Hiking up to the Blue Hills Observatory

Eliot Observation Tower

The 38th stop our quest to visit the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts was 635 feet up in the air. The Blue Hills Observatory sits on top of Great Blue Hill, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills chain.

The most popular route to the top is the red dot trail. That trail also happens to be one of the rockiest and steepest trails in the Blue Hills Reservation. It goes straight up from the Trailside Museum.

I recommend that you pick up a copy of the “Great Blue Hill Self-Guided Trail Brochure” at the the Trailside Museum before you head up. At nine spots along the red dot trail the dots will be marked with numbers corresponding to the text in the brochure. Stopping at the numbers will also give you a breather on the hike.

(Not that you need it. I’m talking about someone else, not in the excellent physical condition that you are in.)

I was carrying an extra 30+ pounds since I had The Daughter strapped into a carrier slung on my back. The Son was relatively self-sufficient. He was big enough to be burdened with a CamelBak, filled with his water for the day.

He had orders to follow the red dots denoting the trail. He and The Daughter decided to touch each red dot as we passed it on the trail. Of course, all I could think of was Pac-Man eating the dots as he rolled through his maze. I was soon letting out a “wocka-wocka” as the kids touched each red dot. They soon joined in. We were the Pac-Man family wocka-wocka-ing our way up the hill.

At the summit we were torn as to which tower is the “Blue Hill Observatory” listed as one of the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. There are two to chose between.

The most prominent observation post is the Eliot Observation Tower. Charles Eliot was a visionary landscape architect who was a major proponent of the original establishment of the Blue Hills Reservation in 1893. The stone tower and pavilion prominently sited at the top of the red dot trail is named after him. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Weather Observatory

The other observatory is the famed Blue Hills Weather Station. It’s sitting on the biggest hill around and near the ocean. It experiences the most extreme weather in Metro Boston. Of course, it’s Metro Boston so the weather is not that extreme.

The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory was founded in 1885 by Abbott Lawrence Rotch as a private scientific center for the study and measurement of the atmosphere. It was the site of many pioneering weather experiments, especially kite soundings of the atmosphere in North America in the 1890s.

In 1989, the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory was designated as a National Historic Landmark recognizing its leading role in the early years of meteorology becoming a science.

We decided to visit both. The Eliot Tower offers spectacular views. As you can see from the picture at the top, there is a great view of the Boston skyline. Off to the east is Boston Harbor and the Harbor Islands. Off to the west, you can see Mt. Wachusett on a clear day. It was not that clear on this day.

The view was still very impressive. Even The Son was impressed by the view of the Boston skyline.

The Weather tower offers some interesting information on weather science. Also be warned that they have a gift shop. Anything you buy will need to be lugged back down the hill.

I managed to deflect their interest in a new toy and got The Son to scramble back to the Red Dot trail for the hike back down. (They had already spotted the gift shop at the Trailside Museum back down at the base.)

Wocka-wocka we went, all the way to the bottom. It was a great day of hiking.

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