With fall on the horizon, there are plenty of places in the area to stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery. Here are 14 of our favorites.

Gibbet Hill, Groton

Address: Park at Gibbet Hill Grill, 61 Lowell Road, Groton. Follow the path past the small pond near the road.

Trails: Half-mile to the top of the hill. Link to town-wide trail system from other side of the hill.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Description: One of the best views of the farmland and hills surrounding Groton is visible from the remains of a burned-out stone building. Bancroft Tower was a hospital for World War I veterans when it went up in flames on July 4, 1930. Continue past the “castle” to connect with more routes.

Manning State Park, Billerica

Address: 39 Chelmsford Road, Billerica

Trails: Full loop and parking is 1.35 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Description: The park has a few different trails, including a fitness trail and a children’s story brook trail. A new 20-piece fitness circuit can turn a walk into a great exercise routine. Also, visitors can have picnics in the park. In the winter, people go snow shoeing and cross-country skiing.

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Lowell to Westford

Address: Parking at Old Town Hall, 1A North Road, Chelmsford and other locations

Length: 6.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy, flat. Use caution when crossing roadways.

Description: For all those who don’t have time to get out of the suburbs, this simple trail offers a peaceful glimpse of nature through Chelmsford and Westford. Park at any of the several authorized parking spots throughout Chelmsford and enjoy a secluded experience that’s still close to home. The trail will take you through Chelmsford’s Heart Pond, where you can stop to enjoy the water or sunset.

Narrow Gauge Trail, Billerica and Bedford

Address: Enter at north end of trail in Billerica at west end of Springs Road just before Concord Road; enter south end in Bedford across from Bedford Depot Park on Loomis Street by Hartford Street.

Length: About three miles

Difficulty: Easy

Description: The tail follows the path of the old Billerica & Bedford Railroad, which claims itself as the country’s first common-carrier, two-foot-gauge railway starting in 1877. Passenger trains later ran along the route until 1933, and service was discontinued entirely by 1962. The path crosses some main streets, including Great Road (Route 4), Springs Road, Pine Hill Road and Sweetwater Avenue.

Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Groton/Ayer

Address: End of Cardinal Lane, off of Robin Hill Road near Shaw’s in Groton

Trails: 3 miles of total trails looping through conservation area.

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This wildlife sanctuary is located on the Groton-Ayer line and is managed by Mass Audubon. It cuts past a stretch of power lines into the woods, and there several looping trails go past granite outcroppings, wetlands and a vernal pond that is home to wood frogs in the spring. It also connects to trails controlled by the Groton Conservation Trust.

Heald Pond, Pepperell

Address: Heald Street in Pepperell near the dam.

Trails: The Jeff Smith Trail crosses the road, with Heald Pond on the south side. To the north, it goes through the Pepperell Springs conservation area into New Hampshire.

Difficulty: Use caution. Steep on the south side of the road, possibly wet heading north.

Description: The trail offers a marvelous view of Heald Pond from a steep slope. Follow the Gold Trail that splits off after .51 miles to get to Heald Orchard, a popular birding destination. Remain on the trail to follow Blood Brook to the start of the Jeff Smith Trail on Jewett Street, 1.32 miles from the kiosk.

Mary Shepard Open Space, Littleton

Address: Snow Terrace and Woodridge Road, Littleton

Trails: 1-mile trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This circular trail follows a forested ridge called a glacial esker toward the Westford town line. A footbridge crosses a brook on the route. You’ll probably white markers between homes on Snow Terrace, but don’t worry — you’re on town property. Hiking boots are recommended for this trail as there are some wet areas.

Dunlap Sanctuary, Dracut

Address: 480 Marsh Hill Road, Dracut (approximately)

Trails: 1-mile trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: The sanctuary covers 85 acres of protected wilderness. The 1-mile Marjorie’s Way trail, which was created as an Eagle Scout project in 1996, passes through woodland, over several small hills, beside a beside a beaver dam, and along Big Pond. It is a quiet respite just off the street — parking is limited — with periodic benches on which hikers can rest.

Bartlett Woodlot, Chelmsford

Address: Behind 9 Acton Road, Chelmsford, across from Bartlett Park

Trails: 3/4 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Description: This Chelmsford Land Conservation Trust property offers both natural and manmade wonders. The hilly woodland and wooded swamp are bounded by the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and Beaver Brook to the north, and several large, private residential properties on the other sides. Look for a small waterfall and remnants of a historic dam for early grist and saw mills.

George B. B. Wright Reservation, Chelmsford

Address: 120 Parker Road, Chelmsford

Trails: Outer loop 1 mile, inner loop 1/2 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This reservation, managed by the Chelmsford Conservation Commission and maintained by the Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship, offers a beautiful and unique hike. In addition to local plant varieties, you’ll see magnolias, wisteria and many other unusual species of trees and flowering plants from around the U.S. and the world.

Willard Brook State Forest, Townsend

Address: 595 Main St., Townsend

Difficulty: Easy

Description: The forest features a relaxing walking path that runs right along Willard Brook and eventually leads to Trap Falls. Hikers also have the chance to climb up into the surrounding hills through several trails.

Mount Watatic, Ashburnham

Address: Trail entrance located at Watatic Mountain State Wildlife Area on Rindge State Road

Difficulty: Moderate

Description: Despite being a heavily hiked area not too far from the New Hampshire border, Watatic’s elevation makes for a great place to take in fall foliage or watch the annual hawk migration every September.

North Central Pathway, Gardner

Address: 45 Veterans Drive, Gardner (the trail starts from the rear of the rink)

Trails: 3.1 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Description: The North Central Pathway links the historic downtowns of Gardner and Winchendon. In Gardner (southern section) a paved trail travels along the east side of Crystal Lake while an undeveloped rail trail travels along the west side of the lake. Both of these trails link up (on-road) by Route 140 across from the northern section (Gardner and Winchendon).

Monoosnoc Trail, Leominster

Address: Trail openings located along Elm, Wachusett, and Pleasant streets in Leominster

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Description: Although it does have some steep areas that hikers will have to climb up, the struggle is worth it when you see some of the great views of the nearby reservoirs and Wachusett Mountain.

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