Happy Trails to You!
- David Ginisi
- Posted on July 18, 2022
Pick a spot — any spot — in North Central Massachusetts, and if you want to take a walk or hop on your bicycle, there’s a trail waiting for you!
State and community parks, conservation areas, even former railroad routes, are abundant throughout this region. And if you’re tired of being cooped up and just raring to get outdoors, we’ve got what you need!
Follow the Rail
How handy are these trails? Here’s a hint: You can start right in the heart of the city. One of the newest links on the local trail scene is the Twin Cities Rail Trail, a 4.5-mile paved rail trail connecting downtown Fitchburg and downtown Leominster, running from Mechanic Street in Leominster to the Intermodal Transportation Center on Water Street in Fitchburg. The 12-foot-wide path — due to be completed this June —will provide ample space for two lanes of walking and bicycling traffic as well as emergency vehicle access if needed. A highlight of the trail’s development was the recent construction of a pedestrian bridge over Route 2 in Leominster.
It’s one of four local rail trails whose sections will eventually be linked together to form the Mass. Central Rail Trail extending for over 100 miles, following the path of the Massachusetts Central Railroad (MCRR) that originally ran from Boston to Northampton. The connection of these pieces will create the longest single rail trail project in the Northeast United States.
You can find maps for these trails — and information about the entire project — at masscentralrailtrail.org.
Roads Less Travelled
Want to get a little more away from it all? Check out the properties managed by the North County Land Trust, Mass. Audubon, or local
And don’t forget the Midstate Trail — a 92-mile hiking trail that runs from Rhode Island through central Massachusetts and eventually connects to the Wapack Trail in New Hampshire. The Midstate Trail is highly accessible, easy to hike and the best way to enjoy the natural side of the region, and there are numerous sections in local towns, where you can hop onto the trail to travel as far as you’d like. (Visit midstatetrail.org)
The state parks in the region, of course, have some great trails! Visit mass.gov for detailed information and maps on scores of trails that are open year-round, including trials at Dunn Park in Gardner, Leominster State Forest, Otter River State Forest in Winchendon, Willard Brook State Forest in West Townsend — and for magnificent views, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation in Princeton. §
Here are a few other country spots where you can get away from it all:
Bearsden Conservation Area
in Athol, featuring Ten miles of trails crisscrossing 1,568 acres of forest, with some terrific views of the Millers River. (Visit athol-ma/gov)
Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary in Gardner. The trail is only a mile long — perfect for when you need a quick stretch or fresh-air pick-me-up — but this is one of Mass Audubon’s less-visited sanctuaries, and home to fascinating wildlife like moose, bears, deer, bobcats, and coyotes. (Visit massaudubon.org)
Underwood Road Conservation area
in Hubbardston, which has mobility trail especially designed for people with limited mobility and for the GRIT wheelchair. (Visit northcountylandtrust.org)