The North Shore has an abundance of opportunities to explore the natural world, with hundreds of miles of trails meandering through forest, field, and marsh. When winter hits, however, many of us may feel inclined to stay inside where it’s warm and the cozy blankets are close at hand.
If, however, you can find it in you to break out the hiking boots, mittens, and wool hat, you’ll discover that the region is full of wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoors no matter the temperature. Whether you’re looking to immerse in the woods, adventure with the kids, or take a brisk walk without straying too far from the hot chocolate, we’ve got some suggestions for the perfect winter wander.
(And if these aren’t enough, check out this list of six more great winter destinations.)
Halibut Point State Park/ Halibut Point Reservation, Rockport
Tucked away at the northernmost tip of Rockport, Halibut Point offers an unparalleled combination of nature, history, and scenery. The trail system is made up of a central loop with several offshoots, making it easy for the winter hiker to choose a quick stroll or a more bracing adventure.
The wide, well-packed main trail makes a 0.7-mile circle around an abandoned granite quarry with sheer walls of 440-million-year-old rock. Download the self-guided tour to learn more about the bygone granite industry that once occupied the property. A small side trail leads to a scenic overlook that offers panoramic views as far as Maine on clear days. Other side trails meander down to weather-beaten rocky coastline, where bird-lovers can keep their eyes out for migratory avian visitors, from geese and eiders to the occasional Atlantic puffin.
Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk, Newburyport
For an invigorating outdoor walk without the muddy boots, take a stroll along these connected, largely paved paths in Newburyport, part of a larger effort to create a network of bikeable trails from the New Hampshire border to Boston.
The trail wanders through the woods and past homes and shops from the commuter rail station down to the waterfront, then traces the edge of the Merrimack River, providing glimpses of boats cruising in and out, soaring birds (perhaps you’ll even sight a bald eagle), and other waterfront activities. The trails are dotted with sculptures, creating an inspiring combination of art and natural beauty. In the winter, trails are often cleared by volunteers, and downtown Newburyport is just steps away if you need to warm your hands on a cup of hot chocolate or a warm latte.
Old Town Hill, Newbury
The Great Marsh is a 25,500-acre swath of tidal salt marsh that stretches from southern New Hampshire to Cape Ann. Old Town Hill, a Trustees of Reservations property, encompasses just 531 of these acres, but lets visitors surround themselves with the rhythms of the marsh ecosystem as the tides flow in and out, and hawks circle and swoop and pounce on their prey.
Three miles of trails loop through open fields and woodlands in addition to wetland, and a 168-foot hill rewards climbers with sweeping views of the marsh and surrounding land. The trails are well marked, a particular asset on snowy days, says Jared Bowers, director of a portfolio of Trustees properties throughout the North Shore.
In fact, Bowers says, winter is an especially spectacular time to visit Old Town Hill. With the leaves down, the property has a unique, desolate beauty, he says.
“You can appreciate the forest in a new and different way, a new different light,” he says.
Breakheart Reservation, Saugus
Oceanfront properties may get all the glory on the North Shore, but Saugus’s Breakheart Reservation offers family-friendly opportunities to explore lakefront trails in an easily accessible location. The park’s two fresh-
water lakes give children ample opportunity to experience the age-old joys of throwing stuff at ice, and wide, paved paths are available for easy walking, even with a stroller.
“We go all year round,” says Emily Gleason, a Wakefield resident and mother of two, whose children are particularly fond of the park’s playground and climbing the nearby hill.
Those looking for a more in-depth hike can also find what they want here: A large network of trails loops through the woods, with several hilly options offering both bracing exercise and panoramic views.