BEST RAIL TRAILS OF MASSACHUSETTS

Danvers Rail Trail Norwottuck Rail Trail (Mass Central Section) Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires region

Welcome to the Newenglandwaterfalls.com guide to best rail trails and bike paths in Massachusetts!

Massachusetts is blessed with some fantastic rail trails and bike paths, and they can be found all across the state (including within the city of Boston). You'll find many of the finest bike paths in Cape Cod, but there are excellent ones in ohter places, including the Berkshires, Central Massachusetts, and in and around Boston.

If your plan is to hike or explore the rail trails and bike paths of Massachusetts, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the latest edition of these great rail trail guidebooks: Rail-Trails New England and Best Rail Trails New England. These guidebooks offer detailed instructions and maps to nearly all of the trails listed below.

If you find yourself absolutely in love with rail trails, please consider supporting the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. They advocate for the creation and maintenance of rail trails. They also sell wonderful guidebooks to rail trails, such as the Rail Trail Hall of Fame guidebook.




RAIL TRAIL / BIKE PATH TOWNS/CITIES (listed in order of north>south or west>east) MILEAGE
(one-way)
IS THE TRAIL CONTINUOUS or FRAGMENTED? SURFACE TYPE DESCRIPTION / NOTES
ASHUWILLTICOOK RAIL TRAIL Adams
Cheshire
Lanesborough
11.2 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) this beautiful trail runs parallel to MA 8; the southern end of the trail begins at the entrance to the Berkshire Mall
ASSABET RIVER RAIL TRAIL Hudson
Marlborough
5.6 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) trail will likely be extended down to South Acton in the future
BATTLE ROAD TRAIL Concord
Lincoln Lexington
4.8 miles continuous 100% unpaved (soft crushed gravel & dirt) follow this historic trail past 1700s-era buildings within Minuteman National Historic Park
BEDFORD NARROW-GAUGE RAIL TRAIL Bedford
Billerica
3.1 miles continuous mostly unpaved connects with the Minuteman Bikeway and Reformatory Branch Trail in Bedford
BLACKSTONE RIVER GREENWAY Worcester
Millbury
3.0 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) trail will eventually link Worcester, Massachusetts with Providence, Rhode Island
BRUCE FREEMAN RAIL TRAIL Lowell
Chelmsford
Westford
6.8 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) includes an urbanish northern section and a more woodsy southern section; plans are in motion to extend the trail further south from Westford to Framingham
CANALSIDE TRAIL Deerfield
Montague
3.3 miles continuous (although some on-road riding is required) 100% paved (asphalt) crosses the Connecticut River
CAPE COD CANAL BIKEWAY Buzzards Bay
Bourne
Sagamore Beach
13.5 miles continuous (although one bridge crossing is required) 100% paved (asphalt) beautiful ride along a dedicated path on both sides of the Cape Cod Canal; zero shade on this trail; the 13.5 miles includes riding on both sides of the canal, but most people just do 7-miles (each way) along the northern end
CAPE COD RAIL TRAIL Wellfleet
Eastham
Orleans
Brewster
Dennis
22.0 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) arguably the finest rail trail in Massachusetts and one of the best in New England; riding this trail is a Cape Cod tradition
COLUMBIA GREENWAY RAIL TRAIL Westfield
Southwick
2.0 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) connects with the 7-mile long Southwick Rail Trail, which then connects to the Farmington Heritage Trust Rail Trail in Connecticut
CONNECTICUT RIVERWALK AND BIKEWAY Chicopee
Springfield
Agawam
5.4 miles fragmented (several separate sections) 100% paved (asphalt) this growing trail has two open segements: a 3.7 mile trail from the Chicopee town line to the South End Bridge in Springfield and a 1.7 mile section in Agawam; read online reviews of this trail before riding it to help you gauge potential safety issues
DR. PAUL DUDLEY WHITE BIKE PATH Watertown
Cambridge
Boston
13.6 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) this trail parallels the Charles River on both sides of it; the full 13.6 miles includes riding on both sides of the river; this is Boston's best and safest bike ride
INDEPENDENCE GREENWAY Peabody 8.0 miles fragmented (three separate sections) two sections are 100% paved (asphalt) and one section is unpaved (hard stone dust) there are three parts to this trail: (1) the longest and westernmost section is paved and runs from near the junction of Russell Street and Birch Street to Lt. Ross Park in West Peabody; (2) the second section is unpaved and runs from the junction of Lowell Street and US 1 to the Danvers Rail Trail; (3) the third section is paved and runs from Peabody Street to Lahey Clinic at the North Shore Mall; if you combine sections of the Independence Greenway with the Danvers Rail Trail (and other trails that connect to the Danvers Rail Trail), you can construct a 36-mile plus round-trip ride
MANHAN RAIL TRAIL Easthampton 9.0 miles continuous
(but includes a fork with two sections)
100% paved (asphalt) connects with two other rail trails in the town of Northampton: the Francis P. Ryan and Mass Central sections of the Norwoottuck Rail Trail
MARBLEHEAD RAIL TRAIL Salem
Marblehead
Swampscott
4.1 miles continuous
