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Bruce N. Freeman was a Massachusetts state representative from 1969 to 1986. Beginning in 1985, he championed the creation of a bike path that would run along the former Penn Central railroad line from Industrial Avenue in Lowell to South Sudbury. Inspiration for the trail (then referred to as the Lowell-Sudbury Rail Trail) came partly from seeing the Cape Cod Rail Trail, as well as a bike trail in San Jose, California, on which Freeman had ridden with his son and grandson. After Freeman’s death in 1986, his successor Carol C. Cleven introduced a bill that would make the bike path a reality.
You can start your journey at the northern endpoint in Lowell. From here, a green painted path goes from the nearest building into the trail parking lot, providing great access for those who work in the buildings near the trailhead.
The trail starts with an extensive culvert tunnel under US 3/Northwest Expressway. On the other side of the tunnel, you’re greeted with flowers as the rail-trail runs along the back side of several business areas. In 0.8 mile from the trailhead, the trail runs diagonally under the large I-495/Blue Star Memorial Highway overpass as you enter the Chelmsford area. Baseball fields are just off the trail to the left as you cross Chelmsford Street in another 0.5 mile. The path begins again on the other side. Here, you’ll make your way into a little downtown area, where the trail follows Chelmsford Street very briefly.
In 0.3 mile, be careful as you cross the central intersection of MA 4/North Road and MA 110/Littleton Road, as this is located in the middle of town. Take the trail almost straight through the intersection, following signs for the safe crosswalks that will lead you to the other side. A small lantern man sculpture off to the right lets you know that you’re back on the trail. A few more pieces of art are just ahead, where an old train depot used to be.
As you head out of town for the remaining 5.1 miles, you’ll pass through a rural section—much of it covered by tree canopies—following Beaver Brook as it makes its way through neighborhoods. This section of trail is leisurely and wide, with fencing along both sides in some portions. In 2.7 miles, to the right of the trail in Chelmsford, is Heart Pond. Note that the beach—which contains a playground and swimming area—is open to the public. The trail skips over the corner of Heart Pond and travels along a small dockside community. It then continues south through more wooded areas with portions of fencing along the trail, adding to the structural beauty of the corridor. In 2.4 miles from Heart Pond Beach, the trail ends rather abruptly at Westford Street, without parking or a trailhead sign of any sort. The county is currently extending the trail farther south, however, and a few people do venture along the dirt corridor walking or on mountain bikes.
To reach the northern trailhead from I-495, take Exit 35A-35B to head north on US 3. In 0.1 mile take Exit 31, following signs for MA 110/Lowell/Chelmsford. Turn right onto MA 110 W./Chelmsford St., and almost immediately make a right into the office building complex. Follow the road to the parking lot and make a right just before crossing a brook. The trail has its own parking at the side of the lot, and a green painted path leads from the office building to the trailhead. The trail begins with a tunnel under the Northwest Expwy./US 3.
There is parking at various points in the trail though not at the southern trailhead. See the trail map for your parking options.
Did this trail today- Sunday. I parked behind Donelan's Market in Acton, which is a great market, and got on the trail. Even though there were lots of people walking, serious bikers, families, they were spaced out and people were really good staying on the right and respectful. When I got to a bigger intersection crossing in Chelmsford, I asked people how to get to the end. The last little leg wasn't great, but it takes you to Crosspoint that if you park at that end, it's great to get you on the trail. There is a Tavern on Square there.
There were 2 ponds along the way: Heart Pond Beach in Chelmsford where there is a guy selling sausages and hot dogs wearing a hot dog hat, and NARA pond in Acton.
I'll definitely go back out there!
I love this trail and ride it often. Once you ride or walk it you will keep coming back for more. I live in neighboring Billerica and ride the 3 miles from my home to the head of the trail which is hidden in the parking lot on the side of Cross Point (900 Chelmsford St. Lowell Ma.). There is tons of parking here so you will never have to worry about getting there early to get a space. There is a lot of foot traffic in the beginning of the trail until you get to Chelmsford, Rt 110, but once you cross the street and enter the bike path I have never experienced a lot of traffic (bike or foot) from this point to the end of the trail in Acton. A lot of the trail is tree lined which provides partial shade on a hot, sunny day. There are two beaches along the trail, Heart Pond in Chelmsford, and Nara Park in Acton. Further along the trail, near the end is a bike shop, Pedal Power Bike and Ski, which is nice to have and they offer facilities for your relief. Speaking of which there are facilities along the trail at Heart Pond, Nara Park, the parking lot at Brook St. and the bike shop. If you like to explore there is plenty to see with farms and historic homes along the Chelmsford section of the Trail. The trail ends at a sports complex with a loop to turn around. At the northern end of the sports complex is a small meadow which is nice to rest and enjoy lunch. As for food there are plenty of place to eat along the trail.
