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Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Biking Through the Emerald Necklace Parks

Touring Boston via public parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

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 (9 votes, 2 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.0 miles / 8.0 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: This series of parks and green spaces essentially serves as the urban Boston city dweller's backyard. Frederick Law Olmsted (yes, he designed Central Park, too) was a visionary landscape architect, and Boston is blessed that he set his sights here. This guide takes you through the five-mile park system. Pack a lunch and snacks; you'll see any number of places to picnic.

Tips: A bicycle is the way to go through the Emerald Necklace, if you can, though you can certainly walk it. It just makes for a longer day. Bring lots of water, wear good walking shoes and don't forget your camera.

Points of Interest


Back Bay Fens

The Fens was a marsh, which was drained and filled in, and then turned into parkland by Olmsted. It is fun to walk through the Victory Gardens, the nation’s oldest remaining WWII gardens. There is also a rose garden— absolutely stunning in bloom—and myriad pathways to explore. A playground at Mother's Rest is a great spot for kids.

The Riverway

The Riverway connects the Fens to Olmsted Park and offers shady paths, a gazebo and charming little stone bridges to cross.

Photo: Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

Olmsted Park

This namesake park for the master planner of the Emerald Necklace is composed of three ponds, numerous walkways with footbridges and a bike path. It is between the Jamaica Pond area and the Riverway. You could meander endlessly throughout the park system.

Photo: Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

Jamaica Pond

Few neighborhood parks are so well used and well loved as Jamaica Pond, and for good reason. The grounds are well maintained, the vibe is relaxed and friendly, and glimpses of nature are everywhere to be enjoyed, right in the middle of a city neighborhood. It also happens to be the site of America’s first reservoir.

In every season and at just about any daylight hour, the pond’s paved trail is occupied by people of all ages and from many walks of life. It’s a place to kick back and enjoy the small pleasures of childhood: watching the ducks and geese; tossing sticks and rocks; spotting a majestic swan, a shy turtle, numerous dogs; walking, running and riding; having a picnic and meeting old or new friends.

You can rent sailboats July through Labor Day; rowboats, April through September.

Arnold Arboretum

The arboretum offers more than 250 acres of open space to bike, in-line skate, run or just stroll among the walkways (but you can't picnic here).

It is North America's first public arboretum and has meadows, forest and ponds with 15,000 trees, shrubs and vines. Head to Peter's Hill for the highest point in the Emerald Necklace with a great view of Boston's skyline.

Photo: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Address: 125 Arborway
Phone: 617-384-5235
Admission: Free
Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm; Saturday 10am – 4pm, Sunday 12pm – 4pm

Franklin Park

The 527-acre Franklin Park has an 18-hole course, a pond and a 100-acre woods (not the Hundred Acre Woods, alas), plus playgrounds, walking trails, tennis courts and a bandstand for summertime entertainment.

Franklin Park Zoo

While not technically park of the Emerald Necklace, the 72-acre zoo sits in Franklin Park and makes for a great way to end your day of tour. Check out the giraffes, lions, gorillas and more.

If you've got an appetite, there's the indoor, southwestern-themed Giddy-Up Grill concession stand and, in season, the outdoor Kalahari Kitchen with hamburgers and hot dogs.

Address: 1 Franklin Road
Phone: 617-541-5466
Admission: Adults $16, Seniors 62+ $13, Children 2-12 $10, Children under 2 free
Hours: April 1 – September 30 Monday through Friday 10am – 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am – 6pm; October 1 – March 31 daily 10am – 4pm
Pictures in this guide taken by: kfmwriter, chris, tafhall
I did this trail with a road bike. Some parts of the trial is really nice, especially near Jamaica Pond, but the trial is cut into several pieces and it's tricky to find your way from one to another. Also there is a good amount of traffic to go through, and a few places that there are no bike trials. Going into a roundabout with crazy boston drivers is not fun. My suggestion: if you are comfortable riding through traffic and good at finding your way around, this is a fun trail and you're get quite a workout (there are a lot of up and down hills), otherwise it can be quite distressful.
Visited on Jul 17, 2012

by jason.y.wu.9 on Jul 17, 2012
Great to see the Necklace featured here. Important to note: DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS OR GEESE - EVER! It creates a harmful situation for all. Did you know you can fish at Jamaica Pond? A more extensive map can be found at KFM: Please call me at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy office 617-522-2700.

by smknight on Jun 04, 2010

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