From beginning cyclists to commuters to long-distance riders, everyone enjoys a scenic ride along Massachusetts’s many rail trails. These trails are separated from cars which makes them low stress for both recreation and transportation. They are also a great, socially distanced way to explore across Massachusetts. Due to decades of advocacy and hard work, rail trails are now plentiful across the commonwealth, and they’re being knitted together piece by piece every year. To find a trail near you, we recommend using the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s (MAPC) Trail Map. The map includes statewide data on walking and cycling paths. You can use the trail map filters to sort by trail type and can even check out the proposed trails advocates across the state are currently working to bring to life.
Southern New England Trunkline Trail in Douglas, MA
This year, several rail-trails are opening to the public or starting construction this year, and advocates across the state are excited that their years of hard work mean their visions of trails are finally becoming reality. If you’re planning your rides this year, check out this list StreetsBlog Mass rounded-up of three new trails to look forward to in 2021. They highlighted the Cochituate Rail Trail in Natick, Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, and the Northern Strand Trail in Lynn, Saugus, and Revere. On the South Coast, the Mattapoisett Rail Trail’s Phase 1B which broke ground in September 2019 will be opening this spring and will complete two miles of the proposed 4.5-mile multi-use pathway in one of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in Massachusetts. In Central Mass, Phase I of the Twin Cities Rail Trail, which will connect downtown Leominster with downtown Fitchburg, started this past fall and phase II which will connect the trail with the downtowns is slated to begin this summer. The Squannacook River Rail Trail also began Phase I of their trail this past fall and from Townsend center to Old Meetinghouse Road will be open to the public this spring. In the Connecticut River Valley, we'll see the opening of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail Central Section in Westfield in the fall, and out west in the Berkshires, construction to connect the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail into Pittsfield began in December.
Many of these trails are pieces of longer routes that will provide a network throughout Massachusetts and connect to regional systems, such as the East Coast Greenway and the Western New England Greenway. The dream to be able to ride across the region on safe, protected pathways is coming together trail by trail.
This is just a sampling of the many trail projects in the works across Massachusetts, many of which have received funding from the MassTrails grant program. This year’s MassTrails Grant Application period is open until February 1, 2021. The 2020 grants funded 55 trails projects throughout Massachusetts and supported everything from trail design to construction and maintenance. If you have a recreational trail or shared use pathway project in need of funding support, make sure to apply for 2021 MassTrails Grant round.
For the latest on rail trail openings across the commonwealth this year, you should keep an eye on our MassBike Updates page and follow MassBike on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We will be joining trail advocates across the state as they open their trails and posting alerts about trails that need support in your community. If you have a trail project that needs support, reach out to us and let us know how we can help.