Very nice and shady, pleasant ride.
I grew up in Chelmsford and remember the Abandoned rails here. since conversion I been riding this trail to catch a movie in Lowell grab food in Acton go to my gym in town. fitness rides and pleasure rides. I explore the many parks it passed thru. I go fishing. this is perfect for a man who had to give up driving for impairment reasons. now I stay fit all the time and enjoy it.
The new section is complete! You can now ride from Acton to Lowell - the Acton end of trail is amazing! There is a bike shop right on the trail in Acton - they have a bathroom open to riders! Tons of parking options on this end of trail.
I ride this trial several times a week. There are several access points now that the new section is open. The whole trial is very well maintained and mostly tree lined. Lots of places to stop and relax. The new section is wider with more benches. The NARA pond area is a very nice diversion. The major street crossings all have crossing lights. It is a gem of a trail!
A brand new bridge has been constructed which crosses 2A seamlessly connecting this (at present) Chelmsford to Acton path. A fully paved, and at times exceptionally wide, path passes through marshland and lovely new wood feel ferns, lovely ponds/small beaches. It was a pleasure taking this 12.5 mile ride which had plenty of canopy covering on a sunny day. The description may be a little outdated b/c we saw newer looking parking on various parts of the trail and actually started in Acton. As always a bunch of street crossings to be cautious about with older style raised brick stanchions at these intersections to encourage reduced speed.
Though I only went about 6 or 7 miles into this trail, I found it to be scenic, safe, and flat. Some segments of the trail are wider than usual. There are a couple of swim-able ponds along it if you want to stop for a dip. Overall, an excellent trail and I look forward to doing it in its entirety, next time.
they still use old fashioned stanchions & raised brick lane dividers. my Wife crashed twice & broke her wrist 2 days ago. the stanchion she crashed into is reportedly (by a town employee) the site of multiple SERIOUS crashes (Pond St, Chelmsford)
also, there are other multiple poorly designed issues such as at some road crossings
do yourself & your family a favor & stay off this trail
Did this for the first time this morning, 6/18/18, the entire length and enjoyed the ride tremendously. Well marked with numerous crossings and stops if you would like to. The Chelmsford end is a little rough and tough to cross the busy intersections but certainly bearable. Friendly people enroute, good nature with some small animals along the way. I saw a small snapping turtle off to the side along Heart Pond. Will certainly ride this trail again... thanks!
The new section is great. There seems to be plenty of access points and is very wide. The old section has very limited accessibility. What is really sad about this older section in Chelmsford is the lack of accessibility and the feeling one gets the town doesn't want anybody on the trail so they can get rid of it. The section that goes thru town has mostly some type of fence up to keep you on the trail. The intersection in town is lacking proper crossing signs and narrow crossing barriers. Then when you get to Rte110 crossing forget seeing the other section, at the lights a sign states walk your bike but where. Really sad is the athletic field next to the trail , there is no trail access, you have to walk back to the side walk. You have to wonder how much money the businesses around this trail is missing out on. Further down the trail which parallels rte110 the shopping centers have a fence blocking access to the trail. My recommendation is bike the trail but spend your money else where. CHELMSFORD WAKE UP. Great parking in Acton, I parked at Nara park, you could swim after the ride. Another great place is on rte2a behind Donelan's. There are smaller parking areas along the new section. The old section before Chelmsford center is mostly wooded. There is a small lake/pond with a beach off of the trail and you could go swimming there.
