Especially at a child-hiker’s pace, these trails and their treats reward everyone

By Jeffrey Romano
Globe Correspondent / April 10, 2011

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With spring vacations and the end of school fast approaching, now is a perfect time to plan a family hiking adventure. Fortunately, the region is blessed with a variety of trails that are both challenging and rewarding for people of all ages. Add any of these outings to an upcoming itinerary and discover some of the region’s most beautiful flora, fauna, and landscapes.

To ensure your trek is a memorable one — for the right reasons — it is important to plan accordingly. First, choose a destination with an achievable outcome for young legs and one with many natural fe atures to entertain. Second, be prepared with sunscreen, insect repellent, and more clothes, food, and water than you think are needed. Lastly, expect to move at a leisurely pace, especially while hiking with young children. Relax and enjoy the many rocks, sticks, and critters encountered along the way.

Myles Standish State Forest

The largest public land in southeastern Massachusetts, the forest is a short drive from downtown Plymouth. Seemingly unchanged since the Pilgrims, this sprawling complex of pitch-pine, scrub oak, and small kettle ponds offers relaxing hiking along 13 miles of trails.

Hike: The 3-mile Healthy Heart Trail circling East Head Reservoir is an ideal introduction to the area. Hugging the shoreline throughout (a few small sections can be muddy), the loop traverses a forest teeming with pink lady’s slippers and ringing with the oft-repeated call of common yellowthroats.

Trailhead: Located on Cranberry Road in Carver at the forest headquarters, east of the forest’s west entrance.

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Mount Tom State Reservation

The conservation land covering more than 2,000 acres in the heart of the Pioneer Valley is home to 75 percent of the state’s reptile and amphibian species. It also houses more than 20 miles of trails to explore mature forests en route to striking clifftop panoramas.

Hike: Follow the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail 1.5 miles south. A steep climb over scenic Whiting Peak soon leads to dramatic traprock ledges near the summit of Deadtop — watch your step! Parallel trails to the east offer slightly longer, more gradual return options.

Trailhead: Located on Smiths Ferry Road in Holyoke, 1.5 miles west of the reservation’s main entrance, where the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail crosses the road.

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Monument Mountain

One of the Trustees of Reservations’ most popular destinations, Monument Mountain is the famous Berkshire loca tion where Herman Melville was inspired to write “Moby-Dick.’’ The centerpiece of a 503-acre reservation, the white-rocked mountain enjoys ledges that are inspiring to look at and even more impressive to stand atop.

Hike: A steady but straightforward 2.6-mile loop can be completed by combining the Hickey, Squaw Peak, and Indian Monument trails. The narrow summit of Squaw Peak features steep drop-offs, but offers tantalizing views that extend from Mount Everett in the south to the summit of Greylock north.

Trailhead: Located on Route 7 in Great Barrington, 3.1 miles south of Stockbridge.

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South Pawtuckaway

This park’s 5,500 acres are an outdoor recreational paradise in southern New Hampshire. While many visitors head straight to the park’s popular lake, the area also has many miles of family-friendly hiking trails. Venture along Pawtuckaway’s forested paths to explore wildlife-rich habitats, as well as three scenic peaks that are the remnants of an ancient caldera.

Hike: Use the Mountain and South Ridge trails to reach the 908-foot summit of South Pawtuckaway in 2.4 miles. Past ponds, boulders, and stone walls, the route eventually emerges onto open ledges before arriving at a fire tower that affords 360-degree views.

Trailhead: Located near Mountain Pond, 0.4 mile beyond the park entrance in Nottingham.

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Green Hills

A 4,222-acre Nature Conservancy preserve minutes from the outlet stores of North Conway, N.H., the Green Hills feature rare plants and spectacular views of the Mount Washington Valley. Snow-free when surrounding ridges cling to winter, the preserve combines challenging terrain with relaxing jaunts through picturesque forests.

