Blue Hills Reservation
stretches across the South Shore and metropolitan region of Massachusetts
, for a total of 7,000 acres, touching Milton
. If you're looking to go a walk, you have 125 miles of trails to pick from, including paved areas, rocky uphill climbs, and leisurely, level walking through woods and around one of the ponds. Many of the trails are available for cross country skiing
, horseback riding
and mountain biking
as well. The reservation is dotted with historical structures, fun for climbing, exploring and using as lookout points. From a distance the hill appear to have a blueish hue to them, which is probably what prompted European settlers to name them the blue hills. The name Massachusett was taken from the name of a local Wampanoag tribe, meaning "people of the great hills."
In recent years, the reservation has had its state funding cut considerably, which forced the museum to reduce its hours, and closing of some of the restroom facilities. The change spurred local activism, which has spread beyond lobbying the man
for funding to working towards sustaining a safer, cleaner wildlife refuge. Concerned residents have formed the Friends of the Blue Hills
to organise their efforts.
The Blue Hills Ski Area, now maintained by the owners of Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire, offers local but limited skiing to Southeastern Massachusetts. The side of "Big Blue" is scraped into four ski lifts and eight ski trails. They offer rentals and lessons as well as lift tickets.
The Trailside Museum is a wildlife and nature center on the Blue Hills property and managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. It is geared primarily toward families and school groups. During the spring, summer and fall, visitors can view and interact with indoor exhibits, and outdoors, can see live (caged) eamples of native wildlife including red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys and other animals. The museum offers guided hikes, weekend presentations and classes for your $3 admission fee.
Houghton's Pond is a popular picnic area and hike staging point. The area is littered with picnic tables, benches, and playgrounds with a lifeguarded beach for swimming in the summertime. There is a short scenic hike around the pond, and trailheads leading up to the old observatory, Chickatawbut Overlook.
On top of Great Blue Hill, affectionately, "Big Blue" the system's largest hill, is the
Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory. They claim to have the oldest meteorological records in North America. The Observatory was founded in 1885 by Abbott Lawrence Rotch, for private research. The observatory consists of a few small stone buildings, still used to provide local weather information for the area. The summit is easily hikeable and they also have some science programs, many of which have to do with kite flying and construction, and a summer camp.
Blue Hills offers all these great things for us humans to do on Saturday mornings, but it's also the primary home of a range of wildife. Numerous birds of prey, including red-tailed hawks, and several species of owl. The director of the Trailside museum, Norman Smith has been tracking snowy owls in the area for over 20 years. By equipping owls with satellite positioning transmitters and re-releasing them, he has been able to provide the MA Audubon chapter with valuable data on owl migration patterns. Blue hills is also home to foxes, coyotes, otters, squirrels, chipmunks and mice. Summer brings a host of insects and amphibians near the ponds.
The reservation is open dawn to dusk
Pets must be leashed and waste removed
Motorized vehicles on designated roadways only
No littering or dumping
No alcoholic beverages
No firearms, hunting or trapping
No camping or overnight use
No metal detectors
No open fires
No disruptive conduct
Swimming only at Houghton's Pond in designated areas
Permits required for groups of 25 or more