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Blue Hills Reservation, a Summer Destination Second to None

Hiking, camping, swimming, and more within minutes of downtown Boston


Hiking enthusiasts owe a debt of gratitude to the Metropolitan Parks Commission of 1893, which had the foresight to set aside the 7,000 acres known as the Blue Hills Reservation for public use, making it possible for Bostonians to flee the city on a whim for a slice of wilderness as close as a suburban shopping mall.

Minutes from downtown, with 125 miles of trails, the reservation stretches over sections of Quincy, Dedham, Milton, and Randolph. In summer the 22 hills are carpeted in green, with rocky outcrops affording sweeping views of metropolitan Boston. Great Blue Hill, the highest at 635 feet, looms over a diverse expanse of bottomland forest, marsh, swamp, and Houghton’s Pond, where swimming is permitted. Rich in archaeological legacies of colonial and early American farmers and quarry workers, the Blue Hills were home to the Massachuset Indians, “people of the great hills,” for many centuries. With its varied terrain, the reservation is a sanctuary for coyotes, copperhead snakes, turkey vultures, and the endangered timber rattlesnake. The Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center, which sits at the top of Great Blue Hill, is a National Historic Landmark and is open to visitors. The observatory has kept the longest continuous daily weather record in the United States, dating back to 1885. The Blue Hills Trailside Museum, the interpretive center for the reservation, is managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Some of the many other ways to enjoy the Blue Hills: canoeing on Ponkapoag Pond and the Neponset River, camping in Appalachian Mountain Club cabins, fishing (state license required), mountain biking in designated areas, and rock climbing at the Quincy Quarries Historic Site.

Because of this year’s late winter storms, some trails may still be partially blocked by fallen debris. Parks personnel are working to remove the debris, but warn visitors to use caution on all trails.

The reservation is open dawn to dusk. Swimming is permitted only in designated areas at Houghton’s Pond. Permits are required for groups of 25 or more. For more information, call reservation headquarters at 617-698-1802. The Great Blue Hill and Houghton’s Pond sections are accessible by taking the Red Line to Ashmont station and from Ashmont, the high-speed line to Mattapan. The Canton and Blue Hills bus services the Trailside Museum and Great Blue Hill on Route 138. For the Houghton’s Pond area, exit the bus at Blue Hill River Road. Cross the road and walk one mile east on Hillside Street. Find a trail map and guide here.


4 Comments on Blue Hills Reservation, a Summer Destination Second to None

  • Bob Flagg on 12.19.2011 at 1:57 pm

    Nice article, it is a great place to visit and just a short drive from Boston. For those that want to give something back, you can join the Friends of the Blue Hills on their monthly trail maintenance event. We will provide all the tools and training and lunch is served at the end of the event. Visit the Friends website and select Programs to learn more information. Next event is Apr 21, 2012.

  • 2016 grad on 06.11.2017 at 1:18 am

    One of my best friend’s dads works here. Growing up we would go there during the day in the summertime because we weren’t enrolled in camp and couldn’t be home alone all day. It is so pretty :) And he is very passionate about his job.

  • Maureen on 07.13.2018 at 10:03 am

    My dad was a MDC Police Officer then a State Police Officer and actually lived here for about a year. It was super cool when we were growing up in the 70’s.

  • Steven on 07.15.2018 at 8:46 pm

    I would have been far more likely to visit it, if the place wasn’t a home for “the endangered timber rattlesnake”. Perhaps I the only one who feels that way…

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