Charles River Bike Path


14 Reviews

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Charles River Bike Path Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Middlesex, Suffolk
Length: 23.4 miles
Trail end points: Prospect St. (Waltham) and Charles River Dam Rd. Bridge (Boston)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 8594111

Charles River Bike Path Description


The Charles River Bike Path, also referred to as the Charles River Greenway, offers a paved, 23-mile route from Boston to its western suburbs.

About the Route

A large section of the trail, beginning on its eastern end and extending 16 miles, is named after Dr. Paul Dudley White, a prominent cardiologist and proponent of preventative medicine such as exercise. The Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path hugs each side of the Charles River through Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown.

In many sections of the route, there are multiple parallel trail options for those who’d prefer an unpaved surface or would like to stay further from the road activity. A number of architecturally interesting bridges will greet trail users as they enter Cambridge from Boston, allowing trail users to create shorter routes on both sides of the river as opposed to the larger loop. While busy roads parallel the trail on both sides of the river, most of the route has trees and green space along the way. Along the way, trail users may enjoy watching boats skim by and even try their hand at a variety of water sports that are available to the public at numerous locations.

Starting at the famed Museum of Science in Boston and heading into Cambridge, the Charles River will be on the left for the first half of the loop. In 2 miles, the trail passes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus on the right, followed by Harvard University in 2.6 miles. Continuing another 3.8 miles into Watertown, the trail passes the Watertown Yacht Club to the left as it curves around the river, followed by the Pat and Gabriel Farren Playground on the right, just before Irving Street.

Trail users who would like to continue their journey may continue on the Charles River Bike Path beyond Watertown west to Waltham. This option provides the opportunity to visit Waltham’s Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.

Otherwise, cross the Galen Street Bridge to begin the other side of the loop back to Boston. There are several athletic facilities and the Northeastern University Boathouse, featuring impressive modern architecture as the trail heads east. Keep an eye out for rowers carrying their boats across the trail. In 2.9 miles from the Galen Street Bridge, the trail reaches the Charles River Reservation. This 20-mile stretch provides a quiet and natural experience with a dock set in the water, allowing trail users to enjoy an intimate view of the river as the trail curves around Soldiers Field Road, passing Harvard Stadium and Soldiers Field Park Children’s Center on the right.

As the trail approaches Boston, beautiful views of the city skyline will become visible. The trail traffic will also increase markedly, so stay vigilant. Just after, the trail passes bridges at Western Avenue and River Street, followed by the Boston University Bridge, with views of Boston University on the trail’s right. In 2.3 miles from Boston University Bridge, trail users will come to an enchanting esplanade where the land extends into the water, connecting to the mainland through a series of quaint footbridges. There, trail users can take a break to catch a performance at the Hatch Memorial Shell, an outdoor concert venue. Follow the trail for another 0.9 mile to its endpoint at the Museum of Science.


The Charles River Bike Path is part of the developing East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile route from Florida to Maine.

Parking and Trail Access

The Charles River Bike Path runs between Prospect St. (Waltham) and Charles River Dam Rd. Bridge (Boston).

Parking is available at:

  • McKenna Playground, 136 Elm St. (Waltham)
  • Forte Park, 235 California St. (Newton)
  • Christian Park, 1075 Soldiers Field Rd (Boston)

Additionally, Boston has a robust public transit system. See more at Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for more information.

See TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Charles River Bike Path Reviews

Charles River Bike Path - Loved it!

We began our bike ride at the Embassy Public Parking Lot in Waltham. Because it was a Sunday morning, there were plenty of spaces available and the parking was free. We pretty much followed the trail on TrailLink web page and proceeded east along the south side of the Charles River. We did use Google Maps on our phone to track where we were and to ensure we were on the bike path vs. a sidewalk or other road / trail. We stopped in at the Bier Garden on the Esplanade to hydrate (lots of fun 😊) We then continued down to the Science Center. We returned back by way of the north side of the river through Cambridge until Bridge Street bridge. From that point we crossed back and continued on the trail we started on.

It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day. The trail was busy with walkers and other bicyclists. We didn’t encounter any problems or issues with people moving over when we signaled by ringing our bike bells. The other bicyclists along the way were also very courteous and followed the standard riding rules. The entire area along the Charles was bustling with people, families and pets out to enjoy a pleasant summer day. We thoroughly enjoyed the biking experience and plan to do again next year.

scenic but dangerous

The Charles River Trail is NOT a bike path. While visually pretty, the trail is clearly a walking trail, a running trail and a trail for dog-walking. The trail is very poorly marked, has difficult-to-find parking and is narrow. We found the people using the trail, for the most part, had no trail etiquette; they would walk several abreast and not move when we announced ourselves riding VERY SLOWLY and approaching. In the Waltham section the trail is difficult to navigate ,resulting from lack of directional signs. It is also muddy and had at least one felled tree across the path, at head height. The trail was not nearly wide enough to I strongly suggest avoiding the area simply for parking issues alone. Instead, try the Bruce Freeman trail, the Northern Strand trail or the Minutemantrail. Hope this helps. accommodate both walkers and riders.

