The Blue Hills Reservation - Massachusetts

US National Parks and Monuments Travel Guide:

Located only minutes from the bustle of downtown Boston, the DCR Blue Hills Reservation stretches over 7,000 acres from Quincy to Dedham, Milton to Randolph, providing a green oasis in an urban environment. Rising above the horizon, Great Blue Hill reaches a height of 635 feet, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills chain. From the rocky summit visitors can see over the entire metropolitan area. With its scenic views, varied terrain and 125 miles of trails, the Blue Hills Reservation offers year-round enjoyment for the outdoor enthusiast.

The Blue Hills

The Blue Hills were so named by early European explorers who, while sailing along the coastline, noticed the bluish hue on the slopes when viewed from a distance. More than ten thousand years before those Europeans arrived, Native Americans made their home in the hills. The Natives referred to themselves as Massachusett, or "people of the great hills". Eventually the Europeans began settling in this region. The colonists built houses and barns, cleared fields for crops and livestock and logged the hillsides for lumber.

In 1893, the Metropolitan Parks Commission purchased the lands of Blue Hills Reservation as one of the first areas set aside for public recreation. Today, the reservation is rich in both archaeological and historic resources. Sixteen historic structures listed on the National Register tell the fascinating tales of Native Americans, explorers, farmers, quarry workers and inventors. Additionally the Blue Hills Weather Observatory, a National Historic Landmark, sits atop Great Blue Hill, as a crowning feature.

The living treasures of the Blue Hills include flora, fauna and natural phenomena – from coyotes to copperheads, dogwoods to lady's slippers, and turkey vultures to dragonflies. Trails traverse upland and bottomland forests, marsh, swamp and pond edges, meadows and an Atlantic white cedar bog. A great variety of plant and animal life thrive in the diverse habitats, including several rare and endangered species in Massachusetts, such as the timber rattlesnake.

Things to know before you go

The reservation is open dawn to dusk. Swimming only at Houghton's Pond in designated areas. Permits required for groups of 25 or more.

Blue Hills Reservation Headquarters

Is located at 695 Hillside St. in Milton, 1/4 mile north of Houghton's Pond, beside the State Police Station. Please stop by or call (617) 698-1802 for park information.

Blue Hills Trailside Museum,

Managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, features cultural and natural history exhibits including a display of live animals of the Blue Hills. For more information, call (617) 333-0690.

Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center

Offers weather related educational programs for school groups and weather enthusiasts. The Observatory is located at the summit of Great Blue Hill. Call 617-696-0389 for access information.


on Ponkapoag Pond and on the Neponset River. Non-motorized boats only.


at the Appalachian Mountain Club cabins on Ponkapoag Pond. Call (781) 961-7007 for reservations.

Educational Programs

are offered by DCR Rangers on weekends throughout the year. Look for program schedules posted on park bulletin boards or call (617) 698-1802 for program details.


in the reservation's ponds. A state fishing license is required. Houghton's Pond and Pine Tree Brook are stocked with trout.


at the 36-hole DCR Ponkapoag Golf Course located in Canton on Route 138, 1/2 mile south of Route 93. Call (781) 828-4242.


on 125 miles of scenic trails. Purchase a trail map at the Reservation Headquarters or the Blue Hills Trailside Museum.

Ice Skate

at an DCR skating rink in the Blue Hills. For the William Shea Rink in Quincy, call (617) 472-9325. For the Max Ulin Rink in Milton, call (617) 696-9869.

Mountain Bike

in designated areas of the reservation. Stop by park headquarters to pick up a mountain bike map. Please respect "No Mountain Bicycling" signs in restricted areas.


tables and charcoal grills are available at Houghton's Pond. Call (617) 698-1802 to reserve a site. Groups of 25 or more must have a permit.

Rock Climb

at the Quincy Quarries Historic Site in Quincy and in the Rattlesnake Hill area in the eastern section of the Reservation.

Ski, cross-country

on trails throughout the reservation with sufficient snow cover. A free Cross-Country Ski Routes brochure is available at the Reservation Headquarters.

Ski, downhill

at the William F. Rogers Ski Slopes on Great Blue Hill. Call (781) 828-5070 for information.


fields are available at Houghton's Pond. Reservations are required, call (617) 698-1802.


at Houghton's Pond beach with DCR lifeguard supervision. Seasonal restrooms provided.

Blue Hills TrailWatch is an all-volunteer organization of concerned recreational trail users whose goal is to promote safe and cooperative trail use. For more information, call (617) 698-1802.


Dial 911 or telephone the State Police at 1-800-525-5555, For 24-hour contact/response call the DCR Park Ranger dispatch at 617-722-1188



The Great Blue Hill and Houghton's Pond sections are accessible from the Red Line to Ashmont Station. From Ashmont, take the high speed line to Mattapan. The Canton and Blue Hills bus services the Trailside Museum and Great Blue Hill on Route 138. For the Houghton's Pond area, exit the bus at Blue Hill River Road. Cross the road and walk one mile east on Hillside Street.

By Car:

Take Route 93 to Exit 3, Houghton's Pond. Turn right at the stop sign onto Hillside Street. Houghton's Pond is located approximately 1/4 miles on the right; Continue 1/4 miles to the reservation headquarters on the left.

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