Bike trails north of Boston

Dr. B asks:

Seeking recommendations for a bike trail north of the mass pike. Prefer paved, not too hilly and far from cars.


Problem with Minuteman

is on a day like today it is packed to the gills. And at least the east end has a lot of contact with cars.

The Nashua River Trail is much less popular and there isn't nearly as much contact with cars. And you can - if you are patient - get there by commuter rail.


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The Minuteman, on a warm weekend day, is a bit of a mess, especially the further east you go. The section west of Arlington is a bit better since there aren't as many grade crossings so less access (there's about 2 miles straight from Arlington with no roads) and there are only a couple of streets between Arlington and Lexington. West of Lexington is usually less crowded, too.

If you go to Google Maps and click on the bicycling layer (menu--> bicycling) you can show other bike paths. Much of Boston once had a web of rail lines, many of which are redundant enough that they probably shouldn't be used for anything but paths. (The Minuteman is successful as a bike path, but if it were a Commuter Rail line—as it was until the late '70s—you could get from Arlington to North Station in 18 minutes: try doing that today at rush hour!)

It's sort of a shame the state has no concerted program to provide for path conversion, it's sort of based on where there's interest and who can get a little money. They came pretty close to greenlighting the Wayside Rail Trail from Waltham to 495 back in the late '90s until Weston voted against it (because apparently ne'er-do-wells from Waltham were going to come and steal television sets on the bike path, or something) and while trail backers vowed to push on, the project lost momentum after that. (IOW: fuck Weston.)

The Bruce Freeman is probably the longest project north of the Pike right now: the portion in Chelmsford and Westford is complete and the rest to Sudbury is under construction (quite a bit open this fall, more in a few years). The Assabet River Rail Trail isn't too far behind (South Action to Marlborough). If ever built, the Wayside/Central Mass would connect these two. Further afield, the Nashua River Rail Trail runs 13 miles from Ayer to Nashua and is probably very nice. That may be your best bet for a nice quiet trail, and it's under an hour from Boston, and easily accessible by train from Ayer.

There are several paths from Danvers on north, but they are generally pretty fragmented and unpaved.

TL;DR: Best bet right now Nashua River Rail Trail, as of this fall, Bruce Freeman a good idea too.

Seconding Nashua River

If you want to avoid cars, this is your trail! Beautiful, too. May be a few jam ups while large turtles cross, but otherwise it is lovely. It also doesn't attract the slower or less experienced folk because it can be several miles between trail heads.

If you take it all the way into Nashua, it gets nuts, but the bulk of it is just plain lovely.

Short linkage to other trails

Where that segment ends, it can get nuts on a nice day for the same reason that the Minuteman does.

However, My elder boy and I went downtown by connecting to another trail that goes through the heart of Nashua.

I recommend the Mexican place - reasonable prices and food, nice people.

Yup, the people above are all

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Yup, the people above are all spot on. The Minutemen gets very crazy on nice days (unless you go at 7am) up until you pass Lexington going north west. Nashua River is awesome - a bit of a drive, but most of it feels like you're in the woods, there's almost nobody there, and at the end you cross a state line, that's pretty cool.

Cape trails are also awesome, but yes, south of the Pike and quite a drive out. Check out or

As one who lives South of the Mass Pike

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I swear that all the good trails are north. Go to Bedford and start from there. I've wanted to check out the Topsfield Linear Common, but I think there is another linked trail that really covers that area north of Boston.

What can I say? Runners like bike trails for the same reason cyclists like them.


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The Topsfield trail is cool and may eventually provide an off road ride/run to Newburyport. I have biked it from the Lowell St Speedway gas station to Georgetown, suitable for a hybrid/cross/mountain bike.

It's only barely north of the

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It's only barely north of the Pike (by a couple of miles), but the Blue Heron Trail (which connects to the Paul Dudley White Path, and thence into Boston) beginning at about Woerd Avenue in Waltham/Newton provides a nice trip with periodic road crossings. It runs behind the old watch factory along the river, crossing Prospect, Moody, Elm, Newton, and Farwell before it becomes packed dirt/sand. The stretch between Farwell St. and Watertown Square is particularly nice - it's paved again after Bridge/California street, and runs right along the river, and it's easy to forget how urban an area it is. Plenty of trees and wildlife, and not, in my experience, hugely crowded (not like the Minuteman) until you get towards the Watertown Dam and Watertown Square.

rail trail listing site

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This site is great; it lists rail trails by state, and gives reviews:

A friend of mine does the Nashua trail all the time. I've seen the Blue Heron trail, but didn't know the name; it's so pretty around there.

Whatever one you pick, have fun! I'm still getting used to not having to shovel snow and wear a winter jacket!rxes

Only part of this is paved

The Everett and Malden sections are paved, but the much more scenic parts in Revere and especially Saugus are crushed stone, which can make for a rough ride.

(the 'missing link' was a mile or so in Revere, along the edge of Rumney Marsh, which is now complete but not paved)