Some places are blessed with beautiful coastline. Some are home to verdant woodlands. Others have meandering rivers with scenic, tree-lined shores. And then there are those communities lucky enough to have it all. With so much natural beauty, it’s a perfect place to spend a long weekend doing all sorts of recreational activities you either love or want to try for the first time. Here are a few ideas for making the most of Hingham’s great outdoors.By Dan Mathers
STAND-UP PADDLING IN HINGHAM HARBOR
Small enough so that it isn’t too intimidating to rookie paddlers, beautiful Hingham Harbor is home to several small islands that beg to be explored. Sure, you could rent kayaks and visit them by boat. But why not try the fun new sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
Stand-up paddleboarding is essentially standing atop an oversized surfboard and propelling yourself using a long paddle. Maintaining your balance on the board might sound hard, but it’s surprisingly easy. Did we mention it’s also tons of fun?
Just a few hundred yards from the pier is tiny Button Island. Less than an acre in size, the rocky island is covered by a few trees and makes a great, easy-to-reach destination when you’re just starting to paddle. Sarah, Ragged and Langlee Islands are just past Button, and are part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park. With primitive trails and a bustling bird population, including cormorants and snowy egrets, Sarah Island is an ideal place for quiet birdwatching. Ragged Island was once home to a summer resort, and evidence of structures remain on the island. Langlee Island features impressive ledges offering spectacular views of the Boston skyline and other parts of Boston Harbor.
After exploring the islands, paddle to the eastern shore of Hingham Harbor and visit World’s End Reservation, a 251-acre park with rocky beaches, grassy hills and rolling fields that make it an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic. Take in some of the best views of the city as you meander along the miles of carriage paths designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Feeling confident with your stand-up paddling skills? Those brave enough can make their way toward several of the Boston Harbor Islands, such as Bumpkin, Slate and Grape, located only a short paddle away.
Hingham Recreation Department at Town Pier
210 Central St., Hingham
Eastern Mountain Sports
6 Shipyard Drive #1A, Hingham
HIKING IN BARE COVE PARK
It’s hard to find a place close to Boston where you can look out from an undeveloped riverbank and see nothing but nature in front of you. But Hingham’s Bare Cove Park is one such place. Visitors to the park can look out from the vastly wooded banks of Beal’s Cove, which overlook the waters of the Weymouth Back River, tree-lined shores and abundant wildlife.
Believe it or not the U.S. Navy once used the park’s land as an ammunition depot. It was in 1972 that Bare Cove Park was set aside as a wildlife sanctuary and recreation area. With its 484 acres of river shoreline, wetlands, fields and thick woodlands, it is home to wildlife such as osprey, snowy egrets, deer, fox and coyote. Old abandoned roads help create an intricate network of trails, making the park very popular with hikers in the area.
Bare Cove Park features a mix of old paved roads, gravel paths and winding dirt singletrack. The southern section of the park has several loops of paved trails through woodlands that encircle a web of crisscrossing, narrow dirt trails. At the southern tip of the park is scenic Indian Point, looking out at the Fresh River. Bare Cove Path is an old road leading to the western section of the park, along the Weymouth Back River. It, too, has its share of small, dirt trails snaking through woodlands along the river. While exploring the park, keep an eye out for remnants of old structures that are exciting to discover—a cement wall overgrown with trees, stairs that now lead nowhere, and a large foundation hidden in the woods are some of the artifacts you’ll stumble across.
At the western edge of the park, the rocky shores along the river are a great place for kids to stand and throw stones into the water, do some fishing or even enjoy a picnic. And a large brick dock house doubles as a history museum of the park.
MOUNTAIN BIKING AT WOMPATUCK STATE PARK
Ask any local mountain biker about riding in Wompatuck State Park, and they’re likely to get a gleam in their eye. With an expansive network of diverse trails spread throughout the park’s roughly 3,500 acres, “Wompy” is a mountain biking heaven and one of the most popular biking destinations in the state.
What makes Wompatuck exceptional for mountain bikers is it has enough dirt singletrack to ride for hours, hardly ever touching a tire to pavement.
When visiting Wompatuck, be sure to grab a map so you know where you are in the park’s vast trail system. Don’t be intimidated to explore—there are enough fire roads and paved roads crisscrossing the area that you’ll make it back without needing a search party.
Wompatuck has an exceptionally active community of mountain bike advocates who put a lot of work into developing the park’s well-marked, fun trail network suitable for all riding levels. The park’s bridle paths and long, meandering dirt trails, for example, are great for beginners. But the park also has plenty of terrain to challenge and excite more advanced riders.
Bikers can speed over smooth singletrack, jackhammer over roots and rocks, hop logs, dart back and forth along swooping trails, and enjoy the roller-coaster feel of pushing up a slow climb followed by the rush of a steep drop. Riders may also come across wood beams where they can test their balance or fly high off of jumps.
Visitors to Wompatuck will want to venture to the top of the park’s largest hill, Prospect Hill. Several routes lead up the hill, and one of them is the longest section of switchbacked singletrack in the state. Other scenic rides in the park include visiting Aaron River Reservoir and Triphammer Pond.