Whether you dream of squeezing in a weeknight camping trip, or eking out every second of your weekend, Blue Hills Reservation is your Boston-area destination. Blue Hills is a 7,000-acre state park that’s (incredibly) only 15 minutes from the center of Boston (the skyline’s visible from higher points in the park) and offers year-round outdoor fun. The park is flanked by two dozen of the tallest hills in the Blue Hills Chain, including the 635-foot tall Great Blue Hill. The rocky, lush landscape is home to 125 miles of hiking trails that snake through pine trees and travel between marshes and meadows.
Originally inhabited by the Massachusett tribe, or “people of the great hills,” the Blue Hills were named by European settlers and designated as a reservation in 1893. Though ‘reservation’ is often associated with places that Native Americans were sent after being forcibly removed from their own land, in this case, it refers to ‘reserve’ land for public recreation, now managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. And the opportunities for recreation are robust. Swimming, mountain biking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, climbing and birding: There’s truly an activity for everyone to enjoy their time at Blue Hills.
From Boston, pack up your gear and provisions and head south on Interstate 93 for about 10 miles toward Milton. There’s a single road that runs through the Blue Hills, making it simple to access any of its attractions. Parking is free at the Houghton's Pond parking lot.
Camp in one of the rustic cabins or tent sites at Ponkapoag Pond, which are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club and located along the banks of the 230-acre pond. There are 20 cabins of various sizes that sleep two to seven people (starting at $210 for a weeklong summer rental for a two-person cabin). The cabins have bunks with mattresses (bring your own bedding), a table and chairs, and a wood stove, but no electricity or running water. The two tent sites on the property cost $100 for a weeklong rental.
The nearby waterfront offers easy access to recreation: swimming, fishing, and paddling, not to mention more hiking trails. In the winter, guests can snowshoe, hike, and cross-country ski if conditions permit. There’s also a lodge on the property that guests can use to recharge (or to charge up device batteries). Campers will want to bring their own stove, lanterns, drinking water, and dishes. Reservations are old-school: first call 781-961-7007 to check availability and then mail in a reservation form. Priority goes to those who’ve contributed 15 volunteer hours over the previous year. For more reservation info, visit ponkapoagcamp.org.