I walked this trail for the first time today. I had a hard time finding a place to park because my GPS took me to an access point, but no parking was allowed. I prefer to start at one end or the other so I get the full experience, so I headed to the endpoint at the Carlisle/Westford end, but again, no parking. I had to find the beginning of the trail in Lowell, making me have to start the trail around 9am. Once I started out, everything was great. The mile markers were a bit confusing, but other than that, I had a great time. I loved that there were a few places along the way to use a restroom, the Dunkin Donuts in Chelmsford, as well as an Agway, and the Mobile station by the beach. I saw a port-a-potty just past the center of Chelmsford behind Ginger Ale Plaza. The trail was a bit busy for my liking, but it is Fourth of July weekend. Overall, I would probably walk this trail again.
Decided to start biking last year. Did potions of Brice Freeman twice. Loved the ride. Made it to the end of Phase One this year. Love Heart Pond. Well maintained. More of an incline heading in, which is nice when you are tired and riding "down hill" on your way out. Can not wait for the next phase to be done!!!!!
We rode this trail recently, it is a really well kept trail with some very pretty views. A few road crossings through town get a little confusing at first but we managed even with a trailer and new rider.
Absolutely beautiful trail that is lush in the summer. It's mostly flat- it actually feels like it's slightly downhill both ways! There are 11 minor crossings (small roads with stop signs) and 2 major crossings (busy intersections with traffic lights). In the summer months, bring a bathing suit and take a dip in Heart Pond, which has a little swimming area with a lifeguard and port-a-potties. With a moderate pace, we biked end to end in 1:10. The mile markers start at 1.4- the trail total is 6.8. There is a very small (~3 cars) parking area near the southern end, on Acton Rd just south of Carlisle Rd.
Had a fun time riding this trail yesterday!
I recently got back into road / trail cycling. The Freeman Tail at about 6 miles one-way was excellent for getting in shape for longer runs. Trail is well maintained and there are three stretches where you can get up to a fast speed in between street crossings. If you want to ride, at speed, consistently, go off hours. Early morning or late noon as it fills with strollers, walkers, skaters etc. particularly on weekends. I still ride this trail frequently as it is close to home and still enjoy at a leisurely pace.
If you start at Cross Point in Chelmsford, it's not quite as nice as if you start in Chelmsford Center. The 2nd half is more woodsy and has better view.
10 mile round trip from Chelmsford center/Cushing place to trail end in westford and back. Good for beginners and pretty flat. There is a pond at halfway point with parking and seating to take a break and some play equipment for kids. Walking on this trail got me motivated to pickup biking.
I live in Lowell to have my mini getaway this is my go to trail. Just to get away from it all for just a bit. Enjoy this trail every time.
I finally got down from NH to try this out today. I started near the top of the trail at the Stop & Shop parking lot on Route 110. As you enter at the light, you'll see a Curbside Pickup area in front of you. Bear left, and there's a section at the end with little bicycles painted on the spaces. You can't access the trail from there, so you have to ride across the front of Stop & Shop, take a left on the street at the other parking lot entrance, then the trail is right there.
The trail actually goes a little further up, but there's no compelling reason to start there. You have to go through what's basically a large drainage pipe to get under Route 3, then you end up in the parking lot of the Crosspoint building. Officially, you can only park there for the trail on weekends and holidays, although I saw people using it on a Thursday. Still best to start at Stop & Shop in my view.
After a mile or so, you end up in the center of Chelmsford, where there are two dicey road crossings. Best to get off and cross at the crosswalks using the pedestrian walk lights. The Route 110 crossing is particularly disjointed. If you want to avoid these, there's also parking in Chelmsford center, which allows you to get right on the trail without negotiating crosswalks. I think it's called Cushing Place.
The main trail is largely rural, sometimes running along roads and behind houses and sometimes out in the woods. As mentioned earlier, you can stop at Heart Pond if you want. Bring a sandwich from town and have lunch for a break. There's also a little spur off to the left as you're heading away from Chelmsford that goes out to a farm. Short, but a nice diversion.
Unfortunately, I had to turn around before the current end of the trail in Westford because they were doing highway work on Route 27, but I think there was less than a mile of trail left. There are several road crossings between Chelmsford and Westford, but only a couple are major. Signs encourage you to get off and walk across those, which I did, but others just biked through. The other crossings are more extended driveways into little enclaves of places by the lake. It's a little stop and go, but not annoyingly so.
