Five nature spots to visit in Massachusetts

Planning a visit to Massachusetts and looking for beautiful places to see? Here are five nature spots you don’t want to miss!

The Bay State is the perfect place for a wide variety of outdoor adventures. Though perhaps most often associated with its capital city of Boston and hot vacation spot Cape Cod, Massachusetts is also home to over 2,700 acres of old-growth forests, more than 1,500 miles of coastline, and six mountain ranges. 

Spending time in nature has long been considered a healing practice. For people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, several top Massachusetts rehab centers provide evidence-based treatment in a natural setting, allowing ample opportunities to get out into nature and experience its healing effects.

Trethowans
Trethowans

A recent University of Michigan study found that even just a short time spent in nature reduces stress. More specifically, the cortisol-lowering effects from spending time in nature peak within 20 to 30 minutes, at which point cortisol levels continue to drop but at a slower rate.

If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Massachusetts, here are a few natural wonders to check out.

1) Chesterfield Gorge: Chesterfield, Massachusetts (best time to visit: year-round)

Carved over the span of centuries by the rushing waters of Westfield River, Chesterfield Gorge features a rock canyon that opens out into a natural recreation area. As seasoned canyon hikers know, the best views are usually found at the top. Chesterfield Gorge doesn’t disappoint, with a half-mile trail along the top of the cliffs offering unobstructed views of the river, gorge, and forest setting.

Westfield River is one of four federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Massachusetts. These rivers and their immediate environments, recognized as having significant scenic, recreational, historic, cultural, and other value, are protected for current and future generations to enjoy.  

2) Pecks Falls: Adams, Massachusetts (best time to visit: April through October)

You could spend every day for a whole year exploring a different waterfall in Massachusetts and you’d still have plenty left to visit. With over 400 known waterfalls, the state offers just about everything a waterfall lover could want, from swimming holes to remote locations away from the crowds.

Pecks Falls is one particularly charming waterfall in the state, or more accurately, two. The lower falls features a 50-foot drop, and the upper falls, a 12-foot drop. Swimming is great in the upper falls, though keep in mind that the water is chilly, and possible in the lower falls but more difficult to access. As a bonus, the 45-minute hike out to Pecks Falls is particularly beautiful.

3) Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head Lighthouse: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (best time to visit: Memorial Day through Columbus Day)

You can visit the awe-inspiring Aquinnah Cliffs on the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard year-round, but the lighthouse at Gay Head is usually only open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Some visitors say that evening is the best time to visit, to see the colorful clay cliffs glow as the sun sets.

Swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, and the like are also summertime-only activities down at the beach area, but the sweeping views of the Atlantic are worth checking out any time of year.

4) Sunderland Caves: Sunderland, Massachusetts (best time to visit: March through October)

Coming in at 47 miles long, the Robert Frost Trail in Mount Toby State Forest is one of Massachusetts’ longest nature trails. A 2.5-mile section of the trail will take you past stunning rock formations to the Sunderland Caves. 

If you want to go inside the caves, be sure to bring a flashlight because it is dark. Some light does peek through the top in places, but not enough if you want to do some real exploring. There are distinctive rock layers in the cave because unlike solution caves, which are formed by water, the Sunderland Caves were formed when sedimentary layers shifted and pushed up against each other.

5) Ellisville Harbor State Park Trail: Plymouth, Massachusetts (best time to visit: year-round)

Enveloped in red-pine forest and rolling meadows, Ellisville Harbor State Park Trail offers the perfect getaway for hiking, bird-watching, and ocean-gazing. The one-mile trail is a good option for people of all activity levels, ending at a sandy, remote beach.  

Hikers of this trail report opportunities to see harbor seals and fishing boats year-round. The seals tend to stay in the water, but you’ll have a good chance of seeing them sunbathing on the kelp-covered rocks if you visit when the tide is out.