Take a Hike

My friend David recently asked me about my recommended Boston walks, and I was happy to oblige. I guess I’ve got a bit of a reputation. I’m a big walker, whether it’s my perfunctory walk to work (I go down Medford’s Main Street, which is actually quite nice) or a semi-planned uber-trek (like last November’s Coolidge Corner->Kenmore->Downtown Crossing superwalk). I think nothing of walking three miles to get somewhere (heck, it only takes about an hour), and I often do much more. My day off the grid last month totaled nearly nine miles. Just yesterday, I walked from Teele Square in Somerville to Harvard Square and back — all told, almost six miles, when you count continuing on to Clarendon Hill on the return trip.

For me, walking is the ultimate leisure activity. By myself, I can immerse myself in music, people-watching and scenery at the same time. With friends, quality conversation usually transpires. Not to mention that walking is a fine way to get around the Boston area, and an excellent way to get in shape while doing something you need to do anyway — get from point A to point B. And the way I feel after a good, long walk, well, I have yet to find a substitute.

With the benefits of walking in mind, here are some of my favorite Boston walks:

  • Labor Day Walkabout: This jaunt is thus-named because I did it on two successive Labor Day weekends. I start from my house and hit Union, Inman and Central Squares before turning down Mass. Ave and crossing the bridge to the Esplanade. I then walk the Esplanade all the way to the Longfellow (“salt-and-pepper”) Bridge, which I cross to get to Kendall Square. By then, I’m usually feeling a bit achy and catch the T. All told, a bit over five miles. Check out my photos from last year’s walkabout; I’m hoping to reprise the walk this upcoming Labor Day weekend, as well.
  • Cambridge Crosstown: Mass. Ave. in Cambridge is a heck of a main drag. From Central all the way up to Porter, and even farther down to Cameron Ave., you get a lovely tour of the People’s Republic on wide sidewalks in good repair. And if tragedy strikes and you just can’t go on, the No. 1 or No. 77 buses will bail you out. Yes, it’s only three miles from Central to Cameron, but with all of the awesome stores along the way — my favorites being Looney Tunes, Joie de Vivre and Bob Slate — it’ll take you much longer than an hour. Don’t forget the new Berryline that just opened on Mass. Ave. between Porter and Harvard, or stop at Porter’s Tavern in the Square for a tasty drink outdoors.
  • Downtown: Living north of the river, I sometimes find myself missing downtown Boston. Yes, I know, that seems silly to say when I am minutes away by train or bus, but it happens. When it does, I like to take some version of this walk to really drink in the city. Going down Newbury or Boylston, there are plenty of stores to dip into. When I hit the Public Garden and the Common, I end up wandering and winding around for a while before heading to Downtown Crossing. A nice extension is to keep walking up Summer Street past South Station to the Fort Point Channel, to take in some semblance of a water view and hang out at the nice boardwalk outside the Children’s Museum.
  • Brownstone Tour: Maybe I’m biased because I went to BU, but I love Boston’s brownstones. When I’m jonesing for some brownstones, I make my way to the BU East T stop and begin my trek down nostalgia lane by going down Bay State Road. Yeah, sure, I lived there for three years in college (talk about being spoiled), but it’s also one of the prettiest streets in the city. From there, I head down Marlborough Street for a quiet, scenic stroll, and when I hit the Public Gardens I loop onto Commonwealth Ave. for the return trip (and to pay homage to Leif Erikson).
  • The Emerald Necklace: I’ve already detailed this walk, but I can’t recommend it enough. You can stay on the grid, if you like.
  • The Freedom Trail: Same as above. But aside from walking the Freedom Trail proper this past May and two Februaries ago, my friend Katy and I also did a Charlestown trek during a freakishly warm day last December that ended up traversing a bunch of the Freedom Trail. Charlestown is so charming, the North End so awesome and the view from Bunker Hill so amazing, that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the Freedom Trail.

I have a few areas I’ve been meaning to explore — namely, the swath of Cambridge between Mass. Ave. and Fresh Pond that is sliced by Concord Ave., and the path from Central Square through Cambridgeport to BU, down Amory Street toward Brookline Village. It’s nice that despite living in Boston for nearly 12 years (!), I still have discoveries ahead of me.

What are your favorite Boston-area walks?


21 responses to “Take a Hike

  1. Wow. The Cambridge Crosstown or Labour Day walks are totally something Chris and I would love to do this summer when we’re there!

  2. Some of my friends on Facebook have made additional suggestions.

    Ron Newman suggests:

    I like to walk from Davis Square to Fresh Pond this way:

    – Day or Chester Street to Mass Ave… Read More

    – Haskell Street to Rindge Avenue. Continue across Rindge, alongside the Peabody School, then take the curving path through the field behind the school to Yerxa Road

    – Cross Pemberton Street and walk through the ped/bike underpass to Walden Square Road

    – Right on Walden Square Road, cross Sherman Street, enter Danehy Park

    – Walk all the way through Danehy Park and out the other side onto New Street

    – Left on New Street to Concord Avenue

    – Cross Concord Avenue at signalized crosswalk into Fresh Pond Reservation

    You can then either walk the circle path around the pond, or take the fairly new bike path alongside Fresh Pond Parkway past the Water Works to Huron Ave.

    – Once you’ve gone this far, why not keep going down Huron Ave to Aberdeen Ave to Mount Auburn Cemetery?

