You won't get lonely on the Minuteman Bikeway. The nearly 10-mile rail-trail through suburban Boston is one of New England's most popular trails. Warm summer weekends in particular bring folks of all ages and abilities elbow to elbow along the asphalt bikeway.
The corridor boasts more than a vibrant present. It has a storied past that includes, as the name implies, a role in Revolutionary War times. The trail travels through the area where the Revolutionary War began in April 1775. In 1846, the Lexington & West Cambridge Railroad built and started service on the line. The blizzard of 1977 halted passenger service for good, and the demise of freight service followed in 1981.
In 1991, the line was railbanked by federal law, making it possible to transform the line into a rail-trail, while preserving future railroad opportunities. Just a year later, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the communities along the route celebrated the opening of the Minuteman Bikeway as the country's 500th rail-trail. By 1998, the Minuteman Bikeway was extended from downtown Arlington to the Alewife T-station in Cambridge. In 2000, the White House recognized the trail as a Millennium Trail (a program of the Clinton administration that noted outstanding trails in honor of the millennium), solidifying its reputation as a premier recreation and transportation route.
Although most users know the entire route as simply the Minuteman Bikeway, there are actually several connecting trails that can lead you from Somerville to downtown Concord. From Boston you have the option to hop the Red Line subway to Alewife T-station, where the Minuteman begins. To add 1.5 miles to your route, jump off at Davis Square Station and take the Alewife Linear Park to the Minuteman.
Traveling north into Arlington, you'll begin to understand why this trail is popular with pleasure-seekers and commuters alike. Heading northeast from Cambridge, the bikeway connects Arlington, Lexington and Bedford, easing access to neighborhoods, schools and such natural areas as Spy Pond and Great Meadows.
At Mile 1.5 the trail seems to dead-end at Swan Place in Arlington. Here, you'll take a short on-road jog; sidewalks are available for those uneasy with road cycling. Turn right on Swan Place, proceed to Massachusetts Avenue then turn left and look for the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum on your right. A set of old train tracks crosses in front of the museum. Follow these tracks with your eyes and you'll spot the onward bikeway across Mystic Street.
Back on the trail, you'll soon reach the Lexington visitor center, which provides information about local attractions and historical sites.
Farther north, the wooded corridor grows more peaceful before reaching the trail's end at Bedford Depot Park. You can end your journey here or push on to the Reformatory Branch Trail by following Loomis Street to where it curves and the 4.5-mile trail picks up. The Reformatory Branch Trail will lead you on a natural surface path through several protected wetlands to its western trailhead in Concord.
Cambridge trailhead by subway: Take the Red Line to the Alewife T-station. Bicycles are permitted on subways during off-peak hours on weekdays or all day on weekends.
Cambridge trailhead by car: Take I-95 to Exit 29A and head east on the Concord Turnpike/SR 2 toward Arlington and Cambridge. At the end of the turnpike, bear right on Alewife Brook Parkway, then turn right on Cambridge Park Drive to the station. The trailhead is west of the station; park in the adjacent garage. For more information visit the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's website.
Bedford trailhead: Take I-95 to Exit 31B and head north toward Bedford on SR 4/225. Drive 1.1 miles, then turn left on Loomis Street. The trailhead is at the South Road intersection, beside Bedford Depot Park.