Nice Ride & Way to Get Into the City

Was mostly a road rider in the Boston suburbs until I decided to ride into the city one day. All the stopping & restarting with traffic lights on every block drove me nuts. That's how I found this trail. A very nice way to get into the city, running along the Charles River and providing great views. Although the trail is widely used, you still don't have to stop very often at all and are easily able to get around other joggers, walkers, etc. A worthwhile ride to add to your list of completed trails.

Nice Ride & Way to Get Into the City

Was mostly a road rider in the Boston suburbs until I decided to ride into the city one day. All the stopping & restarting with traffic lights on every block drove me nuts. That's how I found this trail. A very nice way to get into the city, running along the Charles River and providing great views. Although the trail is widely used, you still don't have to stop very often at all and are easily able to get around other joggers, walkers, etc. A worthwhile ride to add to your list of completed trails.


Nice Urban Trail

Upstream portion of trail has gravel sections and asphalt sections that are not well maintained. As trail proceeds downstream toward Boston the trail becomes wider and more refined. Many interesting sights along the way. Ride carefully, many local riders have a tendency to whiz past without warning and squeeze between pedestrians and opposing bikers.


This must be one of the finest, most divers trails in the country. From waterfalls and woods near the Watertown / Waltham end to the busy urban end near the Science Museum this trail has something for everyone. The views of the downtown skyline, Cambridge, the bridges, boathouses, MIT, BU, and Harvard are nothing short of spectacular, post card images. Sometimes the Esplanade area gets crowded but it’s well worth it.

not entirely asphalt

Was excited to try this trail for inline skating. We started in Waltham and loved the beginning but we hit a section that was entirely dirt pretty quickly and had to turn back. I’m sure it’s beautiful for bike riding.

Love, love, love this path!

One of my favorite rides anywhere. Gives a great feel for the city and connects easily to other urban paths. I live far out in the northwest suburbs but I try to get in here every week or two. Great scenery, great path, lots of activities, well maintained and constantly improved. I generally start in Waltham, take the south side in and north side out. Usually, I go past the MOS and through North Point Park, over the North Bank bridge to Paul Revere Park and from there into the North End and waterfront, virtually all off the streets. Can't recommend the Charles River Path too highly.

its quite a nice setting

But too busy in a warm spring weekend. Some stretches are narrow and poorly maintained.

Best Bike ride - a must do

We parked in Newton and rode out bikes all the way to the Cambridge Galleria and had lunch. Then we rode back to Newton, was just over 27 miles round trip. Mostly along the river. The trail is broken up and we crossed the river about 3 times in Watertown to Waltham, but what an amazing ride. Some dirt sections, but our Trek hybrids did not have trouble. Be careful crossing streets, espcially in the city. Also, don't go full speed as there are a lot of people walking and enjoying the trail, so take your time and enjoy!


A pretty nice trail for a few hours. Mostly you're riding near the river so you can see plenty of boats, geese with their sweet kids, nice bridges and great views of Boston. I'm going to use this trail many times more.

Truly Boston

As a native Bostonian, I love this trail. I parked for free at Magazine Beach Park, road towards and crossed Weeks Bridge and continued along Soldiers Field Road to the Hatch Shell where I stopped for an iced latte at the Charles River Bistro where a jazz quartet was playing. Such a relaxing take! I returned the same route since most of Memorial Drive's path is under major construction. The activity on the River was amazing!

Interesting Trail (and map does not show all the trail on the north side)

We parked at the Christian Herter park on the south side of the Charles River (there was plenty of free parking on a Friday) and completed the trail as shown on the map. Highlights included passing by the campuses of Harvard and MIT and the Museum of Science, several boat houses with rowing shells and sailboats, lots of sailboats and kayaks on the water, watching a sailing class (it was a windy day and we saw two boats capsize while eating lunch), and the Boston Pops concert area with the concert shell and the howitzer that is fired when the Boston Pops plays the 1812 overture. Most of the trail was in good shape, although there were a few rough spots, construction areas, and busy intersections. Even though we normally prefer to ride in quieter, more secluded areas, we rated it a 5 star because of the interesting sights along the way. As an observation, there are places that rent kayaks and canoes, including one in (or next to) Christian Herter park. If you would like, you could easily combine biking with kayaking or canoeing (or possibly taking a sailing class or renting a sailboat) or a visit to the Museum of Science. We first rode east from the Christian Herter park to the Eliot Bridge and crossed over the Charles River to do the loop portion of the east end of the Charles as shown on the map. After completing the loop, we continued on the south side to the Galen Street Bridge to Watertown. We crossed the bridge and returned on the north side of the Charles to the Eliot Bridge which we crossed again to get back to our car. We enjoyed the north side between Watertown and the Eliot bridge more than the south side, due to less traffic on the road next to the trail and (in our opinion) easier intersection crossings. This section of trail on the north side is not shown on the TrailLink map as of this writing (on 8/12/16) although we saw it on some other maps and the TrailLink description mentions trail on both sides of the river between Watertown and the Museum of Science.

Great city trail; pavement improving

Great trail along the Charles River. All but approx 2 miles of the Boston side has been repaved in the last five years, so in very good shape. You have to deal with some intersections on the western half of the trail, but only the intersection at the JFK Bridge/Harvard Business School is challenging. The wooden deck around the BU Bridge also requires some caution. Very popular on weekends, so go out early if you want to go fast and/or avoid the crowds.

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