Find total rejuvenation on three sides.
The key here to a quick getaway: Don’t waste time driving west to the mountains. Live in city center? A 15-minute ferry ride lands you on Spectacle Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (bostonharborislands.org), where you’ll find five miles of trail and a hilltop with views of the city. Or, for a surprisingly wild overnight, head to Lovells Island and its three secluded campsites. Northside hikers: Head to Walden Pond State Reservation, 15 miles northwest of town. Only 1,000 visitors per day are allowed, which might strike Thoreau as a crowd but is actually an improvement (in the 1930s officials estimated there were 25,000 bathers here on each summer Sunday). Near the boat launch, pick up the Esker Trail on your left. This rugged, two-mile route along a glacial erratic affords some of the best views of the pond. After half a mile, go left on Emerson’s Cliff Trail and climb to the park’s highest point. Continue to lush Heywood Field, an oasis for gray tree frogs, leopard frogs, and snapping turtles. Go right on Heywood’s Meadow Path and loop back on the Esker Trail for a four-mile circuit (mass.gov/dcr/parks/walden). Southside residents: Your closest hiking is in the 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation (mass.gov/dcr/parks/metroboston/blue.htm), which has a sprawling 125-mile trail network just minutes from town.