I really didn’t know what to expect when our road trip from Toronto to Texas took us to the place where one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, wrote his most famous work – Walden. I didn’t expect Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond to be pristine wilderness today because, as he wrote in his book, even when he was living there, a railroad track ran nearby and access to civilization in Concord, Massachusetts was just a few miles away. So I braced myself for disappointment and drove through all the road construction, “to the woods”.
Contrary to what people who have never read his works sometimes think, it was never Thoreau’s intention to live life as a complete hermit, just more simply with fewer distractions. To quote Henry David Thoreau’s words: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
I was afraid that this place, modern-day Walden Pond, that meant so much to me through Thoreau’s book would have been exploited and taken over by developers and I was a bit reluctant to see what it had become. I envisioned a high-rise hotel on the water with a golf course surrounded by McMansions on streets with cute little names like Bean Field Road and Solitude Lane. What I found was a pretty, but unremarkable state park with some nice trails around the perimeter and a crescent-shaped beach covered with sunbathers and beach towels. Not the place of my dreams, but not the place of my nightmares either. I am glad we stopped by and I am also happy that Walden Pond today, if not as well preserved as I had hoped, is well preserved in one of American literature’s greatest works.
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How to get to Walden Pond
Walden Pond is located in Concord, Massachusetts. The easiest way to visit is by car. There is plenty of parking available. As at March 2018, parking is $15 USD for out-of-state license plates and $8 USD for Massachusetts plates.
For those traveling by public transport, take the MBTA commuter rail (Fitchburg Line) from Boston which passes right by the pond before pulling into Concord station.
Walden Pond Opening Hours and Cost
Walden Pond is open all year round; Hours vary by season. The visitor center is free.
Top Tips for Visiting Walden Pond Today
Walk from Monument Square in Concord to Walden Pond just like Thoreau used to. It’s only 1.8 miles or 2.9 kilometers in each direction.
Note that fire, camping, and dogs are not allowed.