Fall Season in Jamaican Pond

Adventures in Boston’s Emerald Necklace

Photo: Surabhi Surendra/Shutterstock

Your guide to immersive adventure right in the heart of Boston.

Bostoners: If you’re itching to get outdoors, look no further than your own backyard. Established in the late 1800s, the Emerald Necklace is a series of nine downtown parks connected via a system of biking and walking paths. The chain winds about 7 miles from the historic heart of downtown Boston to the neighboring city of Brookline, providing a cumulative 1,100 acres of public space that’s easily accessible from much of south and central Boston. Whether you’re looking for a quiet moment on the waterfront, a long walk, or a scenic bike commute, the Emerald Necklace has you covered. Check out the following favorite activities to do in the parks. 

Learn Some Boston History

The Emerald Necklace was the work of 19th-century visionary Frederick Law Olmsted—the same landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park. While a few of the Necklace’s parks, like the colonial-era Boston Common, had already been established, Olmsted did much to improve and expand the park system. 

The Emerald Necklace was officially completed in 1895. Today, it includes (from downtown, north to southwest) Boston Common, the Public Gardens, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park.

Fish for Trout

The best place to cast a line along the Emerald Necklace is Jamaica Pond. Glaciers formed this 65-acre kettle pond during the last ice age, carving out a trough 51 feet deep. The pond is stocked each spring and fall with trout and salmon, but anglers commonly reel in chain pickerel, yellow perch, and bluegill, as well. For the best access, park on Perkins Street to the west of the pond and approach the shore from there.

Note: Private boats are not allowed on the water, so you’ll have to cast from shore or rent a boat (see tips below). A Massachusetts fishing license is required.

Massachusetts Boston Arnold Arboretum

Paddle Jamaica Pond 

While private boats aren’t allowed on Jamaica Pond, there are still plenty of opportunities to paddle or sail. The public boathouse on the east side of the pond is open seven days a week from Patriots Day (the third Monday of every April) to Halloween, and rents rowboats, kayaks, and sailboats. Choose your craft, then hit the water. Be sure to keep an eye out for ducks and swans cruising along the shore. 

New to boating? Consider booking a lesson from the nonprofit Courageous Sailing, which runs robust educational programming on the lake.  

Tour by Bike

Explore each individual park, or get a full tour of the Emerald Necklace from the saddle of your bike. (Consider consulting this map from the Emerald Necklace Conservancy before you head out.) It’s a little over 14 miles to circumnavigate the whole park system. There are a few road crossings involved, but most of the journey takes place on protected multi-use paths or designated bike lanes.

For a shorter loop with zero road crossings, consider riding the 2.5 miles around the golf course in Franklin Park, Boston’s largest open space. Start by parking in the Sausage Lot near the clubhouse, then hop on the loop trail from there.  

Go Urban Hiking

Each of the Emerald Necklace’s parks are crisscrossed with both paved and unpaved paths perfect for exploring. 

For a quick, 1.5-mile loop, enter the northeast corner of Riverway Park on Park Drive. Walk south along one side of the river, then walk back north along the other. Bonus: This loop has the public-transit benefit of being accessible by two (MBTA trolley) T stops along the way, the Longwood stop on the Green D Line and the Fenway stop on the Green D Line. 

Get Botanical 

To get lost among the trees, visit the 281-acre Arnold Arboretum (parking is free along the Arborway). First established in 1872, the Arnold is the oldest arboretum in North America. Most people visit in spring to see the cherry trees blossom, or in fall for a fiery color show. But with more than 15,000 plants on the grounds, you’ll find something to surprise you no matter the time of year.

To get a better look at it all, climb to the top of Peters Hill—the highest point in the Emerald Necklace. Soak in the view of the gardens and the Boston skyline beyond.

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.