We sent guest writer Laurence Holyoak on a mission, along with her pup, to discover the best places to bring your dog outside of Boston. Take some time and enjoy her report on her adventures.
Rounding up a list of the best places to bring your dog outside of Boston has been my pup’s favorite assignment of the year. We tested many areas, hiked trails, swam in ponds and mucked through swamps to bring you a list of the most beautiful parks to explore with your pooch. With foliage season around the corner, this list will not disappoint.
Callahan State Park, Framingham
~39 minute drive from Boston
This park is hands-down the most dog friendly place I have ever visited. Dogs can run off-leash to their heart’s content and they have an entire group of people working to keep it that way. The Callahan Dog Owners Group, who’s board is appropriately made up of all dogs, has made it their mission to make Callahan State Park the best multi-use park in the Massachusetts State Park System. They strive to keep a safe, clean environment for all who use it.
Callahan ticks all of my boxes for a good place to bring your dog- there is nearly 100 acres of open fields to romp, two rivers to dip into, a giant network of trails to hike and a nice pond for swimming. With over 800 acres to cover, your dog will never get bored.
There are three parking areas to enter Callahan State Park, but for the dog park, you want to use the south entrance located at 311 Millwood Street. Once you cross the field, you will see Packard Pond. Grab a trail map, because the trails are not very well marked. Over 85% of the park’s visitors will have off-leash dogs, which is something to keep in mind if your dog is not very dog-friendly.
Great Brook Farm State Park, Carlisle
~36 minute drive from Boston
This was my favorite of all of the parks I visited. Great Brook Farm is such a perfectly serene area.. There is a main trail that leads around a large pond called the Pine Point Loop. No getting lost, no maps needed, just one big circle. There are many offshoots of this main trail, so you can explore more as you get to know the area. My dog loved running off leash and since we were off the beaten track, we had the place almost all to ourselves. A place to swim is a must for my island dog and he loved being able to take a dip whenever he wanted. I loved the diversity of walking from a pine forest, through a swamp, to a meadow, ending up at another pond. Bring a towel for your pooch, because he will come out dirty on the other end.
To find the trailhead, follow North Road once you enter the park. Bypass the main parking area a quarter-mile and look for a small parking lot on your right hand side. This is also a canoe launch. You can pick up the trail system here. The cherry on top is that there is an ice cream stand on the property.
Noanet Woodlands, Dover
~34 minute drive from Boston
The Noanet Woodlands is owned by the Trustees of the Reservation, which means there is a $5 fee for a day pass. I would recommend parking at Powisset Street and walking the Peabody Loop (blue blaze) which takes about 45 minutes. This will lead you through some beautiful wooded trails passing three ponds along the way. Be sure to detour up Noanet Peak (yellow blaze), to get a beautiful view of the Boston skyline. The trails are very well marked, but grab a trail map so you don’t get turned around. There are over 17 miles of trails to explore here, allowing you to visit again and again. I was there in the late afternoon and heard a barred owl warming up his vocal cords for that night’s performance. It is amazing to be so lost in nature when you are just outside of a major city. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
Rocky Woods, Medfield
~38 minute drive from Boston
This is another Trustees of the Reservation property, which means that same $5 parking fee apply. This park is a part of the Green Dogs Program, which is an innovative approach to meeting dogs desire to have time off-leash, while sharing the space with other park users in the community. This means that there are designated trails for off-leash romping, which are usually located on the outskirts. You dog is welcome on the other trails, but must be on leash. The rules of each trail are well-marked so there is no confusion. As a person who once walked a caution dog, I can appreciate having a bit of both.
We chose to do the 1.5 mile yellow loop trail and loved crossing the narrow footbridge that cuts through Echo Pond. As my dog ran along the water’s edge, he caused a chain reaction of giant bullfrogs to jump off the bank back to the safety of the water. He thought it was the best game ever.
Sabine Woods, Groton
~54 minute drive from Boston
In Groton, MA you can find a beautiful wildlife sanctuary called Sabine Woods. After you cross the bridge, your dog can be off leash. I usually bear to the right, cross the field and walk until I reach the river. There is a trail that runs along the bank of the Nashua River. I love how the trees lean over the water, each leaf straining to get a piece of sunlight. In the spring, tree frogs will serenade you from the vernal pools just within the forest.
Throughout the sanctuary, you will find some neat statues and monuments. The park is well maintained like a nature reserve. The public access trail will eventually end at the Groton Boat House where you will have to turn back and retrace your steps. On a hot day, your dog will love running down to the banks of the river to get a drink or cool off.
Remember to be respectful and clean up after your dog. Have fun exploring.
Laurence Holyoak is a writer for Journeys and Jaunts which gives weekly inspiration for traveling with kids and dogs. She lives with her three children, two rescued dogs and two cats. Her mission is to show her kids, including her dogs, the world.
For more inspiration for traveling with your dog, visit Journeys and Jaunts here.