The trail seems actively used by walkers, people pushing strollers, people walking dogs, people on rollerblades pushing strollers, and other bikers. I saw several families out riding together. To me it seemed like a decent mix that kept you from feeling isolated but didn't really feel congested.
Overall, it's a nice ride through the country at a moderate pace, and it seems pretty safe. Pavement is good all the way, with a few frost heaves and tree root bulges here and there, but not many. Going from Chelmsford to Westford, it's pretty much constantly uphill., rising about 125 feet over 6-7 miles or so. The good news is it's all downhill on the way back, so starting in Chelmsford works out well. It will be great when they complete the next segments of this over the next few years.
My husband and I (70) rode the trail last weekend. It was beautiful. Flat, clean, well cared for trail. My favorite spot was the pond with beach. We stopped to rest there going and coming. The street crossings were well marked but the cars were travelling fast and it was wise to dismount and wait till the coast was clear. All in all a very enjoyable ride and worth the trip.
My wife and I took our 5 and 9 year old daughters this weekend and had a great experience. Flat, well maintained, and wide. We never felt unsafe with our 5 year old like we do when we ride on even the slowest city streets. For reference, we started at Cushing Place in Chelmsford and traveled south to avoid the downtown Chelmsford street crossings.
It's a nice trail to ride on, but it's a little too short.
As a suburban trail, it's not particularly scenic but it's an enjoyable trail.
In the spring of 2013 is when I started riding a bike. I discovered the Bruce Freeman tail and rode it at least 3 times a week. I have rode it at various times of the day and always find it a real pleasure. If you are just starting out bike riding I highly recommend this trail.
A lot of riders are disappointed when they come to the current abrupt south end of the trail at Route 225. The good news is that construction of another 4 plus miles south through Acton is scheduled to begin in 2014.
Wonderfully smooth paved surface and well-maintained trail. Nice wooded scenery and lake ride-by. I wish the trail was a lot longer, it's so nice. My only complaint is the frequent traffic light crossings where the trail goes through the center of Chelmsford.
I love the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. I like to start at the trailhead in Lowell and go through the fun tunnel under Route 3. You're in the woods soon after, although the services of Chelmsford are in easy reach from the cross streets. Pick up some sandwiches for a picnic down the road at Sal's or the Super Stop n Shop via the cross street at Glen avenue. Eventually, you'll pass by a baseball field. Jimmy's pizza is just up Alpine road from Rte 110; great subs! Or go on your way across Rte 110 into downtown Chelmsford. Ice cream and the Chelmsford Cyclery are accessible through openings in the fence on your right and left respectively. After downtown Chelmsford, the trail becomes entirely rural. At approximately the midpoint, you'll first approach the Chelmsford Agway, which stocks ice cream and cold drinks for trail riders. And then soon after, you'll be at Heart Pond Beach. There are picnic tables here and a playground and a port-a-potty and parking for the rail trail and beach. You can go for a swim June through August. Then head down to today's trail terminus in Westford at the junction of Rtes 225 and Rte 27.
Really nice trail! Some nice views of a river. Some nature trails off it too. A lake about halfway where I had lunch. Most of it is in the woods. Great trail
I rode this trail for the first time today. the trail was well paved and fairly level the hole way. There were plenty of places to rest and some places to stop and eat, And buy drinks if you wanted to, On the chelmsford end. The scenery was much better than I expected. nice trees and streams most of the way, with a nice pond that you can stop at to rest and even take a swim to cool down if you wish. This is a great trail for Entry level riders.
I have just finished the whole trail which isn't bad for a 62 year old who is out of shape. I did this on an old fashioned one speed bike and it was great. A nice level trail with plenty to see. I highly recommend it for newbies.
I've ridden this trail a few times. There are a good amount of road crossings. The worst one is in the Chelmsford center. But as long as you use the push to walk buttons you'll be ok.
They did a real nice job setting up this trail and the pond in the middle of the route is a nice bit of scenery.
My husband and I love that it is so close! We can walk, run or bike on this trail. We can't wait until they finish it!
