Recreation Bureau Chief, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
Cool temperatures and invigorating hikes go together like chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers in a fireside ’smore. Fortunately, no matter where you are in
Massachusetts, you’re not far from a DCR state park or reservation offering great opportunities to enjoy a wonderful walk to inspirational views. Here are a few of my favorites.
Buck Hill – Blue Hills Reservation – Milton
- Start at the Houghton’s Pond parking lot off Hillside Street in Milton to begin your ascent of 486-foot Buck Hill in DCR’s Blue Hills Reservation. You’ll follow the Skyline Trail (heading east) as you take on this roughly two-mile climb. You’ll actually make three climbs during this hike: first Tucker Hill, then North Boyce Hill, and finally Buck Hill. The view from Buck Hill is spectacular, and the summit is a classic example of a “rocky outcrop,” rare in the Commonwealth.
- There are plenty of hedge-like plants, such as blueberries, and very few trees (only one or two pitch pines), providing a 360-degree view a clear day! The hike to the summit will take about an hour for the average hiker.
- As an alternative, there is limited off-road parking off Route 28 on the east side of Buck Hill. From here, it takes about 10 minutes on the Skyline Trail to get to the top. It’s steep (there are rock steps all the way to the top) but quick for those who want a heart-pumping workout.
- More information about Blue Hills.
Mt. Sugarloaf State Reservation – South Deerfield
- The vehicle access road up Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield closes after Columbus Day, but the paved road to the 651-foot summit is as busy as ever as pedestrians take over the steep, mile-long access road. Park in the lot at the foot of the mountain along Sugarloaf Street just off Route 116 in South Deerfield.
- While still a good physical workout, the winding paved road offers a somewhat easier climb for families with young children or those who may be less comfortable on rugged woodland trails. From the summit, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful views in Massachusetts, as the Connecticut River carves through the checkerboard of valley farmlands and white-steepled villages. An elevated viewing platform lets you get even higher above the valley floor 500 feet below. The hike to the summit takes half an hour or so.
- More information about Mt. Sugarloaf.
Saddle Ball and Mt. Greylock – Mt. Greylock State Reservation – Lanesborough & Adams
- If you’re looking for good climbs, consider tackling the state’s highest and second-highest peaks. At 3,491 feet and 3,232 feet respectively, Mt Greylock and Saddle Ball Mountain rank No. 1 and No. 2 in elevation in Massachusetts.
- A wonderful route to get them both is from the Jones Nose parking lot off of Rockwell Road in the Mt. Greylock State Reservation. The 3½-mile hike leads through grassy meadows before steeply climbing through hardwoods toward the Saddle Ball summit. Near the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, you’ll begin to encounter a red spruce/balsam fir forest, a unique landscape in Massachusetts. Follow the Appalachian Trail through the lush forest to the Mt. Greylock summit.
- Plan on four to five hours round trip for this spectacular hike. Check the weather before you venture out to the trail, Rockwell Road is open under weather permitting conditions.
- More information about Mt. Greylock.
Hiking in a Massachusetts state park or reservation is a great way to exercise and socialize. Take your family and friends out to enjoy one of these walks soon.