Hello and Happy Boston Week to all who observe!
One of my favorite things about Boston is the abundance of green space and its proximity to beaches and the White Mountains. But if you don’t feel like fighting I-93 traffic in either direction, there are plenty of outdoor options right here in the city. I lived in Boston for over a decade without a car, and over the years I explored many of the region’s walking/biking trails accessible by public transportation. Below is my list of recommended “urban hikes” and bike rides, including spots to relax with a cold one afterwards.
Minuteman Bikeway (Red Line, Davis Square)
If you’re looking for a pleasant bike ride away from Boston drivers, make your way over to the Minuteman Bikeway, which begins in Davis Square and takes you on a 10-mile journey through Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. Along this relatively flat rail-trail you’ll find lots of places to stop and relax including Spy Pond in Arlington and the Lexington Battle Green. On a nice day the path will be full of dog walkers, joggers, and kids learning to ride a bike, so if you’re looking for low traffic path to do a hard training ride, this might not be it. But if you’re interested in a not-so-strenuous ride and just want to enjoy the day, head to the Minuteman trail.
After the 20-mile round trip journey back to David Square, treat yourself to a slice and a cold one at Dragon Pizza.
Middlesex Fells Reservation (Orange Line, Oak Grove)
When I lived in Boston without a car and had the urge to head for the hills, I would make my way to Middlesex Fells via the Oak Grove T stop. The Fells has over 100 miles of wooded trails – and over the course of the pandemic I became acquainted with most of them. Many of the trails are also open to mountain bikes, and it’s not uncommon to see a trail runner fly past you. You can even bring the dog and let them enjoy the unleashed area of Sheepfold Meadow. You’ll have many trails and paths to choose from, but be sure to hike the Skyline Trail for views of the city.
After exploring the Fells, exit the park at the northwest corner and continue your urban hike for another two miles to Lord Hobo Brewing Co in Woburn. Enjoy a 617 hazy IPA and treat yourself to an Uber home.
Lower Neponset River Trail (Red Line, Ashmont/Mattapan Trolley)
The Neponset Trail was a pandemic discovery for me, and it’s clear I’ve been missing out. This 5-mile paved trail on the Dorchester/Milton border is appropriate for walking, jogging, or biking. It stretches along the Neponset River from Pope John Paul II Park to the Mattapan T stop, running parallel to the Mattapan Trolley line. (By the way, did you know this is one of only a handful of heritage streetcar systems still operating in the U.S.?)
Take a short detour off of the trail to The Bowery Bar, one of the best patios in the city and another late discovery of mine (how did I not know about this place)?
Arnold Arboretum (Orange Line, Forest Hills)
The Arnold Arboretum, located near the Forest Hills Orange Line stop, is a tree lover’s paradise and – in my opinion – where you’ll find the best foliage in the city each fall. Many of the paths within this 281-acre nature preserve are paved, making this one of the more accessible parks in the city. After exploring the Arboretum you’ll have the option to extend your hike, as the Arboretum is part of the Emerald Necklace park system, a 7-mile network of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in the late 19th century.
If you’re heading back to Forest Hills, you’ll first want to make a pit stop at Brassica for their fried chicken (on brunch and dinner menus) and house vermouth.
East Boston Greenway (Blue Line, Maverick)
I’m biased now that I live in East Boston, but Eastie has some of the best green space in the city. Exit the Blue Line at Maverick, walk towards the harbor, and enter the East Boston Greenway at the corner of Bremen and Marginal St. The Greenway continues for three miles, ending at Constitution Beach.
If you’re feeling ambitious, exit the beach and follow Bennington St one additional mile to the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, a salt marsh preserve with walking trails and an observation tower popular with bird enthusiasts. Retrace your steps for four miles back to the East Boston waterfront, or hop on the blue line at Suffolk Downs.
But before you leave East Boston (hey, you took the T all the way out here, you may as well stay a while!) check out the skyline views of the city from Piers Park, a popular picnic destination on a hot summer day. Stop in at Angela’s Café for the mole enchiladas, and end your day with a cocktail or a pickleback at The Quiet Few before making your way back to the blue line.