Minute Man National Historical Park | VERNAL POOL TRAIL

Hartwell Tavern trailhead for the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

Hartwell Tavern trailhead for the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park


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Length: .75-mile loop
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

The Vernal Pool Trail is a short loop hike that leads out to a vernal pool: a temporary pool that forms from spring rain and snowmelt. Such pools are important habitats for animals like frogs and salamanders. Since fish don’t live in them, these animals can lay eggs without them being eaten.

The eastern trailhead for the Vernal Pool Trail, which is where most people will start the hike, is located on the other side of Battle Road from the Hartwell Tavern. The trail comes out on Battle Road two tenths of a mile to the west, so you could begin there as well. If you rode your bike to the tavern, you must chain it to a tree or leave it near the side of Battle Road because bikes are not allowed. (Note: in this area the Battle Road and the Battle Road Trail are one in the same).

There isn’t much vegetation at the very start of the Vernal Pool Trail, but within 50 yards it becomes overgrown for a short stretch before emerging into a much more open area of the forest. There are plenty of briers, and also be on the lookout for ticks. They live low to the ground in the vegetation and will grab onto your lower legs or pants. Whenever coming into contact with greenery, be sure to check the fronts of your legs.

Overgrown section of the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

Typical terrain on the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

The trail surface is fairly rocky, which explains all of the rock walls along the Battle Road. During the American Revolution most of this area was open farmland. Farmers had to get rid of the rocks in order to plow the fields, so they used them to make fences that marked property lines or kept livestock out of the crops. There are some stone fences along the trail in the middle of the woods, so whenever you see one, you know that you are standing on what was once farmland or pasture.

Rocky terrain along the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

Rocky terrain along the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

Stone wall along the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

Stone wall along the Vernal Pool Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park

The vernal pool itself is accessed via a side trail that comes just before the earthen trail gives way to a boardwalk .3 mile into the hike. I only knew about this detour because it is shown on the Minute Man National Historical Park brochure map. It’s easy to miss—I got all the way to Battle Road convinced that no such trail existed, then out of stubbornness, walked back to find it. All that marks the trail is a post with an arrow on it.

Sign pointing to the vernal pool side trail on the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

Sign pointing to the vernal pool side trail on the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

The detour is short—a minute’s walk—and it leads to an observation deck that overlooks the pool. I’ve done the hike twice, both times in August. On one hike the place was bone dry and on the other there was water. Regardless, there is a lot of vegetation now growing in the area, so even when the pool is full of water there’s not much to see. It was probably a nice trail back in the 1960s.

Overlook at the overgrown vernal pool when it was dry, Minute Man National Historical Park

Overlook at the overgrown vernal pool when it was dry, Minute Man National Historical Park

Vernal pool at Minute Man National Historical Park when it was full of water

Vernal pool at Minute Man National Historical Park when it was full of water

Head back to the main trail and continue along the boardwalk that carries hikers over the wetland. From the time Concord was settled in the early 1600s up through the early 1800s, wetlands were drained by the farmers to form fields. When farming declined, the channels that were dug to drain the water were no longer maintained, and the wetlands returned. Of course, if you hike the trail in the dead of summer, there may not be any water on the ground.

Start of the boardwalk section of the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

Start of the boardwalk section of the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

The boardwalk doesn’t run all the way to Battle Road, so there is another stretch of trail that traverses more rocky terrain.

Typical terrain along the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

Typical terrain along the Vernal Pool Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

You’ll reach Battle Road in a half mile from the start. The National Park Service advertises the trail as being a half mile long, and technically it is, but that doesn’t consider the quarter-mile walk back to Hartwell Tavern along Battle Road, making the total distance of the hike .75 mile.

Battle Road Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

Battle Road Trail at Minute Man National Historical Park

With the entire point of the hike being the vernal pool, and with a high probability that the vernal pool is dry and overgrown, I suggest spending your energy someplace else. The trail is not even a good option for exercise since it is so short. Hike the 5-mile Battle Road Trail, an enjoyable trek through lovely terrain that passes at least a dozen historical sites along the way.

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Last updated on September 6, 2023
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