(but includes a fork with two sections)
mostly unpaved you can easily leave the trail and visit Devereux Beach; may eventually connect to the Independence Greenway trail
MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL many different towns (see trail map on traillink.com) 31.9 miles fragmented (several separate sections) 100% unpaved (crushed stone & dirt) this trail is extremely segmented; see the trail map on www.traillink.com to see all the separate sections of this trail
MINUTEMAN BIKEWAY Bedford
Lexington
Arlington
Cambridge
10.5 miles continuous (except for one major double road crossing) 100% paved (asphalt) this trail is a member of the prestigious Rail-Trail Hall of Fame (one of only 30 trails in the USA as of 2016);  you can extend this trail by an additional 4.0 miles round-trip by linking it with the Alewife Linear Park/Somerville Community Path; this trail also connects to the Bedford Narrow-Gauge Rail Trail and Reformatory Branch Trail at its western end in Bedford
NASHUA RIVER RAIL TRAIL Nashua (NH)
Pepperell
Groton
Ayer
12.3 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) this is a beautiful trail with minimal road crossings in central Massachusetts
NEPONSET RIVER GREENWAY Boston 5.2 miles fragmented (several separate sections) 95% paved (asphalt) expected to grow to up to 10-miles in the future
NICKERSON STATE PARK BIKE PATH NETWORK Brewster 8.0 miles continous 100% paved (asphalt) this is a series of 8-miles of interconnected paved trails that wind their way up, down and through the state park (mostly in the woods); connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail at its northern end; outstanding camping opportunities within the park (you can ride from your campsite right to this trail)
NORTH CENTRAL PATHWAY Winchendon
Gardner
11.4 miles fragmented (several separate sections) 100% paved (asphalt) trail is supposedly tough to follow in places (unconfirmed); as of 2016, there are three separate sections; trail will eventually be extended from 11.4 miles to 16 miles
NORWOTTUCK RAIL TRAIL (FRANCIS P. RYAN SECTION) Florence
Northampton
4.9 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) this trail (formerly known as the Northampton Bikeway) connects beautiful Look Park in Florence with  downtown Northampton (which is reknown for its quirky shops and excellent restaurants);  connects with two other rail trails in the town of Northampton: the Mass Central section of the Norwoottuck Rail Trail and the Manhan Rail Trail
NORWOTTUCK RAIL TRAIL (MASS CENTRAL SECTION) Northampton
Amherst
10.0 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) connects with two other rail trails in the downtown area of Northampton (which is reknown for its quirky shops and excellent restaurants): the Francis P. Ryan section of the Norwoottuck Rail Trail and the Manhan Rail Trail
OLD COLONY RAIL TRAIL Harwich
Chatham
7.9 miles continuous (although some on-road riding is required) 100% paved (asphalt) this trail stems from the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Harwich and heads east towards and into Chatham
PEABODY-DANVERS-WENHAM-TOPSFIELD RAIL TRAIL Topsfield
Wenham
Danvers
Peabody
10.0 miles continuous 100% unpaved (hard stone dust) this route includes the following four interconnected rail trails: a portion of Peabody's Independence Greenway off Lowell Street, the Danvers Rail Trail, the Wenham Rail Trail, and the Topsfield Linear Common
PHOENIX RAIL TRAIL Fairhaven
Mattapoisett
3.5 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) views of farmlands, cornfields and salt marshes; connects with the Mattapoisett Rail Trail
PROVINCE LANDS TRAIL Provincetown 7.3 miles continuous (although the mileage includes some spur trails) 100% paved (asphalt) the main loop itself is 5.5 miles, but there are several spur trails that bring the total mileage to 7.3 miles; this trail has some steep hills, sharp curves, and is likely to have sections with some sand on the trail (for these reasons, inline skating is not recommended here)
REFORMATORY BRANCH TRAIL Concord
Bedford
4.5 miles continuous 100% unpaved (dirt) this dirt path connects to the Minuteman Bikeway and the Bedford Narrow-Gauge Rail Trail; passes the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which offers excellent birding and hiking trails
SHINING SEA BIKEWAY Falmouth
Woods Hole
10.7 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) one of several outstanding rail trails on Cape Cod; this trail has expanded in recent years and is now one of the finest rail trails in New England
SOUTHWEST CORRIDOR PARK (PIERRE LALLEMENT BIKE PATH) Jamaica Plain
Roxbury
Boston
3.9 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) connects with the Arnold Arboretum, which offers more miles of trails; if you want to start the trail from Boston, take the Orange Line to the Back Bay station (the trail begins on Dartmouth Street)
SOUTHWICK RAIL TRAIL Westfield
Southwick
Granby (CT)
7.1 miles continuous 100% paved (asphalt) also connects to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail and the extensive Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (CT)
UPPER CHARLES TRAIL Hopkington
Milford
Braggville
Holliston
11.0 miles continuous mix of paved and unpaved trails this trail is expected to continue growing; trail is paved from Hopkington to Milford and is unpaved (with stone-dust material) from Braggville to Holliston


Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton
Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton

TOP TEN RAIL TRAILS IN MASSACHUSETTS



Here are my top ten favorite rail trails in Massachusetts. If you enjoy rail trails, you will undoubtedly enjoy these ones. All of these are 100% paved and continuous. With the exception of the Province Lands Trail, all of these ten trails can be in-line skated.
  • BERKSHIRES
    • Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
  • BOSTON AREA
    • Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path
    • Minuteman Bikeway
  • CAPE COD
    • Cape Cod Canal Trail
    • Cape Cod Rail Trail
    • Province Lands Trail (Note: you wil likely find some sand on this trail, so in-line skating is not recommended)
    • Shining Sea Bikeway
  • CENTRAL MASSACHUSETS
    • Columbia Greenway Rail Trail > Southwick Rail Trail with optional extension onto the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (CT)
    • Nashua River Rail Trail
    • Norwottuck Rail Trail (Mass Central section) with optional extensions onto the Manhan Rail Trail and/or Norwottuck Rail Trail (Francis P. Ryan section)
Of all these Massachusetts rail trails, the Cape Cod Rail Trail (22.0 miles one-way) is probably my favorite. The quietest and most peaceful rail trail ride in Massachusetts is arguably the Nashua River Rail Trail (12.3 miles one-way).

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires region
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in the Berkshires region

Danvers Rail Trail
Danvers Rail Trail

Norwottuck Rail Trail (Mass Central Section)
Norwottuck Rail Trail (Mass Central Section)

Danvers Rail Trail
Danvers Rail Trail

near the start of the Swamp Walk, which connects to the Wenham Rail Trail
near the start of the Swamp Walk, which connects to the Wenham Rail Trail

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Lowell
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Lowell

Independence Greenway, Peabody
Independence Greenway, Peabody Road to North Shore Mall segment, Peabody

HELPFUL LINKS



Here are some helpful links that relate to rail trails in Massachusetts:
  • Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: TrailLink = link
  • Massachusetts State Parks: Biking Trails = link
  • The best baby bike trailer = link

GUIDEBOOKS



The following guidebooks will lead you to great rail trails in Massachusetts and throughout New England. Click on either book to read reviews and/or to purchase them on Amazon.com. I personally own (and love) each of these two guidebooks.




Best Rail Trails New England guidebook


Rail-Trails New England guidebook



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