Best Hiking Trails In and Around the Merrimack Valley
The Merrimack Valley is a region in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire where the Merrimack River makes its way from Franklin, NH, south and east to the Gulf of Maine between the cities of Newburyport and Salisbury, MA. This area is known for its history as a hub for textiles manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution, and is where The Merrimack Company is headquartered. The brand was founded on the three pillars of community, nature, and adventure, and here we’ll focus on nature and adventure by sharing our favorite and best Merrimack Valley hiking trails.
New England is home to diverse land and water features, and is notably a historically and culturally rich region of the United States as one of the earliest English settlements in the “New World.” It's important to note that many of these locations feature native names, and thus, we’ve included the nations that lived and worked these lands before settlers arrived. Nations were sourced using Native Land Digital, an app to help map Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages.
Haverhill, MA, land of the Pawtucket, Pentucket, and Abenaki nations
Just a few miles from downtown Haverhill, Winnekenni Park is home to Kenoza Lake, The Basin, Plug Pond, and Winnekenni Castle. Nearly 10 miles of trails crisscross the property, and are popular year-round for hiking, biking, running, and cross-country skiing. The trails are gentle and well-groomed, with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views. Aside from the castle, Winnekenni is dog friendly, so bring the whole family for an afternoon on the grounds.
North Andover, MA, land of the Wabanaki, Pawtucket, and Agawam nations
Weir Hill is a 60-acre forest with three trails that summit Weir Hill and meander along the shoreline of Lake Cochichewick. It’s a classic Merrimack Valley hike that has something for everyone. Weir Hill is dog friendly, but note that because the lake is the town’s drinking water supply, swimming isn’t allowed for humans or pets.
The Merrimack River Trail
Andover, MA, land of the Pawtucket and Pennacook nations
The Merrimack River Trail is an 11.8-mile out and back along the southern banks of the Merrimack River, and is popular for hiking, birding, biking, and running. It offers a bit of nature-focused relief in an otherwise developed, urban area. Dogs are welcome, and in some areas they are permitted to be off leash.
Maudslay State Park
Newburyport, MA, land of the Agawam, Pawtucket, and Wabenaki nations
Located in the coastal town of Newburyport, Maudslay State Park is home to 19th century gardens, meadows, towering pines, and one of the largest naturally occurring stands of mountain laurel (a flowering plant) in Massachusetts. This state park features 16 miles of trails ideal for hikers, bikers, trail runners, cross-country skiers, and horseback riders. Dogs are welcome, but must remain on leash. Because it’s a state park, daily parking passes are available for purchase.
Nearby Massachusetts Hikes
If you have time and access to a car, here are a few of our picks for other trails in the area to explore, outside of the Merrimack River Valley.
Burlington Landlocked Forest
Burlington, MA, land of the Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett) and Agawam nations
Located south of the Merrimack Valley region, the Burlington Landlocked Forest is a little-known gem in the heart of Burlington, right at the intersection of Routes 3 and 95/128 in what’s known as Boston’s Technology Corridor, an East Coast version of Silicon Valley. This 250-acre parcel of land offers 13 miles of trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty, and are ideal for walking, running, cycling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. It’s dog friendly, too.
Beaver Brook Reservation & Western Greenway
Waltham, MA, land of the Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett) and Pawtucket nations
Positioned between Arlington, Waltham, Lexington, and Belmont, the Beaver Brook North Reservation and Western Greenway are a natural space of land surrounded by neighborhoods. Some parts of this greenway are well-groomed, offering the Seven Mile Trail for hikers, walkers, and runners to explore, whereas other parts are truly wild, full of dense vegetation and home to local fauna. The Western Greenway is dog friendly.
Minuteman National Historical Park
Lincoln, MA, land of the Agawam, Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett), and Pawtucket nations
The Minuteman National Historical Park is steeped in early American history. It’s home to Battle Road Trail, a five-mile path connecting historic sites, where thousands of Colonial Militia and British soldiers fought in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775, launching the American Revolutionary War. The path is well-groomed, easy to follow, and meanders through forest, fields, and past historic buildings and monuments. It’s easily accessible, with multiple parking lots and visitor’s centers along the way. Unlike larger national parks, this national historical park allows dogs on leashes.
Walden Pond State Reservation
Concord, MA, land of the Pawtucket, Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett), and Nipmuc nations
Walden Pond State Reservation is home to 335 acres of land and dozens of paths and trails. The park features a boat ramp, swim beach, picnic areas, and restrooms. Take a 1.9-mile stroll around the water on Walden Pond Path and ponder what inspired Henry David Thoreau’s writings, then take a dip in the glacier-carved pond in summer months. Note that there is a small fee for parking, and lots fill up quickly in peak season. Additionally, dogs are restricted from Walden Pond State Park, so leave Fido at home.
Middlesex Fells Reservation
Stoneham, MA, land of the Pawtucket, Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett), and Naumkeag nations
Located a short distance north of Boston, Middlesex Fells Reservation features more than 100 miles of mixed-use trails for hiking, walking, running, birding, biking, and more. Boat rentals are offered for paddle-powered exploration of Spot Pond. This dog-friendly park is home to Sheepfold Meadow, an off-leash area for four-legged friends to run free. Parking can be found in multiple designated lots and informal “pull-off” locations around the park.
Blue Hills Reservation
Milton, MA, land of the Pokanoket, Wôpanâak (Wampanoag), and Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett) nations
Blue Hills Reservation is a 7,000-acre state park located in Norfolk County, MA, with access points from a variety of towns. If you’re looking for an easy, forest-lined trail, we recommend the Forest Path Loop, a green-dot trail accessible from Houghton’s Pond. In summer months, there is a small swim beach at the pond, making it a nice treat to go for a hike and finish with a dip in the pond. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with vistas, the Skyline Traverse is a point-to-point, east-west trail that crosses the Blue Hills range. It’s the longest and most challenging trail in the park, with steep inclines and rocky terrain. On a clear day, you can see the Boston skyline.
New Hampshire Hikes
We would be remiss if we didn’t include a couple great hikes from neighboring New Hampshire. After all, the Merrimack River flows through the state, starting at the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnepesaukee rivers, near the town of Franklin.
Alton, NH, land of the Wabanaki and Abenaki nations
If you’re looking for a short, but moderate hike to incredible views, Mount Major is a must-do from spring to fall. With three trails to the top, you can do an out and back or a loop, and connect to other trails to extend your trek. Hikers are treated to incredible views of Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in the state. Summer is peak tourist season, but this hike is paired well with any of the watersports and restaurants that can be found nearby on the lake. Although, hiking in fall means foliage, and there is plenty to be enjoyed along the trails and from the top. The trails are dog friendly, but pups must be leashed. The trailhead parking lot can fill up quickly, but parking along the southbound shoulder of Route 11/Mt Major Highway is permitted unless otherwise noted by signs.
Wildcat Falls Conservation Area
Merrimack, NH, land of the Abenaki, Wabanaki, and Pennacook nations
Located along the Souhegan River, a tributary to the Merrimack River, Wildcat Falls Conservation Area is an 87-acre park of pine and hardwood forest, with three trails and a few connectors that cross the space and are perfect for easy hiking, trail running, bird watching, and blueberry picking. Swimming in the river is not restricted, but it’s not recommended due to the dangerous nature of Wildcat Falls. Dogs are welcome and can even enjoy their own swim beach, but must be leashed on the trails. Parking can be tricky to find because it’s a very small lot off a residential street.
So, hit the trails and have fun! Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite hikes in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!