Travel

Explore Quirky Landmarks and Trails Full of Wildlife on a Lincoln and Concord Day Trip

Urban sprawl hasn’t compromised Lincoln’s still-rural character or Concord’s colonial charm, which remains centuries after Paul Revere set out for the town on his famous midnight ride. It also hasn’t compromised the still-quiet natural attractions in both places, from freshwater wetlands teeming with wildlife to recently built rail trails. Get trotting.


Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge / Photo by Bryan/Flickr

Approximate Drive Time From Boston: 30 minutes

HIKE

Hapgood Wright Town Forest, Concord

Discover the “Peaceful Easy Feeling” that inspired Eagles musician (and noted conservationist) Don Henley to purchase and protect several trails within these storied woods. The soft drum of footsteps through old-growth pine, the bird songs around enchanting Fairyland Pond, and the quotes by luminaries such as Gandhi inscribed on granite stones at the secluded Reflection Circle are all music to a nature lover’s ears.

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Lincoln/Concord

Look closely as you navigate the nature paths surrounding these town-spanning freshwater wetlands, a birdwatcher’s heaven: In addition to flocks of great blue heron, you might spy red fox, white-tailed deer, and more wildlife on the grassy green banks, especially at dusk and dawn. The views are especially prime along the observation-tower-equipped Dike Trail in Concord.

Wright Woods, Concord

Walden Pond is a gorgeous local landmark, but right now, its notoriety may work against it. (’Tis not the season for crowds.) Instead, explore this abutting 311-acre crown jewel of the Concord Land Conservation Trust. Nine miles of trails wind through the hickory- and birch-filled forest; the Andromeda Ponds, glacial kettle holes that are now picturesque bogs; remnants of a former fairground; and a historical stone boathouse astride the scenic Sudbury River.

Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

BIKE

Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway, Lincoln to Concord

Traverse as much—or as little—as your calf muscles allow along this impressive 230-mile route, which cuts through 37 towns but is particularly scenic in the Lincoln/Concord area. Along the dirt and paved trails, you’ll pedal through forests and fields, pass quaint farmhouses and placid ponds, and connect to other pathways that are just as scenic.

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Concord to Lowell

Eventually, this 10-foot-wide recreation trail, which traces a historical railroad route, will connect Lowell to Framingham. But the ongoing project has already yielded a paved, tree-lined segment easily accessed from the West Concord MBTA station. Take in tranquil Nashoba Brook, gaze at the murals bordering the path in Chelmsford, and continue to the trail’s northern terminus to make an afternoon of it.

Reformatory Branch Trail, Bedford to Concord

This rustic offshoot of the Minuteman Bikeway—a paved route for daily commuting to Cambridge—offers 4 more miles of packed-earth pathways perfect for weekend exploring. Bounce over old rail ties, hop off to check out wooded detours, then refuel with takeout from the aptly named Trail’s End Café in Concord.

REFUEL

Pack the perfect picnic using curbside pickup from the landmark Cheese Shop in Concord, one of the area’s best fromageries. From buttery Camembert to funky blues, you’ll find dozens of varieties to create your dream cheese board. There’s also an excellent selection of other necessary al fresco provisions, from dips to imported charcuterie to bottles of fine wine.

BEST PLACE TO…

Stage an Artsy Instagram Shoot

It’s called “Ponyhenge”—a graveyard of dozens of abandoned rocking horses that stand sentinel on a bucolic pasture in Lincoln. The arrangement often mysteriously changes, and the toy herd’s number is constantly growing thanks to community contributions.

REASONS TO PULL OVER ALONG THE WAY

Scratch your museum itch at the reopened grounds of Lincoln’s deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. One of the contemporary-art-filled sanctuary’s latest additions is Watershed, a granite structure built into a hill that cleverly incorporates rain runoff into its design. More of a bookworm? Honor the rich history of local literati with a pilgrimage to Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, resting place of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others. Finally, take home a slice of the area by picking up pie-ready fruit at family-owned Verrill Farm, where juicy strawberries await.

More Day Trip Ideas to Escape the City This Summer