I use this trail to bike to work so I know it very well. The Lowell to Chelmsford Center part isn't that great and involves crossing two busy streets. I'd recommend parking at the Brickhouse parking lot right in Chelmsford Center. There is NO parking lot at the end of the trail and it's all residential so the Center parking is the best option. A couple of miles in on this easy and scenic trail is a public beach that is a hidden gem. It's small, never crowded and hidden from the road. You can park there for free and enjoy the beach for free - it's called Hart (sometimes spelled Heart) Pond. They allow kayaks and canoes and there is a lifeguard and a bathroom. Turn at the sign for Laundry's. Back to the trail though, it's easy and not very crowded, good for road/mountain/hybrids and not very long. There are a few places to stop and do mini hiking, also.
I'm in MA for several months on business and I decided to try this trail after reading the reviews. It is indeed a beautiful trail. I would've given it 5 stars if it weren't for the crossing in Chelmsford--it's not bad, but you are required to use the traffic light. The next crossing across the busy street is slightly confusing if you're unfamiliar with the area but nothing major. I highly recommend the trail!
I live about a mile off this trail on the border of Chelmsford and Westford. The trail is in great shape and fairly new. The pavement is smooth and there is a very well done wooden fence along much of the trail where there are drop offs on the side. There are several busy roads that the trail crosses but most of the trail is in treed areas and shaded. The incline is gradual. I ride my bike on the trail to get to Chelmsford center and it is a great ride and good exercise. There have always been at least a few people on the trail either biking, rollerblading or walking. On a good weekend day it can get a little crowded in sections.
I would recommend it.
Be aware that there are only three parking spaces at the Westford trail head and shoulder parking for two more vehicles. There are no alternatives such as a school or grocery store parking lot nearby. Other than this challenge, the Freeman trail is a short but sweet cruise through the woods; for the most part. I recommend starting from the Chelmsford trail head at the Cross Point building. Parking there, for all intents, is limitless on the weekends.
This trail is about .5 miles from my house. I have walked and use this trail for my runs if I do not have my weekend planned. Most of the trail is in shade except for 2 busy street crossings.Heart pond is good place to rest. A lot of people use this trail for walking, running, biking, skating. There are places along the trail where we could get water and some food.
Infact the trail head starts from my work place so I walk on this trail almost every other afternoon.
Its a new, smooth, flat trail.I am hoping that phase 2 & 3 gets completed soon so that it will be one lengthy trail and I can bike on this trail as well.
Well utilized trail.
After a bit of difficulty finding the trail head, we had a nice ride on the Bruce Freeman Trail late this morning. The trail itself is freshly paved with no bumps. Other than two major intersection crossings, most of the trail isalmost uninteruppted riding. I would say about 85% of the trail is in complete shade. This was a great treat today with temps reaching 90. It is nearly completely flat. It does have some gently rolling terrain, but nothing that could even losely be called a hill. It is very scenic, one piece passing Heart's Pond with a small beach.
With today's lovely weather after a week of rain, and summer coming to an end, the trail was very crowded. I am all for families spending quality time together in an outdoor activity. Too many of those on the trail today needed a serious lesson in trail etiquette. In several spots the trail was totally blocked by parked bikes and people sprawled across the trail resting, chatting, etc. There was plenty of room off the side of the trail to have pulled over. I'll admit to needing my fair share of rests on many of our rides, pulled off to the side and well out of the way of those who are passing me.
I look forward to the planned extensions of this trail.
A wonderful trail, paved the whole way. Goes by a small beach on Heart Pond in Chelmsford, a good place to stop and get your feet wet on a hot day. Several places to stop and get water or, in the Chelmsford Center, something to eat. Heavily wooded through most of the trail, particularly as you get close to Westford. Shady and nearly flat. A pleasure. I look forward to its extension through Acton.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (currently 6.8 miles) is newly paved and pristine, and it extends from Lowell through Chelmsford and finishes up in Westford MA. As a runner I appreciate the fact that it is lined with big beautiful trees for most of the route, and therefore it provides plenty of shade on hot Summer days. The grade is relatively flat for the whole distance and the trail currently only crosses two busy roads in Chelmsford, the rest of the stops are an absolute breeze. I've read that this trail will hopefully be lengthened substantially in the near future. But as it is now, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is an absolute pleasure to run.
Road this trail today June 24th and it was in the high 80s but most of the ride is tree lined and very nice. It is paved the whole way and for a mid week day, being very hot there was a lot of bkiers, runners and walkers. I would give this a 3 star out of five. One major problem is the number of stop sings.
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