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Sure, the Cape’s a great place to get outdoors in the summertime — if you like traffic. But Massachusetts has plenty of less predictable, and less crowded, getaways. These 10 oases offer a wide range of activities, and each is within striking distance of the city.


Driving time from Boston: 25 to 35 minutes

> Oaks, hemlock, pines, and blueberry bushes line the trails at Breakheart Reservation, located in the towns of Saugus and Wakefield. In its 700 acres of forest you’ll find both easy and harder trails, hills with views of Boston and southern New Hampshire, two lakes, and a stretch of the Saugus River. To the southwest, hike along the rockier paths of the more challenging Ridge Trail. On a hot day, follow the easier Fox Run Trail to the beach on Pearce Lake, which is open daily in the summer. For stroller and wheelchair access, the reservation has paved walkways, free of auto traffic.

Where: 177 Forest Street, Saugus (additional parking on Hemlock Road in Wakefield), 781-233-0834; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-north/breakheart-reservation.html


Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free


Climbers setted up at the old quarry in Quincy.
Climbers setted up at the old quarry in Quincy. Tom Herde/Globe staff/File/Boston Globe

Driving time from Boston: 20 minutes

> For the vertically inclined, there’s serious climbing at Quincy Quarries, a granite outcropping northeast of the Blue Hills Reservation. At these once notorious quarries, people were known to lose their lives plunging from great heights into pools of water below. In response, dirt from the Big Dig was used to fill the Granite Railway Quarry, the most popular area of the graffiti-covered park. Busy times are weekends and after work. Ascents on the square-cut rock vary from light bouldering to challenging belayed climbs.

Where: Ricciuti Drive, West Quincy, 617-727-4573 or 617-698-1802; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-boston/name-state-park.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free


Driving time from Boston: 35 minutes

> Noanet, in Dover, is home to four ponds linked by an offshoot of the Charles River. Use the new Powissett Street entrance to follow the Peabody Loop, known as the blue trail, which is a moderate hike around the ponds and includes the old mill site of the Dover Union Iron Co. Or you can follow the red blazes along the mildly hilly Caryl Loop Trail. Ascend Noanet Peak Trail and you’ll wind up above the stunning canopy, with a view of the Boston skyline. The new Powissett entrance and parking lot are in the southeast corner of the woodlands.


Where: Powissett Street, Dover, 508-785-0339; thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/greater-boston/noanet-woodlands.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free


Driving time from Boston: 60 minutes

Public transit: Take the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail to Ipswich and then a taxi, or bike the 5 miles to the beach

> Allow two to six hours for exploring the vast dunes at Crane Beach, in Ipswich. After a swim, walk northwest to Castle Hill. From there you can admire the mansion, green rolling slopes, and the Grand Allee that leads down to the beach. To the south, trails ranging from 0.3 to 2 miles long weave through the grassy sands. Kayakers can cross Castle Neck River and explore wildlife and marshland on the Crane Wildlife Refuge. To save on parking, take a bike on the commuter rail, then pedal the 5 miles east to the peninsula.

Where: Argilla Road, Ipswich, 978-356-4354; thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-ma/crane-beach-on-the-crane.html

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset

Cost: $2 admission; parking, $20 weekdays, $25 weekends



Ferry ride time from Boston or Hingham: 25 to 60 minutes

> The 2.6-mile Spectacle Island perimeter walkway is a beauty — almost like you’re walking on water, says one parks official — though there’s little shade; it is also wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. You can take a dip at the beach or climb the south drumlin for spectacular views of the city. Choose Georges Island to explore Civil War-era Fort Warren or grill at the sheltered picnic areas. For overnighters, the new direct ferry service to Grape Island means camping by Atlantic waters is just a ride away from Hingham (claim a site through reserveamerica.com).

