Walden Pond State Reservation
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:915 Walden Street (MA 126), Concord, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Parking lot: $5 per vehicle; season passes available

[email protected]; 978-369-3254

Bathrooms: At the park headquarters and at the changing station by the pond
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the park headquarters and at the changing station by the pond

Walden Pond, inspiration and onetime home to author Henry David Thoreau, is still an oasis of beauty and peace.

Fog rolls over Walden Pond, a peaceful place to hike in late fall.
Photo by: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

When my daughter was a baby, come summer, we’d make our way to the small roped-off beach patrolled by lifeguards at Walden Pond, where we’d join dozens of other families with the same idea. It’s a lovely little beach, but it can get really crowded.

Now that she’s older, we go farther afield; finding little private inlets for swimming is a favorite activity. The pond, 103 feet deep in some places, is a kettle hole that formed more than 12,000 years ago. Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are all allowed. Hiking or snowshoeing around the pond is a wonderful way to get a new perspective on the park, which, with 462 acres, has more to offer than just summer fun. In fall and winter, the park takes on a different feel, with far fewer crowds and a quiet kind of beauty. Fall foliage here is nothing short of spectacular, and looking for animal tracks in the snow is a wonderful winter activity with kids. Pond Path, less than 3 miles around, is easy to navigate, but make sure you stay on the path; the area is a victim of its own popularity, and erosion is an ongoing issue. The Bay Circuit Trail passes through the reservation.

Henry David Thoreau lived and worked at Walden Pond for two years beginning in 1845. Walden, his book about his time spent here, was published in 1854. Kids will enjoy visiting the replica of Thoreau’s home (next to the parking lot), where they can contemplate how he could live in such a tiny one-room house for two years! On the hike around the pond, look for the site of Thoreau’s actual home. A plaque commemorates the site, and visitors have made a tradition of stacking rocks on a pile there.

The reservation offers interpretive programs, including seasonal children’s activities such as nature crafts, storytime, and a Junior Ranger series. Poetry readings, tracking programs, and Thoreau walks are also offered. Call the park or visit the website for more information.

Remember: In summer, the parking lot fills up quickly and the park rangers will close it. Get there early or go later in the day when the crowds start to clear out. Always call ahead to see if you can get in.

Plan B:

Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary (Trip 36) is in the neighboring town of Lincoln. Visiting the goats, pigs, and other farm animals should make up for any disappointment if you can’t get into the lot at Walden.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Take MA 126 (across MA 2) and follow it to Concord Center, which is less than ten minutes away by car and offers plenty of options.


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