Blue Hills State Reservation
Other Ideas: Boston Harbor Islands; Arnold Arboretum; Garden In The Woods: New England Wild Flower Society; Castle Island and Fort Independence; Breakheart Reservation
Rising above the horizon, Great Blue Hill reaches a height of 635 feet, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills chain. From the rocky summit visitors can see over the entire metropolitan area.
There is an extensive, well-marked and maintained trail system with miles of fire road, double and single track. There are great views of Boston and the South Shore from several hilltops. Other activities available include hiking, swimming, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing and horseback riding. At Houghton’s Pond, there is a designated swimming area and a refreshment stand.
Hiking in Blue Hills
A 2-mile loop trail leads to the summit of Great Blue Hill, which at 635 feet is the highest point in the Blue Hills, the largest open space within 35 miles of Boston. Along the way, enjoy your picnic at a table in the shade of the stone Eliot Tower, which you can climb for great views.
Biking in Blue Hills
Bike Riders visiting the Blue Hills for the first time should stop at the Reservation Headquarters on Hillside Street to pick up a free copy of the DCR’s Mountain Biking in the Blue Hills brochure. It has a map of open trails and shows closed trails in red. For $2 you can purchase a beautiful color map showing the entire reservation.
Blue Hills has a limited amount of novice terrain open to mountain bikers. The flattest and easiest trails are the short loop around Houghton’s Pond and “Old Route 128,” which is actually a paved road through trees on the edge of the reservation. The Burma Road trail in the Fowl Meadow is another beautiful dirt road that passes through the Neponset River marshes.
The Blue Hills
The Blue Hills were so named by early European explorers who, while sailing along the coastline, noticed the bluish hue on the slopes when viewed from a distance. More than ten thousand years before those Europeans arrived, Native Americans made their home in the hills. The Natives referred to themselves as Massachusett, or 'people of the great hills'. Eventually the Europeans began settling in this region. The colonists built houses and barns, cleared fields for crops and livestock and logged the hillsides for lumber.
In 1893, the Metropolitan Parks Commission purchased the lands of Blue Hills Reservation as one of the first areas set aside for public recreation. Today, the reservation is rich in both archaeological and historic resources. Sixteen historic structures listed on the National Register tell the fascinating tales of Native Americans, explorers, farmers, quarry workers and inventors. Additionally the Blue Hills Weather Observatory, a National Historic Landmark, sits atop Great Blue Hill, as a crowning feature.
The living treasures of the Blue Hills include flora, fauna and natural phenomena – from coyotes to copperheads, dogwoods to lady's slippers, and turkey vultures to dragonflies. Trails traverse upland and bottomland forests, marsh, swamp and pond edges, meadows and an Atlantic white cedar bog. A great variety of plant and animal life thrive in the diverse habitats, including several rare and endangered species in Massachusetts, such as the timber rattlesnake.
The reservation is open dawn to dusk. Swimming only at Houghton's Pond in designated areas. Permits required for groups of 25 or more.
695 Hillside Street, Reservation HQ, Milton, MA, 02186 map
The Great Blue Hill and Houghton's Pond sections are accessible from the Red Line to Ashmont Station. From Ashmont, take 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.
Take Route 93 to Exit 3, Houghton's Pond. Turn right at the stop sign onto Hillside Street. Houghton's Pond is located approximately 1/4 miles on the right; Continue 1/4 miles to the reservation headquarters on the left.
Great HikingIt's a very do-able hike for all ages! And the treat at the top is climbing the \castle\' as my kids like to call the tower... to see the beautiful view of our Commonwealth.
- Houghton’s Pond Family Fish Festival, 7/30/16
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