Where: Ferries leaving Long Wharf, Boston, go direct to Spectacle Island or Georges Island; from Hingham, direct to Georges or Grape; 781-740-1605 ext. 205; bostonharborislands.org

Hours: Sunrise to sunset (exceptions for camping at certain islands)

Cost: Ferry $15 for adults, $11 for seniors, $9 for children 3 to 11, under 3 free; campsites from $15 per night


The nature path leading to Bash Bish Falls State Park.
The nature path leading to Bash Bish Falls State Park. Nancy Palmieri/Globe file/Boston Globe

Driving time from Boston: 3 hours

> At the Commonwealth’s border with New York is the 60-foot waterfall that gives Bash Bish Falls State Park its name. Don’t miss the walk up to Eagle’s Nest, which offers a commanding view of the valley. For the best vistas of the cascading water, check out the main viewing deck. Paths can be found in both states and are all less than a mile; a park supervisor says the Bay State side can be rather steep and tricky. Thirty miles of trails in neighboring Mount Washington State Forest expand hiking options in Massachusetts, as does nearby Taconic State Park in New York.


Where: Falls Road (Route 344), Mount Washington, Massachusetts, 413-528-0330; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-west/bash-bish-falls-state-park.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free


Kiara Silva (right) of Reading played on the rocks at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport.
Kiara Silva (right) of Reading played on the rocks at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport.Laurie Swope/Globe file/Globe Freelance
Local residents walked their dogs through Halibut Point State Park.
Local residents walked their dogs through Halibut Point State Park. AP Photo/Lisa Poole

Driving time from Boston: 60 minutes

> Rockport’s Halibut Point, another former granite quarry, is small but majestic and rich with history. Walk among the tide pools or find blueberry, arrowwood, bayberry, and cat brier along trails overlooking the Atlantic. Staff and volunteers give weekend tours to explain the quarrying industry, which dates to the 1840s here. Turn up on any Saturday in the summer for a granite-cutting demo. On the way home, make the short detour to Gloucester and visit Cape Ann Brewing Company for a pint and free tour.

Where: Gott Avenue, Rockport, 978-546-2997; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-north/halibut-point-state-park.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: $2 parking


A child explores the rock crevice known as “Fat Man’s Misery” at Purgatory Chasm in Sutton.
A child explores the rock crevice known as “Fat Man’s Misery” at Purgatory Chasm in Sutton. Nancy Palmieri/Globe File
“Fat Man’s Misery” at Purgatory Chasm.
“Fat Man’s Misery” at Purgatory Chasm. Nancy Palmieri/Globe File

Driving time from Boston: 60 minutes

> With a playground, regular children’s story hours, and a wonderland of trails winding through cavernous rock formations, Purgatory Chasm in Sutton remains emblazoned in the memories of many young Massachusetts adventurers. Though the destination is popular with rock climbers who scale the chasm walls, site names like Lover’s Leap and Fat Man’s Misery mislead. The chasm loop is a rocky but easily navigated half mile. Take care, though. Rangers warn that the granite is slippery during and after wet weather.

Where: 198 Purgatory Road, Sutton, 508-234-3733; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-central/purgatory-chasm-state-reservation.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free; after July 1, parking will cost $2



Driving time from Boston: 2 hours 15 minutes

> A peninsula juts out into the 1,065-acre Otis Reservoir in Tolland State Forest in East Otis, providing a beach, campground, and boat launch — fishing is popular, with trout and bass populating the waters. Along the southern side of the peninsula, there’s a very easy half-mile walk along the wooded Gilmore Trail.

Where: 410 Tolland Road, East Otis, 413-269-6002; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-west/tolland-state-forest-generic.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Cost: $5 parking for beach use (waived for ParksPass holders, vehicles with handicapped, disabled veteran plates/placard, and seniors 62 and older with the Massachusetts senior citizens pass); campsites $12 per day for state residents


Driving Time from Boston: 90 minutes

> The Marginal Way walkway spans 1 mile of rocky Maine coastline. Just north of the New Hampshire border in Ogunquit, the paved trail suits all ages and abilities. Start or finish with a lobster roll at the revered Barnacle Billy’s in Perkins Cove. The walkway won’t take more than 30 minutes, but shopping and ice cream await, and trolley service links York, Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport, each town with its own flavor of coastal New England.

Where: Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 207-646-2939 (Chamber of Commerce)

Hours: Open 24 hours

Cost: Free

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George LeVines is a frequent contributor to BetaBoston.com. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.