Blue Hills Reservation: Great Blue Hill
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:1904 Canton Avenue, Milton, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free
Contact:; 617-698-1802

Bathrooms: Near the parking lot and inside the Blue Hills Trailside Museum
Water/Snacks: Water fountains near the parking lot and at the Trailside Museum; snacks at the museum

The 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation is the largest open space within 35 miles of Boston and a vast playground for lovers of the outdoors.

A hike up Great Blue Hill, the highest point in Blue Hills Reservation, is a great outing with kids.
Photo by: Megan Begley

Museum, which serves as the interpretive center for the reservation (though the reservation itself is run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation). There you can get oriented to the area, pick up maps, and view both indoor and outdoor exhibits that feature native wildlife. In the outdoor pens, you can see rescued injured animals, such as deer, turkey, hawks, and owls. Kids will adore watching the river otter, which seems to love performing for an audience by diving and flipping in a pool.

Take Red Dot Trail, which starts behind the museum. This 2-mile loop is great for snowshoes in winter. You’ll see a signpost with maps at the trailhead. Hiking up to the summit of Great Blue Hill, which at 635 feet high is the highest point in the Blue Hills, is a moderate challenge for kids, but the payoff is worth it. They’ll love first getting to the stone Eliot Tower, which they can climb for wonderful views. The picnic tables in the shade are a great spot for asnack break. Afterward, hike up to the Weather Observatory (you’ll see a sign pointing the way next to the tower). The observatory is a National Historic Landmark; here, incidentally, you’ll find a bathroom, a water fountain, and a gift shop selling snacks and drinks. Special programs are offered here throughout the year—check with the reservation for details. (If you have a stroller, you can take the paved Summit Road to get to the top. If you take the trail up and worry that the kids may get tired on the descent, take the road back down.) In winter, downhill skiing and sledding is allowed at the William F. Rogers ski slopes on Great Blue Hill (781-828-5070).

An interesting fact to tell the kids is that the Blue Hills were named by early European explorers who noticed the bluish hue on the slopes when viewed from a distance. Long before that, native peoples who lived here referred to themselves as Massachusett, or “people of the great hills.”

Remember: If you want to spend more time at the Blue Hills, why not spend the night? You can stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club cabins on Ponkapoag Pond (see Trip 27); for reservations call 781-961-7007 or visit Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.

Plan B:

If it is a hot summer day, take a dip in Houghton’s Pond (Trip 28) or walk around the pond to look for wildlife.

Where to Eat Nearby:

The Trailside Museum sells a variety of snacks, drinks, and ice cream.



By: Libby Stockwell Deegear
Posted: 03/24/2014 18:06
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By: jlake138
Posted: 06/19/2012 11:00

Quick climb for great panoramic views in all directions! Boston skyline is easily visible to the north and the weather observatory's "highlight" plaque is a perfect opportunity for children to learn about history - and some of the biggest weather events to have hit the Blue Hills in the past 100 years!

River Otter in the outdoor pen at the Museum = must see.

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By: Stefanie
Posted: 05/11/2012 21:48

We love this hike with our two daughters who are 2 and 4.  The oldest can walk the whole way and our youngest gets carried a bit as she tires.  We keep it simple: day packs with a warm layer, water, and a snack for the summit as we enjoy the amazing view.  They always want to keep going - "another mountain" but we head back down knowing they'll be plenty tired by the time we're at the car.  Make it a morning hike and they are sure to sleep all the way home.

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By: kellyspowers
Posted: 05/11/2012 10:11

One of our favorite, regular trips! My 3 yo made it up and down almost entirely on her own this year (just a little bit of piggy-backing on the way back down!)

The views of Boston are beautiful and the kids love visiting the animals at the museum before and after the hike and exploring the observation tower atop Great Blue Hill.

Be warned - on a beautiful weekend in summer or fall, the trail can get VERY crowded and chaotic because there are typically lots of kids and some large groups headed up and down.

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