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Beyond the President’s Lawn

Off Campus | December 10, 2012

Has the Somerville concrete jungle got you down? Want to breathe in the crisp air of the wild, but don’t have a car to get to the Loj? Tired of pretending the trees on the way to Davis constitute a “nature walk”? Here are the top five underrated nature spots to visit off campus, all accessible by either bus, the T, biking, or walking:

The Middlesex Fells Reservation
Commonly referred to as simply “The Fells,” this spot is incredibly close to Tufts (a short jog or bike ride away) and includes miles of forest reservation. Highlights include many ponds and reservoirs, the “Panther Cave,” Wrights Tower (when it’s open there is a great 360-degree view), and many winding trails. Come during any season, but be sure to bring a headlamp if you are venturing out later in the day. (www.fells.org)

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
Assuming you’ve already checked out the Public Gardens, the Arnold Arboretum should be the first stop on your tour of Boston nature enclaves. Located in Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, it’s the oldest public arboretum in the nation and its collection of plant life covers 265 acres. Take the Orange Line to the Forest Hills stop and disappear into the trees for a while. (arboretum.harvard.edu)

Mount Auburn Cemetery
This historic cemetery is tranquil, beautiful, and too close not to visit. Get a map at the visitor’s center for a dollar and wander the rows of tombstones, looking out for notables like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dorothea Dix, and Mary Baker Eddy. For peaceful reflection, take a moment to stop by the natural amphitheater. A lookout tower located in the center of the cemetery provides sweeping views of the greater Boston area—see if you can spot Tufts! Mount Auburn is a 25-minute walk from the Harvard T-stop, and is also easily accessible by bike. (www.mountauburn.org/)

Mystic Lakes
There’s more to the Mystic River area than the famed Dennis Lehane novel, and the Mystic Lakes prove it. This is one of the few legal swimming spots near Tufts, but is also gorgeous to visit in chillier weather. The many flat paths surrounding this leafy area are ideal for both biking and running. To make a day of it, grab lunch at the Whole Foods located off North Street and walk down Boston Ave all the way to High Street to find this secluded, yet accessible, spot.

Carson Beach
Carson Beach is a classic city beach located five minutes from the Red Line JFK/UMASS stop in South Boston. For those of us that crave the ocean, this is an ideal place to bring a cup of coffee on a chilly day and contemplate the poetry of the waves. This sandy spot is a great place to be reminded that Massachusetts is in fact a coastal state—and that the Atlantic is only a T-ride away.