Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:10 Juniper Road, Belmont, MA
Hours:Trails: dawn to dusk daily; visitor center: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends
Fee: Adults, $4; children ages 2–12, $3; Mass Audubon members, free

Contact: [email protected]; 617-489-5050

Bathrooms: At the visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountain and some snacks for purchase in the visitor center

This property will enchant children and adults with its Turtle Pond, formal garden, and meadows and forests to explore.

A young visitor explores Turtle Pond, looking for the namesake turtles and other wildlife.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

Try to go to this toddler-friendly sanctuary when the visitor center is open— the staffers and volunteers go out of their way to be helpful and informative. In the center, you can pick up a Discovery Booklet, which has a scavenger hunt and some other activities to engage children as you hike through the 90-acre property. If your children have a Passport to Nature book from Mass Audubon (in which they can keep track of properties they visit), they can visit the stamp box outside by the parking lot or the one inside the visitor center to have their books stamped.

Three hikes that are good for kids range from 0.5 mile to 1.6 miles; each hike has a number of side paths to explore. The property has deciduous and evergreen forests, meadows, two ponds, and a wetland containing a vernal pool. Behind the visitor center, which hosts monthly art exhibits, is a beautiful formal garden.

On one visit with my daughter and a friend of hers, we started with the 0.5- mile Turtle Loop and were rewarded with hearing first, then spotting, a great blue heron. They can be quite loud! Several turtles lounged on rocks in the sun while dragonflies flitted about. If you have toddlers, this is a perfect walk that rewards with lots to see in a short amount of time. The longer Highland Farm Loop takes you to the highest point in Belmont. If you make the longer walk to Weeks Pond, you’ll find a secluded and peaceful spot to visit. The sanctuary offers several programs, including winter naturalist walks and a summer camp; ask for information at the visitor center.

Remember: It can be buggy in the woods in spring and summer. Don’t forget to pack some bug spray!

Plan B:

Fresh Pond Reservation (Trip 17) is less than ten minutes away by car. Visit the butterfly meadow or tot lot playground, or stroll around the pond.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Belmont Center has plenty of options from ice cream shops to sit-down restaurants.


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