HIKING TRAILS NORTH OF BOSTON

Crane Beach, Ipswich Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester shoreline at the Coolidge Reservation, Manchester By The Sea

Welcome to the Newenglandwaterfalls.com guide to hiking trails on the North Shore of Massachusetts!

Although the North Shore of Massachusetts lacks any noteworthy mountains, there are hundreds of miles of trails here that can lead you to hillside vistas, past salt marshes and vernal pools, through farmland, and along the shorelines of quiet ponds. One of the most attractive things about hiking in this region is an almost complete lack of crowds-it's not uncommon to hike for many miles on a beautiful weekend day and see few, if any, other people. And did I mention that most parks in this area are completely free?

If your plan is to hike or explore the North Shore area of Massachusetts, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the latest edition of these long-trusted and excellent guidebooks: 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Boston and AMC's Best Day Hikes Near Boston. These two guidebooks offer detailed instructions and maps to nearly all of the areas listed below.




PROPERTY / HIKING AREA
LOCATION MANAGED BY COST TO VISIT? TOTAL MILES OF TRAILS DESCRIPTION / NOTES
AGASSIZ ROCK Manchester-by-the-Sea The Trustees of Reserv. free 0.8 mile a short but semi-steep loop trail visits a large glacial erractic sitting on a hill from the last Ice Age; avoid these trails after heavy rains
APPLETON FARMS Hamilton / Ipswich The Trustees of Reserv. free 5 miles beautiful mix of farmlands and woodsy trails; connects to other trail systems, including the 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail
AVIS CONSERVATION LANDS Andover town of Andover free 30+ miles*** there are several excellent conservation properties in Andover, many of which are interconnected; some of the finest hiking opportunities on the North Shore
BALD HILL CONSERVATION AREA Boxford ECGA free 19 miles** connects with Boxford State Forest & Boxford Wildlife Sanctuary to offer a combined 19 miles of trails
BAY CIRCUIT TRAIL various towns/cities Varies free 200 miles a fantastic and varied 200-mile trail that loops around Boston; most will use two vehicles at a time and hike it in 5-10 mile segments; see Amazon.com for a great map & guide to the trail
BOXFORD STATE FOREST Boxford State of MA free 19 miles** connects with Bald Hill Conservation Area & Boxford Wildlife Sanctuary to offer a combined 19 miles of trails
BOXFORD WILDLIFE SANCTUARY Boxford ECGA free 19 miles** connects with Bald Hill Conservation Area & Boxford State Forest to offer a combined 19 miles of trails
BRADLEY PALMER STATE PARK Topsfield State of MA free 20 miles can easily be connected with Willowdale State Forest; park also includes a small children's waterpark (fee charged); popular with horses
BREAKHEART RESERVATION Saugus State of MA free 9 miles has a nice mix of paved (including a 2.5 mile paved loop) and unpaved hiking trails; the park also has a lake beach with a swimming area
BROOKSBY FARM Peabody City of Peabody free 3-4 miles farm and conservation property with several miles of trails through woodlands and farmland
CHEBACCO WOODS / GORDON COLLEGE Hamilton / Wenham Chebacco Woods LMC / Gordon College free 5+ miles small network of trails that passes through evergreen and deciduous woodlands and visit several small ponds
COOLIDGE RESERVATION Manchester-by-the-Sea The Trustees of Reserv. free 1 mile visit Friday-Monday so that you can visit the beautiful Ocean Lawn and a small section of Atlantic Ocean shoreline; Ocean Lawn is a gorgeous spot
CRANE BEACH Ipswich The Trustees of Reserv. a fee is charged 6+ miles trails on and through sand dunes and along a pristine beach (one of Massachusetts' best beaches); beware of ticks, which run rampant here
DANVERS RAIL TRAIL Danvers Varies free 10+ miles* part of a continuous 10+ mile unpaved rail trail between Peabody and Topsfield; excellent for walking, hiking, running and mountain biking (hybrid bikes are OK too)
DOGTOWN Gloucester city of Gloucester free 15+ miles arguably the best hiking on Cape Ann; don't miss the Whale's Jaw or the famous Babson Boulders (more than 30 boulders with words of advice and inspiration carved into them); this park is extremely large, so find and bring a good map
GEORGETOWN-ROWLEY STATE FOREST Georgetown / Rowley State of MA free 15+ miles offers a variety of hiking trails on both sides of the I-95 interstate; make sure you bring a map as getting lost in this huge state forest is rather esay
