors regularly use for hiking, jogging, and biking. And depending on the season, you can also take a dip in the onsite swimming pool or practice your skating skills at the Riley Ice Rink.
Dorchester Shores Reservation
The Dorchester Shores State Park consists of three non-contiguous areas that total 44 acres with beaches and a park for visitors to enjoy. During your time at Dorchester Shores, you can take part in swimming, sports, picnicking, and fishing, while your little ones burn off their built-up energy in the playgrounds at Tenean and Savin Hill Beaches.
Halibut Point State Park
Slightly further from Boston is the Halibut Point State Park, which will take you roughly 55 minutes to reach by car. Although the drive is longer than other state parks near the city center, the lush forests, beautiful vistas, and unique natural rock formations make the journey to Halibut Point well worth it.
If you do plan on visiting the park, be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch with uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Hammond Pond Reservation
Just under 8 miles southwest of Boston is Hammond Pond, which features dozens of hiking trails and rock formations for climbers to practice their skills on. If you have your own personal watercraft, be sure to take it to the pond with you, as fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are popular past times out on the water.
Southwest Corridor Park
Another state park near Boston is the Southwest Corridor Park, which has quickly become popular amongst walkers, bikers, families, and tennis enthusiasts. With links to Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Back Bay, and South End, the park is easily accessible for many local residents. And with
With 11 playgrounds, two spray pools, seven basketball courts, five tennis courts, two street hockey rinks, two amphitheaters, and six miles of trails, it’s easy to understand why so many people flock to the park each and every day.
Quincy Shores Reservation
The Quincy Shores Reservation is just under 10 miles from Boston, and it may just be one of the most diverse state parks in the area. At Quincy Shores, visitors can explore the 2.3-mile-long beach, spot wildlife in the marshes, and learn all about how the Native Americans once used the area as a seasonal campground.
Walden Pond State Reservation
And the final of the best state parks near Boston is the Walden Pond State Reservation. The focal point of the park is the Walden Pond, which spans 335 acres and provides visitors with the perfect swimming hole for an afternoon summer dip.
The park originally became famous thanks to Henry David Thoreau, a historical writer, who lived in a cabin next to the water for two years. But even if literature doesn’t interest you, the glacial-formed pond—which just so happens to be the deepest natural pond in all of Massachusetts—is a sight to see all on its own.