Road trips are awesome, but unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys logistics, planning road trips can be less than awesome. If you want to experience some of the most beautiful natural wonders this state has to offer, without the headache of planning your route, this road trip is the answer.
You can tackle this thing any way you want. Start at the beginning and visit each site, or hop on somewhere in the middle. The entire trip takes about 12.5 hours total, but unless you love whizzing by beautiful places without stopping, you’ll want to dedicate a weekend to exploring.
1. Crane Beach, Ipswich
What better way to start an epic journey than with a day at the beach? If you're hopping on the road up north, Crane Beach is your first stop. Nature lovers will love its population of piping plover nests, and everyone else will love the shimmering white sands and sparkling waters. This beach has clean bathrooms and showers, ample parking spaces and a well-stocked snack bar in-season. It's one of the loveliest beaches in the state, so be sure to check out this Ipswich treasure.
If you feel like spending a bit more time in the area, try trekking up to Castle Hill and exploring the magnificent Crane Estate. The beach is open year-round, 8 a.m. until sunset. It's $15 to park on weekends and $5 to park on weekdays for non-members.
2. World's End, Hingham
Heading down into the South Shore, your next stop will be World’s End. Its dramatic name is perfectly suited to the rolling hills, sweeping views and craggy coastline that this park has on offer. You’ll truly feel like you’ve traveled to the edge of civilization when you explore this 251-acre preserve. Though it might seem worlds apart from urban life, Boston is actually a mere 15 miles away. The park is open year-round, 8 a.m. until sunset. Admission for non-members is $8.
3. Quabbin Reservoir & Overlook
The Quabbin Reservoir is one of New England’s best kept secrets. There isn’t a single spot in the area that doesn’t offer immense scenic beauty. You can hike, bird watch, fish, and picnic at this beautiful waterfront spot. The one thing you can’t do? Swim. The reservoir supplies drinking water to the city of Boston, so splashing around is not allowed. The observation tower near Gate 43 provides an amazing view of the entire area.
4. Glacial Potholes, Shelburne Falls
These glacial potholes are a geological marvel. More than 50 natural holes dot the granite landscape at the base of Salmon Falls, ranging from 6 inches wide to a whopping 39 feet in diameter. They were formed during the last “glacial age” by the constant whirling of water against stone. While visitors were once permitted to swim in the pools, reckless behavior resulted in the pools being closed to swimming in 2012. Still, these dramatic natural features are a wonder to behold even from afar.
5. Natural Bridge State Park, North Adams
This state park is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the search. It is named for the natural stone arches of white marble that have been formed by the eroding forces of water through the area. This place features stunning views from atop the high gorge, and walking paths through the winding stone labyrinths near the marble waterfall. It's $5 to park for cars with MA plates, and $6 otherwise.
6. Mount Greylock, Adams
This is the highest peak in Massachusetts, and certainly the most altitude gain you'll experience on this trip. For the truly adventurous, hiking up to Bascom Lodge is an unforgettable way to experience the mountain. If you're slightly less inclined to make the 90-minute trek to the top on foot, you can drive straight to the summit. The views are spectacular, and the fresh air is bracing. Admission to the park is free. However, there is a parking fee of $5 (MA plates) at the summit parking lot only.
7. Bash Bish Falls
Following on the heels of the tallest mountain in Massachusetts, this road trip will take you to the highest waterfall in the state. Bash Bish Falls tumbles over 70 feet into a crystal-clear pool at its base. Swimming is not allowed for safety reasons, but the rocks near the falls are actually the best places from which to view the falls. There is a small viewing platform above the falls, however, the climb up there is quite dangerous as the rocks tend to be slippery. Trails around the waterfall are well-marked, and the nearby 1,356-acre Mount Everett State Forest offers plenty of spots to picnic. Access to the waterfall is free. The park is open from sunrise to just after sunset.
8. Bartholomew's Cobble, Sheffield
Bartholomew's Cobble is a 100-foot-high bedrock outcropping that rises about the surrounding countryside like a lush, green tower. The reservation features one of the largest cottonwood trees in Massachusetts, and well-marked hiking trails up to the top of the twin hills. Ambitious hikers can summit the 1,000-foot high Hulbert's Hill that offers sweeping views of the Housatonic River Valley. There are about 9 miles of hiking trails total, so bring your sturdy shoes. Visit in mid-September through October to catch sight of the local hawk migration.
9. Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet
This road trip ends the way it began: with a splash. Meander your way across Cape Cod (be sure to stop for ice cream at least twice) and wrap up your adventure at the Cape Cod National Seashore. This nature preserve is pretty huge (it runs almost all the way to the tip of Cape Cod) so you probably won't be able to see everything in one trip. However, be sure to check out Marconi Beach. Its soft sand and dramatic dunes are the perfect backdrop for a celebratory end-of-trip picnic. Besides the beach, you should definitely take an hour or so to follow the boardwalk through the park's Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.
Bonus: Aquinnah Cliffs, Aquinnah
It wouldn't be much of a road trip if you had to take a ferry. However, if you have time, you should definitely head over to Martha's Vineyard to check out these multi-colored cliffs. Ancient clay deposits lend the land beautiful ribbons of crimson, gold, green and even a bit of purple. Best viewed at sunset!
There are so many more beautiful natural wonders in Massachusetts, and this road trip only scratches the surface. Still, you can’t go wrong visiting all these spectacular sites.