Emerald Necklace Walk
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
This wonderful Boston walk tour allows you to explore the greenery of Boston with a long walk along the Muddy River and Boston’s best gardens and parks. Known locally as ‘The Emerald Necklace’, this walk goes through a series of green spaces meandering from Dorchester to Back Bay, providing an escape into nature while remaining in the city.
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Route Description for Emerald Necklace Walk
The Emerald Necklace is a classic walk in Boston. Start in Franklin Park, the largest park in Boston and home to playgrounds, a performance space, a golf course, and a pond. Most notably, though, the Franklin Park Zoo calls this area home.
The Franklin Park Zoo was founded in 1912 and contains more than 220 exhibits. Most notable are the Tropical Forest and Serengeti Crossing, both of which house a variety of animals in enclosures that best imitate their natural habitat. The zoo is open every day and admission is $20.
From the zoo, take a right to follow Circuit Drive through the park. This will lead you past a playground and around to Forest Hills Drive. Pass Forest Hills Rotary Park and take Arborway into the next green space. Arborway will take you past the South Street Community Garden and straight to the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
The Arboretum was founded in 1872 with a portion of whaling merchant James Arnold’s estate. Today, Harvard University has a thousand-year lease on the property, so the arboretum is a department of the university. Arnold Arboretum maintains one of the most comprehensive living collections in the world. Admission to the arboretum is free, however donations are accepted, and it is open every day except for Wednesdays, so plan accordingly as this site is well worth a visit.
Exit the Arboretum back onto Arborway, then take a right on Centre Street. If you find yourself needing some food or a drink, the options on Centre Street should meet anyone’s needs. Definitely consider Purple Cactus if you’re looking for burritos, Centre Street Cafe for Italian fare, or JP Licks if you just want a snack and feel like trying some of the best ice cream in Boston. After filling your stomach, take a left on Pond Street and follow it until you’re at Jamaica Pond.
Throughout history, the pond has served as a reservoir, a source of ice for the greater Boston area, and as an ice-skating destination. Today, skating is no longer permitted on the pond, but it is a popular site for fishing, rowing, and sailing. The pond also plays host to a lantern parade around Halloween. As you stroll around the pond, take the opportunity to snap some lovely pictures and enjoy the scenery.
As you exit the Jamaica Pond Boathouse, follow the path to the left around the pond. Continue on the path as it takes you along Jamaica way and across Perkins Street. Pass Wards Pond, cross Willow Pond Road, and the path will take you to Olmsted Park.
When it originally opened, the park was named Clever Park, but it was renamed in 1900. The name Olmsted came from Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed the Emerald Necklace and many other notable parks throughout North America. Today, the park is home to trails, ball fields, ponds, scenic views, wildlife, and a wildflower meadow. Olmsted Park also hosts a concert series each summer.
Continue along the path closest to Jamaica Way and follow it around Leverett Pond, then turn left on River Road followed by a right on Pond Ave. This will lead you to a path that will take you across Washington Street and Huntington Ave. The next green space just past Huntington Ave is the Riverway.
The paths in the Riverway follow the Muddy River and allow for views of a variety of plants and wildlife. With luck, you’ll be able to snap excellent shots of herons on the banks of the river. The bridges in the Riverway are also worth noting. They are gorgeous and many were designed by the firm of H. H. Richardson, who was the architect behind Trinity Church in Copley Square.
Follow the path through the Riverway, sticking to the left to walk near Brookline Ave. Shortly after Brookline Ave intersects with Parkway Rd, take the path to the left to cross Brookline Ave. Continue on the path across Netherlands Road and Longwood Ave. When you reach Park Drive, turn. Follow Park Drive as it curves to the right, cross the street just after the water and take the pathway.
From here, you could take the second pathway to the right and explore the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is a museum of the private collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner that opened in 1903. Or, you could continue onwards, as you pass Clemente Field to the left you will see the Museum of Fine Art across Fenway to your right. The MFA houses one of the greatest collections of American art in the world. Also located here are four excellent restaurants if you need to take a break for a bite to eat. For a fine, sit down dining experience or a glass of wine, try Bravo on the second floor of the contemporary art wing. If you want something creative, check out the menu at the New American Cafe. Or for something casual, the museum offers Taste Cafe and the Garden Cafeteria.
