Blue Hills Reservation: Boston’s Backwoods

The bustling, twisting, paved streets of Boston that wind between tall buildings and through interconnecting suburbs and cities make it hard to believe that there could be any sort of wilderness area left in the region. Having experienced the vast nothingness, yet profoundly somethingness of the Alaskan frontier, the Great Plains, the California Coast, the deserts of the southwest, the evergreen forests of British Columbia, the jungles of the Amazon Basin… Our suburbia; this crowded corner of the continent we call ‘New England,’ was set in my mind as a place without.

But Alas. A not too-small section of northeastern woods remains largely untouched during the last 400 or so years. The Blue Hills Reservation, a 7,000 acre park a short drive south of Boston, received its name from the bluish hue of the rocky hills that were visible to early settlers arriving by boat from Europe. The ‘blue’ color comes from Riebeckite which formed millions of years earlier when lava flows started to cool over what is now Massachusetts. Today those rocks provide for some surprisingly engaging hiking along the parks premier hiking trail, ‘Skyline Ridge Trail,’ giving hikers more than one opportunity to scramble up craggy ledges before providing them with amazing views of the Boston skyline, Quincy & Hingham Bay, Boston Harbor, and surrounding forests and hills.

The ecology of the park is also surprisingly diverse, including a rare white cedar swamp (with associated boardwalk) and a number of endangered animal species including the Timber Rattlesnake. To take it all in, one can easily park at any of the many tail heads and set off for a short loop hike or a all day through-hike on the Skyline Trail. Or, for those seeking a more leisurely time in the woods, the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a large number of rustic cabins along Ponkapoag Pond in the south section of the reservation.

Natalie and I decided to stay in one of the little cabins a few weeks back. At $50 per weekend, and $10 for all the firewood you’ll need to keep the wood stove hot and glowing – it was certainly a cost-effective solution for getting out the city while staying close to home. To get this deal you’ll need to book a cabin with the local AMC staff via snail mail at least a month in advance in order to hold your place, and make sure it’s in their ‘off season,’ which runs from fall through late June when kids get out of school and families head to the hills for some cheap and easy family vacation time. You can’t beat the majesty, variety, and expanse of the White Mountains, but with all things considered, the Blue Hills do impress.

For more pictures see Natalie’s Facebook Album: HERE

2 Responses to “Blue Hills Reservation: Boston’s Backwoods”
  1. Judy jacobs says:

    I love reading folks who write about how great the Blue Hills are! If you’d like to post on our FaceBook page ( or add photos to our flickr group ( – that would be great!

    Thanks for your write-up of Ponkapoag.

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