Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain (nature trails and hikes in Boston)
Arnold Arboretum

Live in the city and don’t feel like driving out to the ‘burbs to take the kids on a nature walk? These easy-to-access trails are all located IN Boston — and they’re perfect for getting out of the house and into a peaceful woodland setting. Plus, they are all free!

1. Arnold Arboretum

125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain

The Arboretum is a vast botanical garden owned by Harvard University that spans the neighborhoods of Roslindale and Jamaica Plain. It offers streams and bridges, trails for walking and biking, boulders to climb, hills with fantastic views, woods to explore, a rose garden, a bonsai collection, a visitor’s center, and many beautiful plants and flowers. Young visitors may enjoy checking out the fascinating “Wonder Spots” and rotating StoryWalks. This urban oasis is my ultimate go-to — it’s open from dawn ’til dusk! There are several small parking lots, but street parking can always be found along the Arborway and Bussey Street.

2. Allandale Woods

7 Veterans of Foreign Wars Parkway, West Roxbury

Ever heard of the famous “wall in the woods”? (Super interesting history — look it up!) It’s super fun for toddlers to walk on. This trail includes a small bridge, a brook to play in, a tiny waterfall, and a serene pond. Be sure to bring your splash gear, because these trails can get muddy. You can park by Willow Path Childcare to access the trail. 

Walking on a wall in the woods

3. Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary

500 Walk Hill Street, Mattapan

Complete with a nature playground, self-guided trails, boardwalks, wild turkeys, bees, and other wildlife, the Boston Nature Center — a Mass Audubon location — is a beloved place to visit in the city. Parking is available onsite, and admission to trails is free and accessible to all! They offer fantastic paid kids and adult programming as well, including guided nature walks.

4. Stony Brook Reservation

95 Turtle Pond Parkway, Hyde Park

These trails are a favorite with dog walkers. Be sure to stop by and visit Turtle Pond. The dock is a picturesque area to sit and relax. Parking can be a little tricky to navigate here, but you can park along the side of the road.

5. Millenium Park

300 Gardner Street, West Roxbury

The trails here lead down to the Charles River, where you can see people canoeing and kayaking and observe some wildlife. Did I mention the newly renovated playground on the hill? This is also a nice spot to bike or fly a kite. There is lots to do in this park! A parking lot is on site. 

6. Roslindale Wetlands

Hazelmere Road, Roslindale

This walking trail has been newly refurbished and now contains fun boardwalks taking you through a serene swampland. The trail itself is clear and easy to navigate, and the quick 10-minute loop is an absolute favorite with toddlers. Street parking is available, and there are entrances on Coniston and Robken Roads.

7. Forest Hills Cemetery

95 Forest Hills Avenue, Jamaica Plain

Don’t let the word “cemetery” scare you. This lovely spot may be one of Boston’s best kept secrets — so many walking trails to explore, with a beautiful pond in the middle. It’s certainly a calm and peaceful way to spend a few hours with your littles. Parking is on site.

Little boy playing by pond in Fall

8. Franklin Park

1 Franklin Park Road, Dorchester

I’m sure you’ve been to the zoo, but have you explored the numerous trails of Franklin Park? There are some fun surprises to be found — I’ll just leave you with this: historic bear cages! This park has multiple points of access. Parking lots and street parking are available.

9. Neponset River Reservation

350 River Street, Mattapan

The lovely trail along the river here is extra beautiful in the fall. There are great paths for walking and biking, and you can visit the Lower Neponset River Trail bike path and check out the cool Harvest River Bridge. I like to use the entrance right by the Ryan Wading Pool and Playground. There is a small parking lot there and plenty of street parking. 

10. Hancock Woods/D. Blakely Hoar Sanctuary

291 Independence Drive, Chestnut Hill (on the West Roxbury border)

There are some lovely hidden nature trails right off the VFW parkway. I like to do the loop that starts by the Baker School tennis courts. There are some boardwalks that lead you through a peaceful swamp and forest. Use street parking to access. 

Toddler on boardwalk in forest

Looking for a family nature outing beyond the borders of Boston? Try one of these 10 family-friendly hiking trails within two hours of the city!

Maria Zolotarev
Originally from Moscow, Maria has lived in the Boston area since grade school. She attended Boston Latin, where she met her husband, and then graduated from Northeastern University. Maria now lives in the vibrant neighborhood of Roslindale with her husband and two kids (born in 2015 and 2020). She works as clinical pharmacist by day and runs the Roslindale Littles Facebook group in her free time. Prompted by the pandemic, she dove headfirst into finding her “Unicorn Space” outside of working and momming. She rediscovered her love of writing and one day she hopes to publish a children’s book that showcases her family's culture. Most days you can find her chasing her super active kids around the garden while she listens to a never ending TBR list of audiobooks. Likes: tea, cats, yoga, hiking, her Peloton, exploring, reading, gardening and meeting new people. :)