When you were a kid, did you ever fantasize about stumbling across a crumbling ruin in the forest? There’s something strangely fascinating about the weathered remains of old buildings and monuments no matter what your age. Luckily, Massachusetts is home to quite a few ruins that you can reach on foot. Even better, the journey is just as scenic as the destination.
Here are five trails in Massachusetts that will take you to fantastic ruins.
1. Eyrie House Ruins, Mt. Tom Reservation
These ruins may look like the remains of an ancient castle, but the Eyrie House was actually an 19th-century hotel. Located on Mount Nonotuck, the hotel opened in 1861 and was considered extremely fashionable for decades. Unfortunately, a horse cremation gone wrong resulted in an inferno that engulfed the hotel in 1901. It's owner, William Street, hadn't insured the property and was left without the funds to rebuild.
To visit these ruins, start at the entrance along Christopher Clark Road and continue until you hit the Ranger Station. The journey to the ruins themselves is about 2 miles. You can walk along an old road that is now closed to traffic, so this is an adventure well-suited to casual hikers.
2. Dinosaur Footprints Trail, Holyoke
The "ruins" here are more than ancient – they're prehistoric. The Dinosaur Footprints reservation in Holyoke is an 8-acre wilderness that actually peppered with real dinosaur tracks. Hundreds of footprints are embedded in the sandstone throughout the park. You can literally hike along the trackways that dinosaurs used to travel. The reservation is open during daylight hours between April 1 to November 30, and there are plenty of trails that will take you to the coolest of the footprints. Check with the information center at the reservation for a guide on how best to tackle viewing the footprints.
3. Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest, Becket
If your idea of a great ruin involves more rust than crumbling marble, this hike is perfect. The Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest is a Park unlike any other. Littered throughout the forest are actual vintage automobiles, machinery and buildings from the area's days as a functioning quarry. The automobiles and machines are especially amazing, as some of them are over 100 years old. Hiking here also affords pretty spectacular views of the Berkshires, and the trials are kept clear and blazed by volunteers. (456 Quarry Road, Becket)
4. Greycourt State Park, Methuen
Greycourt State Park,
Greycourt State Park was constructed around the abandoned ruins of the Charles H. Tenney estate, also known as the Tenney Castle. Though most of the imposing structure has been lost, portion of one wing remains and has been opened up to public exploration. These ruins are restored, but they're all the more striking for having been spruced up. You can walk the trails around the park and "hike" (okay, it's really more of a stroll) up to the ruins to investigate.
5. Bear Cages, Boston
Yes, there are "ancient" ruins hidden in Boston. Inside the famed Franklin Park Zoo is a collection of odd, abandoned structures that look like they were dropped straight out of Ancient Rome. In fact, these large enclosures once housed bears. In the early 1900s, the public flocked to the bear cages to see the fearsome creatures prowl around the large courtyard behind iron bars. The attraction was eventually closed in 1954, but the stone bear den was never demolished. Today, you can visit the abandoned cages in Long Crouch Woods, the 26-acre woodland that sits above Seaver Street in Roxbury. Just follow the long, broad path that leads through the forest from the entrance to the park. (Franklin Park Road, Boston)