By JOHN EGAN
If you live in Boston, New Haven, or even Providence, finding an escape from the cycle of urban and suburban life can seem difficult. Although each city in New England has its charms, drawing tourists for their culture, food and arts, there’s something to be said for getting out of the concrete jungle and discovering a region’s true, natural character.
Public land isn’t as easy to come by on the east coast as out west. We’ve built interstates every hundred miles in New England, packing towns, suburbs and neighborhoods between them.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of amazing, pristine areas where it’s possible to get away — you just have to know where to find them. The Nature Conservancy keeps a running list of their preserves around the country. Nowhere do they maintain more of these natural gems than in New England.
For your next day trip, weekend or vacation, consider discovering a few of these places. Here are five favorites, each within a short drive of a major metropolitan area:
Saco Heath, Maine
Just south of Portland, this 1,223 acre preserve includes the rare chance to walk across a massive peat moss bog. A boardwalk crosses the expanse, where it’s easy to spot carnivorous plants. In the spring, look for tiny bright pink and lavender flowers illuminating the ground like magic all around you.
Williams Woods, Vermont
There are few things that get children more excited about nature than turning over a rock and discovering that they’ve uncovered the home of a salamander or tree frog. At the Williams Woods Natural Area near Burlington, families can explore an intact oak and hickory forest in the Lake Champlain Valley before scouring the damp ground for its rich abundance of amphibians.
Black Pond Bog, Massachusetts
A short hop from Boston, escape into this protected paradise that includes a pond, swamp, white cedar forest, and its namesake bog. Formed by a glacier that carved a bowl into the ground, the sphagnum moss bog and accompanying meadow are a perfect place to unwind from the busy pace of Beantown, without having to drive all the way to the Cape.
Burnham Brook, Connecticut
Consisting of 1,122 acres, the Burnham Brook Preserve protects the headwaters of Connecticut’s Eightmile River. One of the most intact Atlantic salmon habitats left on the east coast, the site includes trails where visitors can trek into moss-laden forests of oak, beech, and maple.
Lime Rock, Rhode Island
Natural dolomitic marble is the attraction that draws both geologists and regular visitors to Lime Rock Preserve, ten minutes from downtown Providence, but the wildflowers and rich ferns that grow in the calcium-rich soil are equally worth the excursion. Surrounded by suburbs and development, Lime Rock is a refuge for wildlife and a year-round haven for locals and travelers.
Wherever you travel, it’s always rewarding to discover pristine, natural spots that are favorites for locals but often overlooked by guidebooks and tourist websites. Especially in a place like New England, it’s worth a short drive to get off the beaten track and find serenity amidst nature’s bounty.