Hingham, MA 02043
This gem of Boston’s South Shore features rolling hills and lovely views of Boston, just 15 miles away. The tree-lined carriage paths of this 251-acre oceanfront wonderland were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect who created “The Emerald Necklace” parks in Boston. World’s End features open fields, woodlands and rocky shores and is a great place for walking, enjoying a picnic, jogging and horseback riding. Hiking here is on the moderate level with four-and-a-half miles of carriage paths and footpaths. Benches, public restrooms and a drinking water fountain are available. Hikers should allow a minimum of two hours to enjoy World’s End. The landscape at this pristine oasis offers other special features such as “saltwater marshes, meadows, woodlands and granite ledges covered with red cedars and blueberry thickets,” according to information from The Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit organization that oversees the park. The park is open year round from 8 a.m. to sunset and is especially beautiful in spring and summer
Norwell, MA 02061
Laid-back hikers will love the two miles of easy walking trails at Norris Reservation. A low-key hike will take visitors past a former mill pond, across a wetlands boardwalk and into a forest of pine and oak. Hikers can discover a boathouse on the banks of the tidal North River along with an old water mill, a gurgling brook and surrounding wetland. Visitors can choose among several loop or out-and-back routes along carriage roads. A herring brook that winds along its western edge is a special feature. The park also has a riverside boathouse and several good picnic spots where hikers may catch a glimpse of wading birds, hawks and kingfishers. A walk by the Gordon’s Pond boardwalk may also reveal a glimpse of a beaver dam or a soundscape of hooting owls, treetop birds and wetland frogs. Norris Reservation is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
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Whitney and Thayer Woods
Cohasset and Hingham, MA 02043
This site features moderate hiking on 10 miles of carriage roads through hardwood forests and open fields. Excellent views of the South Shore and Boston skyline make this area truly special. Hikers can travel back in time, with sights such as boulders left by the last ice age and glacial formations, including “Ode’s Den” which got its name from a hermit who once lived under the rocks in the 1800s, according to information from the Trustees of Reservations website. In season the site’s Milliken Memorial Path bursts with flowers and plants including rhododendrons and azaleas. Whitney and Thayer Woods also features 62-acre Turkey Hill, which has a summit of almost 180 feet, offering hikers some excellent views. This wooded site is open daily, year round, from sunrise to sunset. Hikers should plan to spend at least two hours. Visitors may also want to visit Weir River Farm across the street, which is a great place to see horses, sheep and chickens. Plan for an additional hour to include spending time on the farm.
Ellsville Harbor State Park
Plymouth, MA 02360
Bask in the beauty of coastal New England at the Ellsville Harbor State Park in Plymouth. This is one of the most beautiful areas to hike south of Boston. A wide main trail of about 350 yards leads from a parking area to a rocky beach. Hikers have a variety of intriguing shoreline views of the beach and ocean including fishing boats at work. Visitors can also enjoy the salt marsh, bogs, forests and a meadow at Ellsworth Harbor State Park along with hiking, bird watching and beach walking. Harbor seals are a sight to see off-shore during the off season’s fall and winter months. This area is also full of history. According to the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), thousands of years ago, Native Americans lived on this land, sustaining themselves through hunting, gathering shellfish and fishing. Birdwatchers will appreciate the fact that endangered Piping Plovers and Least Terns make their homes on part of the beach. However, the Piping Plover and Least Term areas are not open to the public in the spring. Ellsville Harbor State Park also has a few side trails that allow visitors to see additional areas of the park. Visitors should be aware that there may be poison ivy along some trails, according to the DCR.
Mari DeAngelis is a freelance writer covering all things Boston. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.