Greater Boston’s metropolitan park system is one of the world’s best-known networks of greenspace. It includes the famed Emerald Necklace, as well as a smattering of city and state parks. However, the city’s crowning achievement is its bigger swaths of urban greenspace—and the gems in that crown are its reservations.
Boston’s reservations are sprawling patches of forest and field that together constitute several thousand acres of preserved land. First conceived of in 1893, the reservation system has a long history, marked with the fingerprints of some of the nation’s greatest city planners and landscape architects. (Of course, any account of these reserve lands would be incomplete without noting how their original inhabitants, the Massachusett and Pawtucket tribes, were forced from them before having a chance to propose their own management plans.) Today, the system consists of seven wooded reserves, three riverside reserves, and 10 ocean reserves.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation manages these parks to preserve their natural character. That means you’ll find everything from freshwater marshes to flowering meadows to dense hardwood forest. Each park has its own personality, but they all have one thing in common: Once you’re in them, it’s easy to forget that you’re within Boston city limits at all.
Thanks to that dedicated management, the reservations provide critical habitat for birds and wildlife—and offer some of some of the city’s best hiking. Here are a few favorite trails that stand out most.
Blue Blaze Trail (1.8 miles)
Circumnavigate Wilson Mountain Reservation’s eponymous hilltop on this blue-blazed loop trail. The entire route covers just 200 feet of elevation gain, making it perfect for a pre-brunch stroll or family jaunt. To do it, park in the lot off Common Street and pick up the Blue Blaze Trail going counterclockwise. Keep an eye out for bushy rhododendrons (blooming May and June), white-tailed deer, and songbirds. (If you want to bag the actual summit, take the red-blazed spur trail to the top about halfway through the hike.)