HALIBUT POINT STATE PARK Rockport State of MA a fee is charged 2 miles a 2-mile loop passes old granite quarries and passes beautiful views of the rocky Cape Ann coastline; finding a parking spot can be near impossible on summer weekends (employees or local police will divert you away if the parking lot is full)
HAROLD PARKER STATE FOREST North Andover State of MA free 35+ miles mix of paved and unpaved trails; passes by several peaceful ponds; the state forest also offers a car campground
INDEPENDENCE GREENWAY Peabody City of Peabody free 8 miles this paved path is made up of three separate segments; two sections are completely paved, and one is unpaved; most of this trail is good for walking/hiking, biking and rollerblading
IPSWICH RIVER WILDLIFE SANCTUARY Topsfield Mass Audubon a fee is charged 12+ miles trails that pass wetlands and marshes; don't miss the grotto-like setting found along the Rockery Trail; an excellent birding spot (I've seen owls here)
J. C. PHILLIPS NATURE PRESERVE Beverly / Wenham city of Beverly free 2 miles includes a nice 1.5 mile loop, plus diversions to nice lake views and historic ruins; an excellent place for trail running
LAKE QUNNAPOWITT Wakefield city of Wakefield free 3.1 mile loop not hiking per-se, but don't miss the lovely (paved) walk around this lake; easy access from I-95/MA 128; don't miss the Fred's Franks food truck after your exercise is over (you might want to go around the lake twice to make plenty of room)
LOWELL-DRACUT-TYNGSBORO STATE FOREST Lowell / Dracut / Tyngsboro State of MA free 6 miles hiking and mountain biking trails past ponds, swamps, and wetlands
LYNN WOODS RESERVATION Lynn city of Lynn free 30 miles one of the premier hiking destinations in eastern Massachusetts; great views of Boston from a historic tall stone tower (when it's open to the public); bring a flashlight in case you find 'Dungeon Rock' (a cave that is often (but not always) open on Saturdays); don't let the fact that this park is in Lynn turn you off-it is a fantastic park and urban areas all over the country should be jealous
MANCHESTER-ESSEX WOODS Manchester / Essex MECT free 5+ miles hike around swamps, past vernal pools, and through pretty woods; the MECT organization sells a good and detailed trail map
MARBLEHEAD RAIL TRAIL Salem / Marblehead city of Salem / Marblehead free 4.1 miles this rail trail offers a mix of paved and unpaved surfaces; you can easily extend beyond the trail to explore parts of Marlbehead (including a beach)
MAUDSLAY STATE PARK Newburyport State of MA free 15+ miles Maudslay has a mix of hiking trails and old carriage roads; views of the Merrimack River; bald eagle sightings are fairly common in winter
MIDDLESEX FELLS RESERVATION various towns/cities State of MA free 100+ miles one of the premier hiking destinations in eastern Massachusetts; don't miss the rugged 7-mile Skyline Trail (a loop) and the Rock Circuit Trail; there are several rocky outlooks in the park that offer good views of Boston
OLD TOWN HILL Newbury The Trustees of Reserv. free 3 miles views of a salt marsh, open fields and woodlands; views of Plum Island
PARKER RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE Newburyport U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service a fee is charged 3 miles one of the premier birding sites in the Northeast; several short hikes plus opportunity to walk for miles on uncrowded beach (when its open); don't miss the boardwalk and firetower lookouts; snowy owls in winter
RAVENSWOOD PARK Gloucester The Trustees of Reserv. free 10+ miles lovely hiking trails plus some boardwalks and several old carriage roads; some (limited) views of the Atlantic Ocean
TOPSFIELD LINEAR COMMON RAIL TRAIL Topsfield town of Topsfield free 10+ miles* part of a continuous 10+ mile unpaved rail trail between Peabody and Topsfield; excellent for walking, hiking, running and mountain biking (hybrid bikes are OK too)
WARD RESERVATION Andover The Trustees of Reserv. free 10+ miles highlights include interesting stones and great views of Boston from atop Holt Hill; another trail that stems from the parking lot on Prospect Road visits a bog
WEIR HILL RESERVATION North Andover The Trustees of Reserv. free 4 miles includes a popular and pleasant 2.5 mile loop
WENHAM RAIL TRAIL Wenham town of Wenham free 10+ miles* part of a continuous 10+ mile unpaved rail trail between Peabody and Topsfield; excellent for walking, hiking, running and mountain biking (hybrid bikes are OK too)
WILLOWDALE STATE FOREST Ipswich State of MA free 40+ miles extensive trail system that is popular with hikers and mountain bikers; can easily be connected with Bradley Palmer State Park
WINNEKENNI PARK Haverhill Winnekenni Castle free 9 miles trails surrounding a historic castle and along the shoreline of a lake