Hike: Embark on the 4.2-mile round-trip hike to 1,793-foot Peaked Mountain on a woods road that leads across municipal parkland. Bear left to reach the nature preserve and the start of a loop. Hike clockwise along the Peaked Mountain, Middle Mountain Connector, and Middle Mountain trails before returning to the start.

Trailhead: Located in North Conway on Thompson Road, 0.3 mile off of Artist Falls Road.

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Bradbury Mountain

The open ledges atop this 485-foot Maine mountain offer pleasant countryside views as well as a great vantage point for marveling at the spring migration of returning raptors. The centerpiece of an 800-acre state park, the mountain is surrounded by inviting forests and abundant spring wildflowers.

Hike: Dissected by a network of trails, hikers can choose the short, steep 0.3-mile Summit Trail or take one of the more gradual paths that reach the highpoint from the north. The longest and quietest choice is the 1.5-mile Boundary Trail, which visits numerous vernal pools along the way.

Trailhead: Begin at the park entrance on Route 9, 0.5-mile north of Pownal Center.

The Bubbles

The two distinctive rounded summits of the Bubbles that overlook Maine’s beautiful Jordan Pond are the perfect mountain destinations for young hikers to quickly reap rewards. Views from the highpoints include sparkling freshwater, higher rocky summits, the distant ocean, and the south peak’s famous glacial erratic.

Hike: The Bubble Rock Trail provides a short but steady climb to side paths that lead in opposite directions, more easily to South Bubble and a bit more strenuously to North Bubble. Both summits can be reached in less than 2 miles round trip.

Trailhead: Located in Acadia National Park on the Park Loop Road at the Bubble Rock parking area, roughly 2 miles west of the road up Cadillac Mountain.

Block Island

With more than 43 percent of its land permanently conserved, this scenic island off Rhode Island, surrounded with dramatic ocean bluffs and more than 17 miles of beaches, is the perfect destination for hikers of all ages. Spring is a great time to explore Block Island on foot, when migratory songbirds outnumber sunbathers.

Hike : Begin a 5.5-mile loop along the Greenway Trail as it winds gradually through Enchanted Forest and past Turnip Farm. Head south to scenic Black Rock Beach and then meander north through Rodman’s Hollow. Continue east to Fresh Pond where Center Road quickly leads north to the trailhead.

Trailhead: Park at Nathan Mott Park located on Center Road just west of the airport.

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Wolf Den

In 1742, legend says, future Revolutionary War hero Israel Putnam killed Connecticut’s last wolf in a den now located in the heart of 900-acre Mashamoquet Brook State Park. Today, the park beckons hikers, young and old, to imagine the past, while experiencing an inviting landscape of forested hillsides, carpets of wildflowers, and unique geologic formations.

Hike: Follow the Blue Trail south over rolling terrain as it passes the park’s signature features: Wolf Den, Indian Chair, and Table Rock. Descend north toward the area’s namesake brook before swinging east to complete the 4.2-mile loop.

Trailhead: Located in Pomfret at the State Park Campground on Wolf Den Drive.

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Penwood State Park

With long wooded ridges, a secluded mountain pond, and quaint viewpoints, this Connecticut park is an 800-acre oasis minutes from downtown Hartford. With an occasional steep ascent, the changing terrain lures all to discover the next showy wildflower or melodious songbird around the bend.

Hike: After a brief stint north along the paved road, bear left up the Metacomet Trail. Hike past Lake Louise to a scenic pinnacle overlook. Retrace your steps and pick up the yellow-blazed trail leading south from the lake’s outlet stream. The 4-mile loop winds past quiet vistas before concluding.

Trailhead: Located at park entrance, off Route 185 in Bloomfield. Use first parking lot on right.

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Jeffrey Romano, author of “100 Classic Hikes in New England’’ (2010) and “Best Loop Hikes: From New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Maine Coast’’ (2006), can be reached at