Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:1 Monsen Road, Concord, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: At a comfort station near the parking lot
Water/Snacks: None

Opportunities abound for wildlife sightings at Great Meadows, which make this a wonderful place for kids.

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for great blue herons.
Photo by: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is composed of 3,800 acres, which may sound daunting when planning your visit, but families who want an almost-guaranteed sighting of wildlife along easy trails should head to the Concord Unit. (There is a unit in Sudbury as well.)

About 2.5 miles of trails—great for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing—are on the property. A dike that runs between the Upper and Lower Pools (also called impoundments) is the main path. The dike separates the “meadow” from the river, and it’s an easy walk. Start your visit at the observation tower to check out views of the property, then head down the 1.7-mile Dike Trail. If you have young kids and want a shorter walk, you can take this trail straight to the Concord River, stopping along the way at a wildlife observation platform, and then turn around. Otherwise you can take the trail all the way around the Lower Pool. The impoundments are drained into the river in summer, turning into mudflats and becoming a haven for birds, such as redwinged blackbirds and great blue herons.

Birds aren’t the only creatures happy to be here, especially in summer. On one hot, sunny day, my group lost count of how many black northern water snakes we spotted lounging on rocks. In addition, we saw numbers of leopard frogs, bullfrogs, dragonflies, and turtles.

Remember: This is a carry-in, carry-out property, so plan accordingly. The 4-mile Reformatory Branch Rail Trail passes by the property and follows the roadbed of the Boston & Maine’s old Reformatory Branch between Railroad Avenue in Bedford and Lowell Road in Concord. Portions of the Bay Circuit Trail also pass through Great Meadows.

Plan B:

To switch from nature trails to a bit of history, head west on MA 62 to the Battle Road Trail and the Old Manse (Trip 40) in Concord.

Where to Eat Nearby:

A number of restaurants are in Concord Center.


Get outdoor tips & trips
Yes, I want to receive expert advice on getting my family outside!



Castle Island »
boardwalk, swimming, concession stand
2010 Day Boulevard South Boston 02127

Mary O'Malley Waterfront Park »
The park extends along the beach of the Mystic River
59 Commandants Way Chelsea, MA 02150

Alewife Reservation »
beavers, turtles, hawks, muskrats, ospreys, and more!
Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140

Rock Meadow Conservation Area »
walk, bike, birding, swingset
Mill Street and Concord Avenue, Belmont, MA


Hopedale Parklands »
Walking paths, picnicking
162 Dutcher Street, Hopedale MA

South Natick Dam »

Picnicking opportunities!
1 Mill Lane, Natick, MA 01760

Belle Isle Marsh Reservation »
Salt marsh, observation tower
Bennington Street, East Boston, MA

Neponset River Reservation »
Salt marsh, bike paths, playgrounds
Hallett Street, Dorchester, MA

© 2023 Appalachian Mountain Club | 10 City Square, Boston, MA 02129
About | Privacy Policy | Contact Us