*there are 10+ miles of trails when you combine these interconnected unpaved rail trails
**there are 19 miles of trails when you connect Bald Hill Conservation Area, Boxford State Forest & Boxford Wildlife Sanctuary
***only some properties in the AVIS system are interconnected; the 30 miles represents the total miles managed under the entire AVIS trail system

Crane Beach, Ipswich
Crane Beach, Ipswich

TIPS FOR HIKING IN AREAS NORTH OF BOSTON



1. BRING A MAP - most of the parks mentioned above do not all have a well-blazed or marked trail system. If you are used to hiking trails that have every junction well-marked with an obvious and intuitive trail sign, you may be surprised how infrequently you find that here. The good news is that most of these parks have trail maps you can download on the internet (for free) from their respective websites. In addition, the 2015 Bay Circuit Trail maps also shows most trails in the region.
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2. USE TREKKING POLES -
Save your knees so that you can still hike when you are in your 70's (tip: use trekking poles 100% of the time).
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3. BEWARE OF VEHICLE BREAK-INS - Don't leave anything valuable in your car. Although relatively rare in the heavily-populated Northeastern Massachusets, break-ins do occur at traiheads from time to time.
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4. CARRY APPROPRIATE FOOD - Carry the appropriate type and amount of food based on the season you are hiking in (some foods will melt in summer, and some foods become rock-solid in winter) and the length of your hike.
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5. GET AN REI MEMBERSHIP - Purchase a $20 REI membership to save 8-10% on all full-price REI purchases for the rest of your life (you have no idea how much time you'll probably spend at their stores and on Rei.com). Also, strongly consider applying for the REI credit card (you can earn hundreds of dollars in dividends each year if you use this credit card as your primary card for your non-REI purchases).
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6. GET SOME ELECTROLYTES - Bring some Gatorade (or something similar) to get some electrolytes into your system. This is especially important on hot and humid days.
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7. MEETUP.COM - If you are short on hiking partners, consider joining a Meetup hiking group (there are several groups and they always have good hikes planned) or ask for partners on a local Facebook hiking 'group'. Once you attend a few of these social hikes, you will likely make enough connections to hike with a few select people that you bond with.
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8. BUGS - Bugs can be a real nuisance in this region throughout the entire warm-weather hiking season, although some days they are there, some days they are not. Common annoyances include: ticks (especially in spring), greenheads (near the ocean for a period of 2-3 weeks in summer typically), deer flies, and mosquitoes. You'll probably want to bring some DEET spray with you. And always check yourself for ticks after each hike.
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9. CATCH A SUNRISE OR SUNSET - Catch a sunset or sunrise from a scenic vista (bring at least one headlamp to help you get back to your vehicle safely).
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10. BRING A REAL CAMERA - Don't forget your camera, and remember to label the pictures after you are done with each hike (you'll want to capture these moments). I recommend that you bring a real point-and-shoot or DSLR camera instead of taking pictures with your smart-phone. The reason is because the camera resolution on your smart-phone will not look good on tablet and computer monitors 10 or 20 years from now. Photos from smart-phones generally don't print or enlarge very well, either.
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11. WINTER SEASON - trails are generally snow and ice free in Northeastern Massachusetts from April through November.
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12. ELEVATION GAIN - although there are no significant mountains in Northeastern Massachusetts, many trails have enough rocky ups and downs to make the trails seem much harder than they would appear based upon mileage.
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13. HIKING CROWDS - generally speaking, there are little or no crowds on the trails in this region. Enjoy the solitude!
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14. DOGS/PETS - although many of the parks above allow pets, many require them to be on-leash. A few select parks allow dogs off-leash or have a long-history of tolerating well-behaved dogs off-leash.
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15. THE TRUSTEES OF RESERVATION - become familiar with this outstanding non-profit conservation rganization. They have more than 100 conservation properties across the state of Massachusetts, many of which offer fantastic hiking trails. There are a half-dozen or so reservations north of Boston that offer great hiking trails.

Crane Beach, Ipswich
Crane Beach, Ipswich

TOP TEN PLACES TO HIKE NORTH OF BOSTON



Here are my top ten favorite places to hike north of Boston:
  • AVIS Conservation Lands (there are many AVIS properties, and some are interconnected)
  • Bay Circuit Trail (this 230-mile long trail has many excellent sections)
  • Dogtown
  • Harold Parker State Forest
  • Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Lynn Woods Reservation
  • Middlesex Fells Reservation
  • Ravenswood Park
  • Ward Reservation
  • Willowdale State Forest
Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester
Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester

Skull Rock, Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn
Skull Rock, Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn

Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield
Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield

Halibut Point State Park, Rockport
Halibut Point State Park, Rockport

J.C. Phillips Nature Preserve, Wenham
J.C. Phillips Nature Preserve, Wenham

Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester
Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester

Dungeon Rock, Lynn Woods Reservation
Dungeon Rock, Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn

bridge over the Ipswich River, Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield
bridge over the Ipswich River, Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield

Appleton Farms, Hamilton
Appleton Farms, Hamilton

Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester
Babson Boulders, Dogtown, Gloucester

walking the Bay Circuit Trail in Hamilton
walking the Bay Circuit Trail in Hamilton

Halibut Point State Park, Rockport
Halibut Point State Park, Rockport

Stone Tower, Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn
Stone Tower, Lynn Woods Reservation, Lynn

Holt Hill, Ward Reservation, Andover
Holt Hill, Ward Reservation, Andover

Danvers Rail Trail, Danvers
Danvers Rail Trail, Danvers

HELPFUL LINKS



Here are some helpful links that relate to hiking trails north of Boston:
  • Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway = link
  • Essex County Trail Association = link
  • Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust = link
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society = link
  • Massachusetts State Parks = link
  • The Trustees of Reservations = link
  • Town of Andover: AVIS = link

HIKING GUIDEBOOKS



The following guidebooks are the most trusted resources that will guide you to great hikes north of Boston. Click on either book to read reviews and/or to purchase them on Amazon.com. I personally own (and love) each of these two guidebooks.











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