If you’re not in the mood for art or a meal though, turn left on the path where Fenway intersects with Forsyth Way and cross the bridge into the Fens. What used to be an unsanitary marsh has been turned into one of Boston’s most scenic parks. The Fens are home to gardens, ball fields, statues, and scenic landscape. Snap a picture of your surroundings as you cross the bridge or while strolling through the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden, then, make your way to the path nearest Park Drive to cross Agassiz Road.
Continue along the path as it takes you past the community garden and to Boylston Street. Cross Boylston Street and take the path by Charlesgate. This will lead you to Commonwealth Avenue and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Take a right and enter the mall.
As you stroll through the green space, take note of the statues you pass, such as the Boston Women’s Memorial, which commemorates the lives of Phillis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone, and the Boston Vendome Hotel Fire Memorial, a memorial for the worst firefighting tragedy in Boston’s History. If you find yourself needing a snack or a change of scene from the parks, take a right and walk for two blocks. This will take you to Newbury Street, a main shopping street, where you can peruse boutiques or grab a bite to eat. We recommend trying Dirty Water Dough Company or Joe’s American Grill. Whether you are walking Newbury Street or the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, soon you will end up at the Public Garden.
The Public Garden was established in 1837 and was the first of its kind in America. Entering the park from this side, you will be greeted by a statue of George Washington and a variety of gorgeous flowers. The Public Garden is easily one of the most picturesque spots in Boston so be sure to take in the scenery around you. Behind the George Washington statue is a bridge over the lagoon and the site of the Swan Boats. Boat rides are open in the summer and cost $3.50.
If, instead of crossing the bridge, you follow the path around the lagoon to the left, you will pass the Robin Williams Park Bench. This bench was used in the filming of Good Will Hunting and has become a makeshift memorial to the actor. If you follow the path even farther around the lagoon, it will lead you to the Make Way For Ducklings sculpture, which is based on the children's book written about a family of ducks who call the Public Garden home. Whether you followed the path across the bridge or around the lagoon back to the other side of the bridge, you’ll be able to continue on the path to cross Charles Street into the Boston Common.
If the weather is nice, as you enter the last link of the Emerald Necklace, you’ll be greeted with children playing, dogs running around, and a variety of food vendors. The oldest city park in the US, the Boston Common was established in 1634. Today as you stroll through the park, you can find statues, ball fields, tennis courts, a pond, a carousel, playgrounds, and many statues.
As you cross Charles Street, continue on the path past the John Paul II Placard, then, take the fourth possible left to lead you to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. This monument was dedicated in 1877 to honor Massachusetts soldiers and sailors who died in the Civil War. Continue on from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to the Carousel. Take a right to walk along the banks of Frog Pond, then take a right followed by another right and a left to walk around the Tadpole Playground. Take a sharp right and a sharp left shortly after. This will take you to Brewer Fountain. The fountain was made in Paris and was a gift from Gardner Brewer, a wealthy Boston merchant. It is a copy of a piece created by Michel Joseph Napoleon Lienard for the Paris World Fair. Continuing on behind the fountain, you will find the Park Street T stop. From this spot you could continue to explore downtown Boston, turn right on Park Street to walk around the Beacon Hill area, or catch the T at Park Street to travel anywhere else in the city.
Insider Hints for Emerald Necklace Walk
- Wear comfortable shoes, The Emerald Necklace is one long walk.
- Pack an umbrella, you never know when it’s going to rain in Boston.
- As this is a very outdoorsy walk, as far as tours of Boston go, be prepared with sunscreen!
- You could also rent a bike and cycle the Emerald Necklace.
Getting to the Emerald Necklace Walk Trailhead
To begin this walk through some of Boston’s most scenic green spaces, take either the 16, 32, 34, or 36 bus to the Franklin Park Zoo stop.
Emerald Necklace Walk Elevation Graph
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Emerald Necklace Walk Reviews
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