The Nashua River Rail Trail is a beautiful and peaceful rural trail extending through the Massachusetts communities of Ayer, Groton, Pepperell and Dunstable. The trail continues into New Hampshire just south of the town of Nashua. In autumn it provides a spectacular platform for viewing the colorful changing leaves. Along the 7 miles between Groton Center and Dunstable, a 5-foot-wide gravel equestrian path parallels the trail.
The 12.3-mile trail begins in downtown Ayer across from the commuter rail station, where parking and restrooms are available. Leading north through residential Ayer, the route soon follows a rural, tree-lined corridor. Two miles into your journey, you'll reach Groton School Pond. Pause here at charming granite seating areas to watch for wildlife, particularly the industrious beavers that have built their lodge on the pond.
At the trail midpoint, you'll reach a small parking lot at Nod Road. Beyond, the trail skirts J. Harry Rich State Forest and the Nashua River, the latter visible to the west en route to New Hampshire. Next, a small retail and restaurant district hails your arrival in Pepperell. On a hot summer day, stop for an ice cream before continuing north to Dunstable, where you'll cross the border into New Hampshire.
The trail continues a short way toward Nashua, ending at a large trailhead parking lot. Residential development on the corridor has severed the connection between the Nashua River Rail Trail and the 1.3-mile Nashua Heritage Rail Trail, which stretches east to Nashua City Hall.
To reach the Ayer trailhead, take Interstate 495 to Exit 29 and head west on State Route 2 to Exit 38B for State Route 111 north. From the rotary, continue on SR 111 north through Ayer Center and the downtown shopping district until you see the trail from the road (still SR 111 north). For trailhead parking, take the first right past the trail, followed by another right into the lot.
To reach the Nashua, New Hampshire, trailhead, take US 3 north to Exit 5W toward State Route 111A west toward Pepperell, Massachusetts. Follow it to SR 111 west. Turn left onto Countryside Drive. Follow it to the end to reach the trailhead. Trail parking is across the street in the parking lot.