Parasites can influence host population dynamics, community composition and evolution. Prediction of these effects, however, requires an understanding of the influence of ecological context on parasite distributions and the consequences of infection for host fitness. We address these issues with an amphibian – trematode (Digenea: Echinostomatidae) host–parasite system. We initially performed a field survey of trematode infection in first (snail) and second (larval green frog, Rana clamitans) intermediate hosts over 5 years across a landscape of 23 ponds in southeastern Michigan. We then combined this study with a tadpole enclosure experiment in eight ponds. We found echinostomes in all ponds during the survey, although infection levels in both snails and amphibians differed across ponds and years. Echinostome prevalence (proportion of hosts infected) in snails also changed seasonally depending on host species, and abundance (parasites per host) in tadpoles depended on host size and prevalence in snails. The enclosure experiment demonstrated that infection varied at sites within ponds, and tadpole survival was lower in enclosures with higher echinostome abundance. The observed effects enhance our ability to predict when and where host–parasite interactions will occur and the potential fitness consequences of infection, with implications for population and community dynamics, evolution and conservation.