The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.

10 Fall Hikes in Massachusetts

In the distance, a Red-bellied Woodpecker drums on a tree for food while a plump squirrel scampers through the browning leaf litter on the forest floor. A Broad-winged Hawk shrieks somewhere in the grasslands beyond the tree line, and a small garter snake slithers quietly through the commotion. What other sights and sounds can you experience during a fall hike? Find out by exploring these 10 trails. 

Trail with Still Waters 

See a cloudy sky reflecting off the glass-like waters of the Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in Falmouth along the Grassy Pond Trail. Walk around the entire pond while listening to birds high in the trees. Before heading back, take a break on the wooden benches of the Grassy Pond Overlook to soak in the tranquility of the site. 

Along the bank of a pond stands a mix of green pines and bare trees. Yellow Brown stick and leaf litter cover the area near the water.
Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary

Ponds, Saltmarshes, and Beaches 

On Martha’s Vineyard, almost every trail at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary passes some form of water—combine three of the trails to circle the perimeter of the Sanctuary. Start on Sassafras Trail to cross over Turtle Pond, then continue along Shad Trail to stand on the shore of Major’s Cove on Sengekontacket Pond and meander along the beach. Link back with the Sassafras Trail to rest on a bench overlooking the Pond, then discover the Marsh Trail with dramatic views of State Beach and Moffett Cove beyond the tidal salt marshes. 

Take the Boardwalk Less Traveled 

Walk along almost half a mile of boardwalks, over a marsh and a river on the River Walk at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield. Look for fall and winter sparrows like the White-throated, Field, Swamp, American tree, and Song sparrows, in the maple forest and shrubby thickets. 

Wooden boardwalk curves to the right between bare trees.
Boardwalk at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary

A Fall Sense for Sensory Trails 

Watch waterfowl like Hooded Mergansers and American Black and Ring-necked ducks cruise the shallow waters of Kingfisher Pond and Teal Marsh from the boardwalk on the Sensory Trail at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk. The boardwalk also has a deck that overlooks both the pond and marsh, before continuing to Beech Grove Trail. 

Rock and Roll 

You could easily spend the whole day wandering through the 12 miles of trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, but make sure you spend some time in the Rocky Grotto on the Rockery Trail. The narrow caves and spiraling rock pathways were built in 1905 by Thomas Proctor, who started living at the estate in the late 1890s. The loop around the Rockery Pond is surrounded by a mix of native and non-native trees, which was once a private arboretum built by Proctor.  

Two adults and a child smile as they pass under a passage made of large rocks.
Rocky Grotto at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary © Jared Leeds

Lone Wolf Legend Walk 

Massachusetts has plenty of predators like coyotes, bobcats, and black bears, but our forests are free from the howling packs of hungry wolves. According to local lore at the High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne, the last wolf that lived in the area lived at a geological feature named Wolve’s Den, found at the corner of North Trail and Wolve’s Den Loop Trail. As you travel along the trail, think of how different our wildlife and ecosystems may have been just 200 years ago, when the last wolf sighting in Massachusetts was recorded.  

Enchanted by History 

Other evidence of life from 200 hundred years ago can be seen from the Enchanted Forest Trail at Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester. Weave between remnants of stone walls built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, then make your way to the Sagatabscot Ridge Trail where a small quarry is located on the western end near the Piggery Trail.  

Looking at a path that crosses over a crumbled part of a rock wall. The treetops have some green, but the forest floor is covered with orange and brown leaves.
Stone wall at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Don’t Overlook This Spot 

At the overlook site on Fox Trail at Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan, you can feel right in the center of the wetlands by being surrounded by native cattails. Make sure to bring (or borrow) binoculars to look out across the area for any Red-tailed Hawks. 

Seven Viewing Areas, One Sanctuary 

There are seven observation sites at the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, six of which are in the first half mile from the nature center. To get to the seventh overlook, you have to get on Little Farm Pond Trail, which starts at the 3-car parking lot off Farm Road just east of the intersection with Lake Street in Sherborn. The trail leads you to a 0.3-mile loop, with benches on the eastern lookout of Little Farm Pond. 

The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.
Overlook area at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

A Special Habitat 

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet is home to some of the rarest habitats on Cape Cod. Take the Try Island trail to pass Mockernut Hickories and Black Oak trees that are nearly 100 years old. This trail is a short loop that offers salt marsh overlooks and expansive views of Wellfleet Harbor. 

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Jovan and his mentor Jeff stand together smiling with fall foliage behind them.

The Value of Mentorship

On a chilly day in late October, the Environmental Fellows and their Mass Audubon staff mentors gathered at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton. As the fellows and their mentors often meet virtually, the chance to convene outside and learn more about the wildlife at the museum was a welcome change of scenery.  

Relationship- and network-building is a priority of the Environmental Fellowship Program (EFP). Through networking events, educational excursions, and cohort check-ins, the fellows are encouraged to connect with each other, professionals in the environmental and conservation fields, and Mass Audubon staff, including mentors who are matched with each fellow.  

More than just an experienced colleague, the mentors are there to support fellows as they navigate their positions at Mass Audubon and plan for what is next in their career.

“It’s amazing to have someone who is there to help lift you up so you can do your best professionally and is also checking in with you as a friend at the organization,” said Amara Chittenden, the conservation science fellow. “My mentor has helped me develop confidence and made me feel valued as a coworker.” 

A Red-tailed hawk perches on Emily's gloved hand. In the foreground, Amara looks on, smiling.
Amara looks on as Wildlife Care Supervisor Emily Hastings presents a Red-tailed Hawk and explains how wildlife care staff will take walks with a bird on their arm so that the animals can experience a variety of sights and sensations throughout the day.

Mentors volunteer their time to support the EFP, excited by the opportunity to work with the fellows. “I’ve always enjoyed acting as a mentor, even in less formal arrangements. I find it rewarding,” said Jeff Ritterson, mentor and field ornithologist for Mass Audubon.  

Jovan Bryan, land conservation fellow and Jeff’s mentee, reflected on the value of having a mentor:  

“Jeff has been a huge help in making me feel comfortable as I move through the workspace. I quickly learned that your mentor is there to help, so ask for help even if you don’t think you ‘need’ any. A second perspective is a great thing to have, and they’re willing to give it to you.” 

Jovan and his mentor Jeff stand together smiling with fall foliage behind them.
Jovan and Jeff posed for a quick photo together before finishing the uphill climb to the observation tower at Blue Hills.

While the goal of these relationships is to support the fellows, mentors are enjoying the benefits of this connection as well. “Anna [Cass] brings a lot to this relationship including her valuable background, keen observations, great questions, and an eagerness to understand different perspectives on what she’s curious about,” said Lucy Gertz, Anna’s mentor and director of adult education and accessibility. 

Isa and Zaskya stand together smiling and leaning on the stone wall behind them. Behind the wall is a horizon filled with fall foliage.
Policy and Advocacy Fellow Isabela Chachapoyas-Ortiz and her mentor, Development Manager Zaskya Perez, were excited to enjoy the view at the top of Blue Hills.

As the fellows envision their future careers, mentorship is something they’re thinking about both for themselves and for the next generation of environmental leaders that follows them. Amara is hoping to continue a legacy of mentorship.  

“One of my favorite experiences was getting ice cream after a hard day in the salt marsh,” Amara said. “My mentor, [Coastal Resilience Program Director] Dr. Danielle Perry, talked about how her own mentor brought her for ice cream after a long day in the field, and it really felt like that circle of support fulfilling itself. I hope one day I can give this experience to someone else.”