Extreme Hiking in Boston, Massachusetts

by Jennifer Dermody
Leave the city behind for a weekend in the mountains.

Leave the city behind for a weekend in the mountains.

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Boston is a historical New England city rich in academia, culture and dedicated sports fans. Located just two hours south of New England's highest mountains, Boston is a gateway into the great outdoors of extreme hiking, during the heat of summer, the dead of winter and every season in between. Bostonians drive north on Highway I-95, leaving the city skyline over the Charles River behind, for the tranquility and adventure of weekends in the extreme wilderness.


Driving through Boston city traffic is an opportunity for the adrenaline rush and risk of extreme hiking, but the experience is not quite the same. Extreme hikes are the longest, most dangerous hikes, on the most treacherous terrain and in challenging weather conditions. High altitudes, dense woods and unmarked trails are characteristic. Hand-over-hand climbs precede ladder-aided descents. Specialized gear such as snow shoes, parkas, fully waterproof boots and mountain climbing equipment is standard.


Boston is a compact city that sits 19 feet above sea level, a far cry from the elevation of central Maine's Mount Katahdin, boasting a 5,267-foot peak. Just hours north of Boston, throughout New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, there are 770 summits higher than 3,000 feet, and 115 of those peaks exceed 4,000 feet. If elevation alone doesn't categorize these monstrous peaks as extreme, the unpredictable New England weather and rugged terrain does.


Boston's winter weather is cold, wet and unpredictable. An average of 42 inches of snow falls each year. Parking bans go into effect, and piles of snow pushed aside by plows grow to mountainous heights. Accumulating snow visible through an apartment window acts as a reminder that nearby Mount Washington, New Hampshire's highest peak, gets an average of 315 inches annually. In comparison, a major Boston storm seems like a dusting. Heavy rain in spring causes streams and rivers to flood. Temperatures are mild, but thunder and hail storms can appear out of nowhere.


For the extreme hiker with a busy work schedule that requires more travel on Boston's subway than on hiking trails, there's opportunity for exposure to the great outdoors within city limits. The Appalachian Mountain Club Boston Chamber Mountaineering Committee (amcbostonclimbers.org) holds regular training and educational seminars. Eastern Mountain Sports (ems.com), a locally established retailer of hiking and camping gear, offers equipment and safety gear seminars in their Boston stores. The National Wildlife Federation's Nature Find Program (nwf.org) links individuals with local opportunities for outdoor exploration.

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