Written by Neil Lynch. Neil Lynch is a frequent Battle Road hiker and recently completed his seventh season as a ranger at Minute Man National Historical Park. He writes from Hampstead, New Hampshire.
Every year, more than a million people descend on Minute Man National Historical Park to bear witness to the events that started the American Revolution. For the vast majority, North Bridge is the focal point, the place where visitors can literally walk over history while admiring the setting along this notable stretch of the Concord River.
A growing number of travelers and national park aficionados are exploring more of the 1,034 acres that comprise Minute Man. That includes 9 miles of walking trails! While history remains its cornerstone, Minute Man is also a national park, a welcome oasis offering an outdoor escape to the metropolitan Boston area.
Hikers and walkers – cyclists, too! – come throughout the year for a variety of reasons: to retrace the hurried steps of retreating British soldiers along the Battle Road; to step back in history along paths that have been restored to resemble their 1775 appearance; to enjoy a morning power walk, a lunchtime jog, or an afternoon bike ride; to bird watch in spring, picnic in summer, leaf-peep in fall, and cross-country ski or snowshoe in winter.
The best-known trail at Minute Man is the five miles of celebrated “Battle Road of the Revolution” that are preserved and restored within the park. Visitors can step back in time, from Meriam’s Corner to Fiske Hill, on which some of the heaviest fighting of April 19, 1775 occurred. Such notable landmarks as Hartwell Tavern, Captain William Smith House, and the Paul Revere Capture Site help recall the “story behind the scenery,” the reasons why this special place deserves national historical park status, and re-enforced through the exhibits and programs at Minute Man Visitor Center, just off the trail.
Fiske Hill and the Vernal Pool Trail
Beyond Battle Road, other walks beckon. At Fiske Hill, on the eastern end of the park, a one-mile trail winds its way through secluded forest and meadow to the site of the Fiske Farm and a deadly encounter between a colonial farmer and a retreating British regular. Near Hartwell Tavern, the Vernal Pool Trail showcases essential habitats for distinctive plants and animals. Behind the Smith House, a little-known trail extends a quarter-mile to the rear of Hartwell Tavern, following original stone walls and boulders just beyond colonial fields and orchards, and providing a different take on a familiar setting.
North Bridge and Vicinity
Most park visitors walk the quarter-mile path at North Bridge, from the visitor center down to the bridge, pausing by the Minute Man statue and the grave of the British soldiers killed by colonial fire on April 19th 1775. They meander over to the Old Manse, a historic home and eyewitness to the fateful events at North Bridge, or to the Robbins-Hutchinson House, built in the 18th century for the children of a slavery survivor and Revolutionary War veteran.
The National Park Service’s slogan, “Find Your Park!,” has special meaning for the many local visitors to Minute Man. During the pandemic, when travel was limited, people from across Greater Boston, discovering the open spaces of the park, exclaimed time and again “What a treasure! I never knew this was here!” The newfound popularity continues, even as the world edges back to some semblance of normal, with more visitors coming to discover and walk the trails.
So – what are you waiting for? Walk a trail at Minute Man National Historical Park soon, and discover your path to history!
Visit the Minute Man National Historical Park website to learn more about trail locations, parking, and directions.