Outdoors with Kids Boston in the Boston Globe
October 24, 2012

Great Bay National Wildlife RefugeEverybody loves a top 10 list and it seems the Boston Globe is no different. I was thrilled to be asked to share some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path fall excursions for the G section last weekend.

The cover story featured a number of destination discoveries I made while researching  my book, Outdoors with Kids Boston—Breakheart Reservation, Noanet Woodlands, Borderland State Park, and Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center, among others. Since the list focused on Massachusetts only, I thought it would be fun to feature four more of my favorites in neighboring states (also found in my book). It’s still a great time to get out and see the foliage before all the colorful leaves are gone!

RHODE ISLAND
Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge
This 120-acre wildlife refuge in Smithfield offers trails ranging from 0.5 mile to 1.25 miles through woods and wetlands, and beside a pond and a brook. What is so striking here is that this sanctuary is just off two busy highways. Once you start walking, though, the sounds drop away and you’d never guess how close you are to civilization. The shortest hike is along Orange Trail, which you can pick up from the center—great for hiking with younger children. You can either do the inner loop (0.45 mile) or the outer loop (0.85 mile). If you want to explore farther, you can connect to the 1.25-mile Blue Trail at three different points.

CONNECTICUT
Mashamoquet Brook State Park
Mashamoquet is a Mohegan word for “stream of good fishing.” This region in Pomfret was once the domain of the Mohegan chief Uncas. The park encompasses almost 1,000 acres. Leave your car at the park entrance, where you can visit a museum that was once a cider mill, gristmill, and wagon shop. From the parking lot, you can take one of two trails—blue or red—that lead to the Putnam Wolf Den, a cave made famous when, in 1742, a man named Israel Putnam crept in and shot what was thought to be the last wolf in Connecticut. Close to the Wolf Den, you’ll find Table Rock and Indian Chair, cool natural stone formations. Both trails converge at one point and lead to the Putnam Wolf Den and Indian Chair. Painted signs on rocks point the way. I recommend this hike for kids age 9 and up, but it all depends on your child’s ability.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The two trails at the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge are perfect for families. The property is one of more than 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This refuge was once part of the Pease Air Force Base, which closed in 1989 and in 1992 was turned into a 1,000-plus-acre sanctuary along the eastern shore of New Hampshire’s Great Bay. Ferry Way Trail is a 2-mile round-trip hike that leads to a scenic overlook where you can peer through mounted binoculars at the boats and scenery in Great Bay, while the 0.5-mile Peverly Pond Trail goes along one side of the pond. Both trails are relatively flat and easy to navigate, making it great for younger kids. You can also push a stroller here.

MAINE
Bradbury Mountain
Bradbury Mountain State Park, sculpted by glaciers thousands of years ago, is one of Maine’s five original state parks and offers a multitude of activities, from mountain biking to snowshoeing. You can reach the 485-foot-high summit of Bradbury Mountain by a short, steep climb—less than 0.5 mile long—or by more circuitous routes. The 1.0-mile, wooded Northern Loop is a wide, gradual ascent to the top of Bradbury Mountain, but kids who like to climb will prefer the short Summit Trail, which gets you to the top in 0.3 mile. You can gain access to the trail, marked with white blazes, from the parking lot. Once you reach the top, the plateau makes for picture-perfect views. At the bottom of the mountain are picnic tables and a large playground.

Do you have a favorite fall excursion off the beaten path? Tell us about it!

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