    Karin suggests:

    If you start running a little further, there’s some great ones. My marathon-training was basically slow-paced tourism. Favorites: Emerald necklace outbound; Southwest Corridor inbound….Harvard Square then across the river and eventually on Harvard Ave down to Brookline Village and then through the Muddy River up to the Back Bay and out to … Read MoreSouthie and taking Broadway to Castle Island (we then took the T back)…Or, the best was Paul Revere’s house in the North End and then following his ride the whole way. I ran slowly enough that I could see and enjoy – it was really nice.
    For walking, try Castle Island from Broadway Station – Browadway is pretty interesting to walk on.

  3. Hi! If you enjoy traveling as well as walking, you may want to google the Camino de Santiago.

    One of my favorite long treks in Boston:

    Beacon to Chestnut Hill: Start on Beacon Street in Coolidge Corner (or anywhere along the C Line). Walk away from downtown Boston, 1.6 miles to Cleveland Circle. Continue a little past Cleveland Circle and follow the 1.8 mile walking path around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. The C/D lines and the 86 bus are nearby when you’re finished.

  4. My favorite walk is from the West Fens, Westland Ave, through Copley Square to Chinatown, then across to Govt Center, and into the North End for lunch. The return route along the Esplanade.
    Another is West Fens through the Back Bay and over to the Cambridgeside Galleria.

    • Dave, that sounds fun. I haven’t explored the Fens enough (maybe there’s no such thing as “enough” exploration of the Fens). Thanks!

  5. have you ever walked along the surface of the orange line? It’s called the southwest corridor. I’ve walked all the way from back bay to forest hills following it (just be careful, if you stray from the park you end up in some not-so-nice neighborhoods, if I remember correctly).

    more information here: http://www.cluelessinboston.com/2007/07/southwest-corridor-park.html

    • Sarah – Oooh, as a public transit junkie, I’ve got to do this sometime. Thanks for the comment and the link!

  6. There’s some discussion going on at Universal Hub as well.

    Next Labor Day, instead of ugly and busy Prospect Street, I suggest walking from Union Square to Central Square this way:

    Webster Avenue, Newton Street, Concord Ave, Springfield Street, Inman Street. All very quiet residential streets, plus you get to walk through the very center of Inman Square.

  7. I’m normally at BU and seen Cambridge plenty. Starting in Copley you can easily reach several interesting areas. The 9 departs for Southie and once you pass the highways the walk down Broadway is nice. You can go out to the fort and the whole walkway around the beach.

    Or you can take Huntington ave and go by NU. I walked up the hill on Tremont and the playground there has a magnificent view of downtown. Alternatively, stay on S. Huntington and reach Center St and the JP business district. Then you can come back around along the pond. And the 39 bus runs down Center and South St to Forest Hills from Copley.

    Too bad the weather has been so lousy of late.

    • Matt, these are some great ideas that are bound to get me into some neighborhoods I haven’t seen enough of. Thanks!

  8. Hi!
    Found you via Universal Hub. I’m training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day and do most of my walks around town – lots of Southie, Dot, Quincy, and JP…but a few other neighborhoods as well. I blog my walks at cowbark.livejournal.com if you’re interested in finding some routes in new territories!

  9. Looney Tunes closed! Another nail in the indie record store coffin.

    One of my old favorite walks started around on Moraine Street in JP. It crosses the JWay to the pond, heads north along the winding Emerald Necklace path, crosses Route 9, heads up Harvard St. through Brookline Village, crosses Coolidge Corner, keeps going through Allston across Comm. Ave. all the way to Cambridge Street, turns right and crosses the bridge, goes left on N. Harvard St., and keeps going all the way into Harvard Square. Then you are tired and take the T or bus home. And also the 66 can bail you out if you flag. You don’t care about the wait if you’re already tired.

    • Alison – Looney Tunes closed?!? I was just in there a month or two ago! Both locations?

      Ooooh that JP-Harvard walk sounds EPIC. Must do.

      • I know the one between Central and Harvard closed. They spent the last month clearing out their stash.

        Another benefit of the JP – Harvard walk: lots of cool little places to stop and rest, eat and drink, digress and come back. And, you can pause on the bridge heading into Harvard Square, look at the water, and think MAN I JUST WALKED A LOT.

  10. Try a walk down Dot Ave. Between Broadway and Andrew it’s pretty industrial. Between Andrew and JFK/UMASS you’re in the Polish Triangle (half mile). Between JFK and Savin Hill its a nice mix of little businesses. From Savin Hill to Field’s Corner it starts off dull but becomes interesting. After Field’s Corner its a rolling stroll to Peabody Square. After that you pass Carney Hospital and into Lower Mills, which is a jewel. At Lower Mills, you can take the Mattapan High Speed Trolley to Ashmont and connect to the Red Line proper and homeways. Its a working neighborhood few people visit but it’s full of vitality and has many interesting things that more than make up for the dead spots. The farther you go North-to-South, the less utilitarian it becomes and the ending at Lower Mills is breathtaking. Plus, you get to ride an old trolley back through a cemetary. Maybe six miles of shoe leather but I haven’t measured it.

  11. I recommend walking from Somerville to the Mystic Lakes. It about 3 miles each way, so it is an all-day hike. Once there, there is a path around the lakes. You’ll see herons, cormorants, and many other birds.

    I also like walking out the bike path to Arlington Center, and visiting the bakeries and poking around in the shops. It’s also pleasant to walk to Huron Village for a bite to eat.

  12. Whalehead: from Lower Mills (Milton station) you can actually keep walking even further, along the Neponset River Greenway to Pope John Paul II park and beyond. Well worth it if you’ve never been there before.

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