Paddling Boston’s Cochituate State Park

Photo: John Phelan

Launch a kayak, canoe, or SUP on quiet flatwater, and leave your worries in your wake.

Looking for an easy place to SUP, kayak, or canoe near Boston? Try Cochituate State Park, located just 10 minutes from nearby Framingham, Mass. The park’s centerpiece is three linked ponds—called North, Middle and South lakes—which together form sprawling Lake Cochituate. The abundant flatwater and gorgeous green shorelines make it a perfect place to learn how to paddle, go for a swim, or cast a line—all within an hour’s drive of Beantown.  

Park History 

Lake Cochituate was created in 1863 as a result of the Lake Cochituate Dam. The lake was then connected to the 14-mile Cochituate Aqueduct, which provided the city’s first major water supply system. Then, in 1951 it was replaced by the larger Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoir supplies. Fittingly, the dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (look for its former aqueduct gatehouse on the lake’s east side).  

Today, the historic lake is primarily a recreation destination. And there, too, it’s been well utilized for years. “We’ve used Cochituate for our sea kayak tune-up event for more than 15 years,” says Jeff Barrell of local paddling club AMC Boston Paddlers. “The water in Cochituate warms up faster than the ocean,” he explains, which makes it perfect for practicing rescues. (Want to get involved? The club hosts paddling socials at the park throughout the summer.) 

Getting There 

To get to Cochituate State Park from Boston, take Interstate 90 West to Exit 117. Then take Cochituate Road going east. You’ll see the parking area on your right just before the road crosses back over the highway. 

Parking and Permits 

The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. If you’re visiting on a summer weekend, consider arriving early, or reserving your entrance online; sometimes the park closes due to capacity limits. The entrance fee is $8 for Massachusetts residents and $30 for out-of-towners. 

Where To Launch and Paddle 

Paddlecraft launching is limited to the Middle Lake, but you can access the other lakes by paddling through channels and under roadways. And you should: North Pond is home to quiet coves and sandy beaches, and South Pond offers access to a wooded walking trail if you need a break to stretch your legs.  

Boat Rentals 

Need a boat or board for the day? No problem—the Natick Boathouse, located at the Middle Lake boat ramp—rents canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards. You can sign up for lessons and guided tours at the boat house, too.  

Other Activities

When your arms are good and tired, switch gears and head to the Snake Brook Trail for a pleasant, 1.5-mile hike along the shore (the trailhead is on the south side of Commonwealth Road and is accessible from the Cochituate North Lot). Another great option: Bring your bike and ride the Cochituate Rail Trail, which starts at the Navy Yard parking area and runs along the lake on the former track's right-of-way. 

Then, to end the day on a high note, plan to grill out at one of the park’s several picnic areas and watch the sun set over the lake. Now, that’s a weekend done right. More Info: 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.