From following the wake of Thoreau to floating among New England’s colorful fall foliage, the Boston area provides ample opportunity for flatwater paddlers to dip a blade. And state parks—like the beloved Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots—are the region’s pride and joy when it comes to paddling. Aside from its heralded and historic Charles River corridor, a gaggle of these protected areas lie scattered around the city for a quick afternoon paddle workout or a fuller weekend excursion for the whole family. Start exploring this select handful of the best parks around greater Boston to wet your SUP, rec kayak, canoe or even fishing pedal-craft.
Ashland State Park — Ashland, MA
Though this state park packs a lot of recreational offerings in its 470 acres, 157 of them constitute the Ashland Reservoir—ideal for friendly paddle-powered outings. There’s plenty to make a day of a trip to the park that operates seasonally, including options for hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, as well as boating in all its non-motorized forms on the tree-lined reservoir. Launch your paddlecraft at the well-appointed boat ramp, which also includes wheelchair access to the beach, a bathhouse, plus picnic areas and trailheads for paths paralleling the shore. Parking is available mid-May to Labor Day ($8 daily for MA vehicles; $30 daily for out-of-state vehicles). Bonus: Exercise your legs afterward with a stroll on the loop trail around the reservoir. More info: mass.gov
Mystic Lakes State Park — Medford, MA
While this waterway has been altered since the 1800s when its shores were primarily salt marsh, Mystic Lakes State Park (just a northwest rock-skip away from Boston), is one of the Commonwealth’s best protected streams, with its twin lakes perfect for flatwater paddling. Open year-round, dawn to dusk, its banks are mostly publicly owned, meaning access is easy from a variety of points leading away from the Amelia Earhart Dam at the mouth of the Mystic Lakes. Note that Upper Mystic Lake is limited to paddling only, while the Lower Lake is open to wakeless powerboats. Want to try sailing? Sign up for a sailing program at the Tufts University Boathouse. More info: mass.gov