|Walden Pond, Concord MA Travel Guide|
|Until Henry David Thoreau wrote "Walden, or Life in the Woods," Walden Pond was just another deep, chill kettle pond scooped from the New England countryside by glaciers. Now it's a favorite swimming, fishing and walking destination.|
The Visitor Center is a Net Zero, LEED-Certified ecological building with its own solar carport for electricity generation, electric vehicle charging stations, even solar-powered parking pass machines.
Walk Around the Pond
It's one of the most famous and popular state parks in Massachusetts. At all times of year people come to follow the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) trail around the pond and to visit the site of Thoreau's little house. The walk all the way around the pond takes about one hour at a comfortable pace, less if you walk briskly and don't linger at the site of Thoreau's house too long.
In summer, visitors from Boston and beyond come to swim in its cool water and take the sun on its few narrow sand public beaches. There's a boat ramp for launching your boat, canoe or kayak. Internal combustion motors are not allowed, only quiet electric motors.
Fires, alcoholic beverages and dogs are prohibited in Walden Pond State Reservation at all times.
Access to the Park
The state park's parking lots—the only legal parking available within a mile of the pond—costs$8 per carload for vehicles with Massachusetts registration, $30 for cars registered in other states, in summer. Hours of operation change with the seasons, but it generally opens at or soon after dawn, and closes around sunset.
On any hot day in summer—especially weekends and holidays—the pond will reach full capacity and be closed by mid-morning at the latest. (On July 23, 2022, a very hot day, the pond closed at 8:22 am.) You may have to wait until mid-afternoon for it to re-open—or it may not reopen at all. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) website has a page listing all closures and estimated reopening times. More...
When the lots are full, the pond has reached its full visitor capacity, the parking lots are closed, cars are turned away, and no drop-off or walk-in visitors are allowed.
This is to guard against pollution of the pond by the throng of visitors. (As it is, the chemistry of the pond's water is already being changed by the presence of so many bodies in it.)
Thoreau, a school teacher, surveyor, pencil-maker, writer, folk philosopher and social critic, moved from Concord to Walden in 1845 and lived here in a simple one-room cabin for two years, two months and two days. During his stay he basically founded the study known as ecology.
His observations of plants, animals, the passing seasons and his naturalist philosophy were published as Walden, or Life in the Woods, in 1854. Over the years, his life and work have come to exemplify living in harmony with nature.
Thoreau's philosophy derived from the Transcendental philosophy of his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in fact provided the land (part of his firewood lot at Walden) for Thoreau's little house. In essence, Thoreau lived a life that Emerson, because of his eminence and family ties, could not. More...
The replica of Thoreau's house (photo) is next to the parking lot, near the path down to the pond. The actual site of Thoreau's original house is a 15-minute walk around the pond, marked by granite posts (photo) (map). In previous years it was marked by a cairn built up by Thoreau pilgrims who left stones in commemoration of their visits.
Getting to Walden Pond
The beach and circumambulation path are free, so if you walk or bicycle from Monument Square in Concord to Walden as Thoreau did (1.8 miles/2.9 km, 35 to 40 minutes' walk, each way), you can enjoy the pond at no cost.
If you come to Concord by train from Boston, you will actually pass right by Walden Pond: look for it on the right side of the train a few minutes before arriving at the MBTA Commuter Rail Concord Center train station.
You can walk southeast along Walden Street from the Concord Center station to Walden Pond (1.6 miles, 2.6 km, 30 to 35 minutes) or, more historically accurate, you can follow the Emerson - Thoreau Amble, a re-creation of the footpath Emerson and Thoreau may have followed on their strolls to the pond. More...
If you're driving or bicycling, from Monument Square in Concord Center, follow Main Street south and turn left onto Walden Street at the first intersection (map). Follow Walden Street (Route 126) for two miles (3 km), cross a major highway (MA Route 2), and look for the Walden Pond State Reservation parking lot entrance on the left a short distance farther along. The pond is on your right, on the opposite side of the road from the parking lot. (Photos)