TOP 11 massachusetts BIKING DESTINATIONS
We know you guys love biking. Well, we love biking too so we went ahead and created a super cool list of the best places to bike in Massachusetts. It took us about 10 years of trial and error (mostly error) to narrow in on our favorite places to bike in beautiful Massachusetts!
1. Cape Cod Rail Trail
Length: 22 miles
Landmarks Passed: Jeremiah’s Gutter, Cape Cod National Seashore, Salt Pond Visitor Center, Marconi Beach
Rest stops: several
Parking: At the trailhead on US 6, just south of exit 9A
Bike rental: Bike Zone Yarmouth, 484 Station Ave., Yarmouth, MA
The Cape Cod Rail Trail was converted into a cycling trail after the railroad company Penn Central went bankrupt in 1968. It was bought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1976 and paved. Stretching from South Dennis to Wellfleet, the 22 mile trail passes through multiple types of landscapes, from industrial in Dennis to agricultural in Harwich, before arriving at the beach in Wellfleet. This is a fantastic trail for beginners who are in fairly good cardiovascular shape, because although it is long, it’s relatively flat the entire ride and has many points of interest to stop at along the way for breaks, such as downtown Orleans, the Cape Cod National Seashore and Salt Pond Visitor Center, and Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. There’s even a Ben & Jerry’s on the way in North Eastham. A leisurely cyclist could make a long but exciting day of it.
2. Shining Sea Bikeway
Length: 10.7 miles
Landmarks Passed: Chapoquoit Beach, Sippewissett Salt Marsh, Bourne Farm
Rest stops: Sippewissett village, downtown Falmouth
Parking: Available at both trailheads (North Falmouth Railroad Station & Woods Hole Railroad Station)
Bike rental: Arts Bike Shop (91 County Rd, North Falmouth, MA 02556) or Bike Zone Falmouth (13 County Rd # 3, North Falmouth, MA 02556)
Much shorter than the typical rail trail, the Shining Sea Bikeway is ideal for beginners and people looking for a bit of light exercise. It was built over the Old Colony Railroad’s former Wood’s Hole branch line in 1977, and has been well-maintained since. The trail mostly passes by beach landscape, as well as through a cranberry bog and near a couple of salt marshes. Cyclists on the trail can stop by Bourne Farm along the way, and perhaps spot a wedding in summer or go pumpkin picking in the fall. The steamship authority is close to the Woods Hole trailhead, so those looking to extend their day might catch a ferry to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.
3. Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
Length: currently 11.7 miles
Landmarks Passed: Chelmsford Center, Lime Kiln Quarry, Heart Pond, NARA Park, Nashoba Brook Conservation
Rest stops: Chelmsford Center
Parking: Crosspoint (weekends & holidays only), Chelmsford Center for the Arts, Byam School, Heart Pond, NARA Park, Gould’s Plaza, Patriot’s Square
Bike rental: ATA Cycle Concord (4.8 miles from trailhead) (2443, 93 Thoreau St, Concord, MA 01742)
This trail is interesting primarily because it isn’t finished yet, and the latest section of it just opened on April 3. The ongoing project started in the mid naughts, with the first section opening in 2009. When the entire project is finished, it will span 25 miles from Lowell to Framingham. Right now, the trail spans from Lowell to Weatherbee Street in Acton. The trail passes many natural landscapes, all while keeping in close range of the various town centers and places to pull off the trail, making it both idyllic and kid and beginner friendly. The trail is a multi-use trail for walking, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, and even cross-country skiing in winter.
4. Blackstone River Greenway
Length: currently 11.8 miles
Landmarks Passed: Pratt Dam Bridge, historic textile mill, Kelly House Museum
Rest stops: Ashton
Parking: Lonsdale trailhead, Manville trailhead, visitor center on 295
Bike rental: NBX Bikes of Providence, 729 Hope St, Providence, RI 02906
This trail is the currently open portion of a much larger undertaking, which will eventually span 48 miles through the Blackstone Valley from Worcester MA to Providence RI. It will be a part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile trail from Maine to Florida. From the Lonsdale lot, a big, restored drive-in movie theatre sign bearing the name of the trail greets visitors. The trail follows the Blackstone River and canal. At the one-mile mark, visitors cross the dam bridge, which was completed in 2007. As visitors enter Ashton, a historic brick textile mill can be seen from the path. Cyclists can also choose to stop to visit the Kelly House Transportation Museum, located in the historic house of Captain Wilbur Kelly.
5. Old Colony Rail Trail
Length: 8 miles
Landmarks Passed: Chatham Railroad Museum
Rest stops: Brooks Park, Volunteer Park
Parking: Chatham Railroad Museum, downtown Harwich
Bike rental: Old Colony Bikes (1 Old Colony Rd, Harwich, MA 02645)
The Old Colony Rail Trail is the paved-over right-of-way of the former Old Colony Railroad’s Chatham branch. At the east end of the trail, cyclists can visit the Chatham Railroad Museum (free entry, though donations are encouraged). The west end of the trail is just west of Harwich Center, where ample parking is available. Near Harwich center, the trail runs through Brooks Park, and otherwise the scenery along the route is primarily dense woodlands, despite being located on one of the busiest parts of the Cape. The Old Colony Rail Trail is perfect for cyclists looking for an easy, quiet day-trip.
6. Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
Length: 11.9 miles
Landmarks Passed: Cheshire Resevoir, Adams town center
Rest stops: Cheshire Resevoir, Adams town center
Parking: Berkshire Mall trailhead, Cheshire Resevoir, North Adams trailhead
Bike rental: Village Bike Rentals (31 Park St, Adams, MA 01220)
Running from the Berkshires Mall to North Adams, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail passes through the Hoosac River Valley. From the trail, travelers will have views of the Hoosac Mountains and Mount Greylock, as well as several stunning wetland areas. The Cheshire Reservoir is a popular picnic site and a good place to take a break, with public restrooms, picinic amenities and an amazing view. North along the trail, cyclists will reach Adams town center, which has many restaurants and bars to offer tired travelers, as well as bus services back to the Berkshires Mall for those who do not wish to cycle back to their cars.
7. Norwottuck Branch Trail
Length: 11 miles
Landmarks Passed: Norwottuck Rail Bridge, Elwell State Park, Connecticut River, beaver pond host to various wildlife
Rest stops: Hadley
Parking: Just off Route 5, north of intersection with Church Street, or off Damon Rd. at trailhead.
Bike rental: Northampton Bicycle (319 Pleasant St, Northampton, MA 01060)
The Norwottuck Branch Rail Trail runs from Northampton to Belchertown MA, crossing Hadley and Amherst. It’s built on what was once the Norwottuck Branch of the Central Massachusetts Railroad. The path opened in 1992, and was extended in 2007. Starting from Northampton, cyclists first ride over the Norwottuck Rail Bridge, overlooking the Connecticut River and Elwell State Park. From there, the path crosses through the small town of Hadley, before moving on to Amherst, where it crosses the campus of the prestigious Amherst College. The trail then turns southeast, through the Brickyard Conservation Area and just clipping the Lawrence Swamp. The area surrounding the trail is home to various wildlife such as beavers, great blue heron, woodpeckers, ducks and turtles.
8. Nashua River Rail Trail
Length: 12.5 miles
Landmarks Passed: Groton School Pond, J. Harry Rich State Forest, Nashua River
Rest stops: Pepperell
Parking: Groton St. & Park St. intersection in Ayer, MA
Bike rental: None
The Nashua River Rail Trail starts in Massachusetts, but ends just over the border in Nashua, New Hampshire. Starting in Ayer, MA, cyclists will reach the Groton School Pond about a quarter of the way through the trail. This is a fantastic place to stop, sit on the stone benches and look at the abundant wildlife that call the pond home. Soon after, cyclists pass through the small town of Groton before entering the J. Harry Rich State Forest. When cyclists leave the woods and find themselves in a small restaurant and retail area, they know they’ve reached Pepperell. This is an ideal place to stop and use the facilities or grab a bite to eat (they have great ice cream in town) before continuing on to Dunstable and Nashua.
9. North Central Pathway
Length: 19 miles
Difficulty: Medium (due to crossings)
Landmarks Passed: Whitney Pond, Perley Brook Reservoir, Crystal Lake
Rest stops: None
Parking: Crystal Lake Park
Bike rental: O’Neil’s Bicycle Shop (108 Main St, Gardner, MA 01440)
While still under construction, the open parts of the North Central Pathway offer visitors 9 miles of gorgeously scenic western-Massachusetts landscape. Visitors coming from Boston will want to start in Gardner, where two different trailheads start at opposite sides of Crystal Lake (they will someday connect to loop around the lake). It is recommended that cyclists start at the western trailhead, as it avoids adding a break in the trail. From here, cyclists ride between Crystal Lake and the Perley Brook Reservoir, before heading north through picturesque rural landscape. At about the halfway point, there is a break in the trail at Old Gardner Road. Cyclists should ride north along the side of Old Gardner Road, being mindful of traffic, and turn right onto Spring Street. Take the first left onto North Ashburnham Rd., and then take the first left again back onto the trail after less than a quarter mile. The trail then runs through heavy forest until it reaches Whitney Pond,and then crosses into the town of Winchedon, where cyclists can stop to grab lunch.
10. Marblehead Rail Trail
Length: 4.5 miles
Landmarks Passed: Lead Mills Conservation Area, Wyman Woods Conservation Area, Salem Harbor
Rest stops: Marblehead
Parking: Temple Emanuel Parking Lot, Seaview Ave
Bike rental: Salem Cycle (72 Washington St, Salem, MA 01970)
Shaped like a “V,” this short trail runs through one of Massachusetts many historic areas as well as several different types of landscapes. There are three trailheads, all of which visitors could theoretically start from, but the Swampscott trailhead seems the most practical unless you need to rent bikes, in which case you have to start from Salem. Starting from Seaview Ave, the trail runs through residential areas, with many opportunities to go off on a side street to visit the shoreline. The halfway point is the scenic bay town of Marblehead -- this is a great place to stop and have lunch or an ice cream or visit the nearby Marblehead Museum. Turning back onto the trail, go right when you reach the fork in the road: from here the trail will take you to the historic town of Salem, famous for its 17th century witch trials. On the way there, you’ll travel through the Wyman Woods and Lead Mills conservation areas. The trail ends on Canal Street near Salem State University, but visitors are encouraged to explore Salem and all that it has to offer before heading back to Swampscott.
11. Plum Island
Length: 12 miles
Landmarks Passed: Plum Island Observation Tower, beaches
Rest stops: no official rest stops
Parking: Refuge Rd, Newbury, MA 01951
Bike rental: Riverside Cycle (50 Water St, Newburyport, MA 01950)
Plum Island is a long, mostly uninhabited island just off the coast of Newburyport Massachusetts. Its natural, beach landscapes make it an enjoyable place to walk or bike in the warmer months. Admission is $2 for those walking a bike in, or $5 for those who wish to park on the island. As you leave the parking lot, take the time to go up to the observation tower and get a view of the island. While you’re riding, keep an eye for some of the unique wildlife living there, and if you’re not in a hurry, stop to enjoy some time on the beach. The landscape is mostly flat, so the trail is ideal for beginners, but be aware that much of the trail is gravel and not asphalt.