Travel

The Best Leaf-Peeping Hikes Near Boston

Lace up your hiking boots and check out the vibrant leaves.

Flickr/KrisNM
Flickr/KrisNM
Flickr/KrisNM

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Boston. With the crisp fall season and all the apple treats that come with it, the region makes autumn even better by delivering a vibrant display of stunning New England foliage.

Sometimes the best way to take in the array of colors and enjoy the comfortable temperature drop means getting to a higher altitude. So we’ve rounded up the best hiking destinations that will fulfill your fall dreams while getting your steps in. The hikes range from easily accessible to more on the challenging side, so keep reading to find out which hiking trail near Boston you should find yourself exploring this season.

Noah Hamilton/Shutterstock
Noah Hamilton/Shutterstock
Noah Hamilton/Shutterstock

Middlesex Fells Reservation

Stoneham
A little over five miles from Boston, this worthwhile hiking destination has prime leaf-peeping sights without having to go the distance. In fact, you can take the orange line to Oak Grove station, and it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from there. Take your pick from a number of trails including the Skyline loop, which, you guessed it, provides views of the city’s skyline. But if you’re looking for something less intense (since the Skyline is about an 8-mile loop), you can always take one of the trails that goes along Spot Pond.
Distance from Boston: 10 minutes

Adam Gladstone/Shutterstock
Adam Gladstone/Shutterstock
Adam Gladstone/Shutterstock

Blue Hills Reservation

Milton
Another option that’s extremely close to the city, Blue Hills Reservation provides an oasis that’s totally within reach for those looking to get some steps in via greater Boston’s finest fall treks. With more than 125 miles of trails, Blue Hills is ideal for just about every type of hiker. From the less challenging Houghton’s Pond, a mile loop around the water, to the Great Blue Hill, a strenuous but popular hike that takes you to the historic Eliot Observation Tower, a 35-foot structure built nearly a century ago, you’ll have your fair share of walks to map out.
Distance from Boston: 20 minutes

World's End Reservation
World’s End Reservation
World’s End Reservation

World’s End

Hingham
Hop on the ferry over to Hingham for a chance to embark on the paths of World’s End, featuring more than four miles of tree-lined trails serving up views of the Weir River, Boston Harbor, and topped off with the city’s skyline. Not only do you have your choice of paths to take, but World’s End also offers guided bird walks throughout “Bird Alley,” kayak tours, and Sunset Hike and Sip and Full Moon hikes. While you’re there, you can also visit one of the last family farms in Hingham, Weir River Farm, as they’re known for lively events, animals, and a wholesome farm store.
Distance from Boston: 40 minutes

Yingna Cai/Shutterstock
Yingna Cai/Shutterstock
Yingna Cai/Shutterstock

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

Natick
This wildlife sanctuary doubles as a worthwhile hiking spot, featuring nine miles of trails including a quarter-mile-long boardwalk that accommodates wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers. While a shorter path, you can still enjoy views nestled inside the marsh and you may come across some forest creatures along the way like otters, turtles, and a wide range of bird species. What’s more, the sanctuary is only a five-minute drive from Natick’s Lookout Farm, equipped with a taproom, restaurant, and of course, some of the best apple picking near Boston. Consider your fall-themed weekend plans set.
Distance from Boston: 35 minutes

NayaDadara/Shutterstock
NayaDadara/Shutterstock
NayaDadara/Shutterstock

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation

Sutton
This isn’t your average fall hiking trip. Within this park, you’ll find two miles of rocky terrain said to date back as old as the last Ice Age. Rise to the challenge of meandering through caves and over a variety of ancient rock formations like the uniquely named Corn Crib, Lovers’ Leap, and Fat Man’s Misery. If you’re not keen on that idea, you can always enjoy the sights safely from the park’s open field and picnic area.
Distance from Boston: 50 minutes

Milan Kolovrat/Shutterstock
Milan Kolovrat/Shutterstock
Milan Kolovrat/Shutterstock

Halibut Point State Park

Rockport
Located within the seaside town of Rockport, on a clear day, this state park offers up views of Maine’s Mount Agamenticus plus the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. Within the park, there’s an approachable 1.6-mile loop trail that takes you throughout the woods and toward the ocean so you can take in the changing leaves beside its serene backdrop. When you’ve gotten enough fresh air in, there are more than enough quaint shops and restaurants nearby to explore.
Distance from Boston: 55 minutes

Flickr/Paul Cooper
Flickr/Paul Cooper
Flickr/Paul Cooper

Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Amherst
Brace yourself for the fall foliage at this next hiking destination. At Mount Holyoke’s peak, you’ll look out to miles and miles of colorful treetops and rolling hills. Even better, you can take the drive up to the summit if you’re looking to make leaf-peeping easier. But once you’ve reached the highest point, it’s recommended you take in the sights from the historic Summit House’s wrap-around porch for a complete 360-degree view.
Distance from Boston: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Dan Hanscom/Shutterstock
Dan Hanscom/Shutterstock
Dan Hanscom/Shutterstock

Monument Mountain

Great Barrington
Great Barrington alone is a prime seasonal spot, in fact, really anywhere within the Berkshires is fit for fall. But in Great Barrington, you’ll find a bustling downtown and cultural district nestled within the hills-and not far from that strip, there’s of course Monument Mountain Reservation. From its 1,642-foot summit, you’ll be able to see the Housatonic River Valley, which has inspired arts and literature for centuries, including Moby Dick. Who would’ve thought?
Distance from Boston: 2 hours

Flickr/KrisNM
Flickr/KrisNM
Flickr/KrisNM

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Lenox
Also nestled within the Berkshires, Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is yet another spot that grants you up close and personal access to New England’s famous foliage and some of the area’s popular animals. The trails here, set along Lenox Mountain, wind through its lush meadows and vibrant forest, including the universally accessible flat trail around Pike’s Pond, path around the beaver ponds, and of course, the 850-foot hike to the top of the mountain.
Distance from Boston: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock
Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock
Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Clark Art Institute

Williamstown
This location might require going the distance but once you’ve made it to the Clark Art Institute, you’ll likely be planning your trip back as fall is known to be one of the best times to visit the campus. Set against another breathtaking Berkshires backdrop, the Clark provides a modern take on an outdoor adventure, with trails featuring art installations and an upward climb to Stone Hill, which leads you to two small galleries inside its “sanctuary in the woods,” a.k.a. Lunder Center.
Distance from Boston: 2 hours and 45 minutesWant more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat!

Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. You can follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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