Warm weather means the outdoors are officially open for business. From dramatic mountains to shady woodland groves, Massachusetts is full of state parks that offer a little bit of everything. Slather on some sunscreen and get out there.
1. Alan E. Rich Environmental Park, Athol
Even though this park is smack dab in the middle of Athol, it feels worlds away from civilization…in a great way. Millers River is runs through the park and is a perfect place swim (the water is crystal clear), kayak, and do a bit of fishing. Though the park has plenty of untamed beauty, there is a grassy landscaped area where you can lay out a picnic (they have tables in case you don’t want to sit on the ground) and a trail that will take you through all the most beautiful plants and flowers in the park.
2. Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, Sutton
The grim name only serves to contrast remarkably with the rugged drama of Purgatory Chasm’s jagged stones and cliff faces. This quarter-mile of granite seems otherworldly and a bit intimidating at first – you’ll definitely want to pack a camera and some STURDY shoes. Check out rock formations with such colorful monikers as Fat Man’s Misery, Corn Crib, and the Coffin. When you get tired of scrambling over stones, head to the grilling and picnicking area for a well-earned lunch.
3. Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield
This spot has a little bit of everything. Between grassy meadows, shady forests, fascinating freshwater marshes, hiking trails, beaver preserves, and a natural history museum, you’ll have plenty to do and see. Pro tip: climb to the top of Halbert’s Hill for incredible views of the Housatonic River Valley.
4. Mount Greylock State Reservation
Mount Greylock Reservation was the first state park in Massachusetts, and it set the bar pretty high. Hike over 50 miles of trails while catching panoramic views of five surrounding states. Bunk down for the night at Greylock Campground, or spring for something more luxurious at the rustic Bascom Lodge, situated at the summit of Mount Greylock for the most epic views.
5. Garden in the Woods, Framingham
This hidden paradise may be Framingham’s best kept secret. A gorgeous botanical garden that is maintained by the New England Wild Flower Society, this park is home to more than 1,500 varieties of rare plants and flowers. Roam the park’s paths and encounter tiny ponds, scenic valleys, a rock garden, babbling brooks, and oodles of butterflies alighting on milkweed blooms.
6. Myles Standish State Forest, Carver
MSSF offers five camping areas that are tucked into the forest of set along the edges of four of the park’s 16 lovely ponds. They even have an area set aside for horse camping. Explore 15 miles of bicycle trails, 35 miles of equestrian trails, and 13 miles of hiking trails that will take you deep into the forest. In the summer, programs such as cranberry bog explorations and cultural history walks are offered.
7. Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown
Martha’s Vineyard offers much more than pastel polo shirts and quaint cobblestone side streets. Felix Neck is a 194-acre wildlife sanctuary that includes over four miles of trails through all sorts of natural environments. Explore beautiful woodlands, meadows, and spectacular shoreline. Don’t miss the butterfly and bird gardens, and definitely say hello to the many barn owls that call the sanctuary home.
8. Bash Bish State Park, Mt. Washington
Besides the obvious attraction of Bash Bish Falls, a spectacular 80-foot double-pronged waterfall that cascades down a rocky cleft before thundering into a glimmering pool, this state park has a ton of other highlights. Dramatic forests of hemlock, gorgeous rock formations, excellent fishing holes are all on offer. Bobcats, black bears and peregrine falcons all make their home in Bash Bish State Park, so be sure to stick to the trails and stay observant.
9. Halibut Point State Park, Rockport
This is one of the youngest state parks, as the state only bought the land in 1981. You can experience awesome views of Mount Agamenticus in Maine here on a clear day, not to mention nab a glimpse of the sparkling waters off Cape Ann. The visitors' center includes an old WWII fire tower with a killer observation deck. Back on the ground, you’ll find blooming wildflowers, dramatic granite formations, and gentle streams flowing over colorful rocks. This is a great park for to birdwatching, too.
10. The Cape Cod National Seashore
The CCNS was created by President John F. Kennedy and includes nearly 40 miles of seashore along the Atlantic coast of Cape Cod. It is the site of the historic Marconi Station, from which the first two-way transatlantic radio transmission was sent. This park is obviously a great place for a beach day, but there are also loads of bike and meadow trails to explore, as well the very cool glacial formation known as Doane’s Rock.
11. Nickerson State Park
This place is HUGE. Explore over 1,900 acres of shadowy woods and sunny meadows, go fishing in stocked trout ponds, and cycle the 8-mile bike path that leads into the Cape Cod Rail Trail. There are 400 sites to choose from in the park's campground, so you can definitely find a locale that you love.
12. Beartown State Forest, Monterey
This park is sometimes overlooked in favor of the larger options, but it definitely deserves some attention. It’s a wonderful spot for camping, fishing, boating, and even snowmobiling. The forest includes an extensive network of trails across 12,000 acres and offers visitors a chance to glimpse deer, bears, bobcats, fisher cats and other wildlife, including the park's namesake, the black bear. Check out nearby Fountain Pond State Park for even more outdoor excitement.
13. Mohawk Trail State Forest
This is one of the most scenic woodland area in Massachusetts and offers visitors an opportunity to sample real wilderness and untamed natural beauty. There are over 6,000 across of mountain ridges, deep gorges, and old-growth trees to explore. Check out one of their 47 campsites for all-seasons camping and definitely look into booking one of the log cabin rentals for the weekend. If you’re up for a hike, try literally following in the footsteps of Native Americans by walking the Mahican-Mohawk trail that connects the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys.
14. Mount Washington State Forest, South Egremont
Situated in the far south-east corner of the state, Mount Washington State Forest is actually a group of state parks that offer spectacular scenery and breathtaking views. Hike the South Taconic Trail to the 2,250-foot high summit of Alander Mountain for some of the best views in the area, or follow the Appalachian Trail as it meanders along the ridgeline and through Sage’s Ravine. Visit in the spring for a glimpse of blooming mountain laurel and azaleas.
15. Freetown-Fall River State Forest, Assonet
Located just 5 minutes from Fall River and Taunton, this fresh is a vast collection of unpaved roads and trails. This is a great place to go horseback riding, dog sledding, and mountain biking. Bring your motorcycle and snowmobile along too, as this park actually welcomes riders. This 5,441-acre forest also include the 227-acre Wattuppa Reservation, which belongs to the Wampanoag Nation.