Brister’s Hill is a few hundred feet from Walden Pond, and was one of Henry David Thoreau’s study sites later in his life. In the late 1980s, a large commercial development was proposed on Brister’s Hill that was such a significant threat to the Walden ecosystem that the National Trust for Historic Preservation twice listed Walden Woods as one of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. This threat, as well as another proposed development at Bear Garden Hill, spurred the foundation of the Walden Woods Project.
Brister’s Hill was named after Brister Freeman (d. 1822), a man who took his freedom from slavery after the American Revolution. Freeman was the second person of African descent to own property in Concord, and was therefore a notable figure in town, recalled by Thoreau in Walden. Thoreau’s studies of forest succession on Brister’s Hill later in life resulted in his posthumous essays, The Succession of Forest Trees and The Dispersion of Seeds.
Brister’s Hill is now permanently protected and its original condition has been preserved. The Walden Woods Project has worked to improve the site by replanting native grasses and improving trails.
The property has a number of trails that are available for hiking. Most notably, Thoreau’s Path on Brister’s Hill which passes Brister’s Spring is located on Brister’s Hill and is the path Thoreau used when he walked into Concord. This path is part of the Hapgood Wright Town Forest. Brister’s Hill also features an elegant interpretive path where Thoreau’s own words are incised in granite and cast in bronze to help interpret the landscape and illustrate the powerful observations and insights of Thoreau. The Walden Woods Project’s interpretive path can be found off of Route 126 near Route 2.
Handicap Assessed Trail Loop
In collaboration with the Town of Concord, Thoreau’s Path on Brister’s Hill has been incorporated into a handicap assessed loop trail. The assessment provides detailed information on slopes, surface conditions, obstacles, and other features that help trail users make a decision about access where needed.
Parking and access is through the Hapgood-Wright Town Forest, 1/4-mile north of the trail entrance on Walden Street, opposite the entrance of Concord Carlisle Regional High School.
The trails at Brister’s Hill may be impassible in the winter due to ice and snow. During spring, summer, and fall, poison ivy may be present on or near the trails. Check for ticks year round with extra consideration in the spring and fall when ticks are most prevalent.
There are no fees associated with accessing Brister’s Hill.