Want to create an itinerary from this post?
Once bustling with boxcars full of goods and coal, railroads played a huge role in the development and industrialization of the West. The first wooden railroad was being built in the late 1700s when the settlers first built communities and were a huge part of building forts during early wars. Most of our railway system was built after the 1900s, but later on, trucks, automobiles, and airplanes took over most of moving freight and in the 1980s most railway lines were closed down.
More recently cities and suburbs have turned these old rail lines, into pedestrian Rail Trails that still preserve some of the histories of our earlier American days.
These Rail Trails allow all non-motorized activities. Do you have a bike that is getting rusty? These are the perfect places to it out and use it again. Turn back time, and set out for a scenic adventure through local history.
Here are the top five must-visit historic Rail Trails in Central Massachusetts to explore:
Nashua River Rail Trail
The Nashua River Rail Trail runs along the Nashua River in Central Massachusetts. There are several access points along the trail throughout various towns. Some examples of these towns are Groton, Ayer, and Pepperell. This 12.5 mile trail makes a great daytime activity, as it is open from sunrise to sunset.
Find more information about the Nashua River Rail Trail
Assabet River Rail Trail
The Assabet River Rail Trail is located along the Assabet River. The Assabet River flows through various towns such as Marlborough, Hudson, Stow, Maynard, and Acton. This trail can be a fun family activity during the coronavirus pandemic. Sections of this trail are newly paved and opened. This makes it the perfect space for recreation in the outdoors. The Assabet River Rail Trail opened its first path in 2005 and has been running ever since.
Find more about the Assabet River Rail Trail
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail runs through the towns of Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham. This rail-trail is extremely new and only partially finished at the moment. Many large sections are currently open to the public to use. This newly opened rail trail can be a great option during the coronavirus crisis. The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was founded in honor of Bruce Freeman. Bruce Freeman was a State Representative that was very excited about the preservation of Rail Trails for outdoor leisure in Massachusetts.
Find more information about the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail & Bruce Freeman
The Minuteman Bikeway runs from Bedford, through Lexington and Arlington, ending at the Alewife Station. The Minuteman Bikeway is also known as America’s Revolutionary Rail Trail. The Minuteman Bikeway assumed this name because it runs through the area where the American Revolution began. Another interesting detail about this trail is that it connects to several others in various places. This Rail Trail will allow for several changes of scenery, including some other historical walks.
Find more about the Minuteman Bikeway
Narrow-Gauge Rail Trail
The Narrow-Gauge Rail Trail is a mostly unpaved trail located in the town of Bedford. This 3-mile long trail is a great option for young children, as it is quite short in length. It does connect to the Minuteman Bikeway eventually if a longer visit is desired. Before this Rail Trail was established, it was the nation’s first narrow-gauge railroad. This historical path is now a wonderful route that is almost entirely a dirt road, unlike the other rail trails mentioned.
Find more information about the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail
These Rail Trails are great options that offer fresh air, exercise, and re-connection with nature. Many of these Rail Trails also have wonderful historical stories. As a result, these trails can offer a great educational experience to the whole family. Boredom can often creep in during these trying times, but it hopefully won’t with the use of these outstanding Rail Trails.
After venturing out onto these historic trails, do some research and learn more about railways were a part of our local history.
All of the pictures shown are labeled for reuse.