This wonderfully accessible, pretty as can be, 2.5 mile loop around Gates Pond in Berlin, Massachusetts is for you, young families of Wellesley. If you’ve got active kids with energy to burn, and maybe one or two still in a stroller, this is your hike. If you’ve got a friendly, goofy Golden Retriever named Lucy or an excitable Lab named Bella (as 721 of you do according to the Town of Wellesley 2018 dog census), then yes, this hike, less than an hour away from Wellesley Square, is for you. Take a pass on this one if your kids are afraid of dogs, because canines love it here too, and some are leashed, some not. Also, if a paved path doesn’t jive with your idea of communing with nature, then it won’t be your thing. You’ve been informed.
But if you love the idea of taking your whole big, messy, rambunctious, totally fun family for a walk around a perfect New England pond under 30 miles away, this one is it.
One of the lovely things about Gates Pond is its visual solitude. There are no lakeside homes, it’s just all nature. The parking is free and anyone can come and hike, run, cross country ski, or snowshoe around this pristine reservoir. (Fishing is allowed by special permit only.) Once you get out of your car, you may be dismayed by the sound of Route 495 traffic, but have faith. That all fades into the deep background as soon as you get onto the trail, and within five minutes the traffic sounds are inaudible. From here on in it’s just towering pine trees and views of the pond.
The trail isn’t marked with blazes because you’d have to be pretty talented to get lost on this hike. A few side trails branch off here and there, but it’s clear at all times where the main trail is. There are lots of big rocks for the kids to climb, some right at the side of the trail, others a little bit off in the woods, but not too far in. It’s also fun to go right out into the lake on the narrow spit of land and look out at the small island.
Our hike done, we headed to nearby Berlin Orchards for the most wonderful apple cider donuts I’ve had all season. They have an expansive u-pick apple orchard, and their farm stand offers plenty of apples, of course, as well as cider, honey, pumpkins, mums, gourds, and more. Berlin Orchards is open 10am – 5pm every day, and there are hayrides on the weekend. The last day this is all available is Sunday, October 28, then the farm closes to the public for the season.
It’s all going too fast, this march toward winter. I feel like every moment spent indoors is wasted, that I’m burning daylight, that my February regrets will be ever-so-bitter unless I take advantage of these mild days and this beautiful scenery now, right now. As long as the outdoor temperatures are no lower than my age minus twenty, I’ll keep getting out there. I’ll leave you to wonder exactly how hardy a soul that makes me.