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The Charles River Bike Path, also referred to as the Charles River Greenway, offers a paved, 22-mile route from Boston to its western suburbs. The trail is also part of a larger, developing network called the East Coast Greenway, which stretches from Maine to Florida.
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. This 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 you as you enter Cambridge from Boston, allowing you 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, you can enjoy watching boats skim by and even try your 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 your left for the first half of the loop. In 2 miles, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus will greet you on the right, followed by Harvard University in 2.6 miles. Continuing another 3.8 miles into Watertown, you’ll pass the Watertown Yacht Club to your left as you curve around the river, followed by the Pat and Gabriel Farren Playground on your right, just before Irving Street.
If you’d like to extend your ride farther at this point, you can 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 a number of athletic facilities, as well as the Northeastern University Boathouse, featuring impressive modern architecture as you head east. Keep an eye out for rowers carrying their boats across the trail. In 2.9 miles from the Galen Street Bridge, you’ll come to the Charles River Reservation. This 20-mile stretch provides a quiet and natural experience with a dock set in the water, allowing you to enjoy an intimate view of the river as you curve around Soldiers Field Road, passing Harvard Stadium and Soldiers Field Park Children’s Center on your right.
As you approach Boston, beautiful views of the city skyline will become visible. The trail traffic will also increase markedly, so stay vigilant. Soon, you’ll pass bridges at Western Avenue and River Street, followed by the Boston University Bridge, with views of Boston University on your right. In 2.3 miles from Boston University Bridge, you’ll come to an enchanting esplanade where the land extends into the water, connecting to the mainland through a series of quaint footbridges. There, you can take a break to catch a performance at the Hatch Memorial Shell, an outdoor concert venue. If nothing is scheduled, you can still marvel at its impressive design while enjoying a snack from the nearby concession stand.
Follow the trail for another 0.9 mile to its endpoint at the Museum of Science. If you’d like to extend your trip at this endpoint, head northeast from the museum for one block to the 0.5-mile North Bank Bridge trail. It begins at Museum Way and Education Street, traverses Cambridge’s North Point Park, and ends in Paul Revere Park, Charlestown.
To reach the Boston endpoint at the Museum of Science from I-93, take Exit 26 toward Storrow Dr. Go 0.5 mile and use the left lane to follow signs for MA 28 N./Leverett Circle/N. Station. Keep left to continue onto Nashua St. toward MA 28 N./Charles River Dam Road. Continue onto MA 28 N./Charles River Dam Road 0.3 mile, then turn left onto Museum of Science Driveway. Use the Museum of Science parking garage. Note that this is a paid garage. For more information, visit: mos.org/parking.
If starting in Boston, consider using public transportation to avoid Boston’s heavy traffic. The Science Park/West End Green Line Station of the MBTA Subway, or “T,” deposits passengers steps away from the trail and the Museum of Science. Note that bikes (except folding bikes) are not permitted on the Green Line. However, the Orange Line welcomes bikes except from 7–10 a.m. and 4–7 p.m. on weekdays. Use the Orange Line’s Haymarket Station. Upon exiting Haymarket Station, turn right onto Congress St. toward Haymarket Square. In 0.2 mile, continue onto Merrimac St., then turn right onto Causeway St. in 0.1 mile. Take an immediate left onto Lomasney Way, then veer right to continue onto Nashua St./Red Auerbach Way in 0.1 mile. Go 0.4 mile, then turn right onto Charles River Dam Road. The Museum of Science will be on your left.
To reach parking in Watertown from I-90 E/Massachusetts Turnpike, take Exit 17 toward Newton/Watertown. In 0.3 mile, turn right onto Centre St., following signs for Watertown. Make an immediate right onto Jefferson St. In 0.2 mile, turn right onto Maple St., making another immediate right onto Nonantum Road. In 0.9 mile, continue onto N. Beacon St. In 0.2 mile, use the left lane to enter the traffic circle. Follow it all the way through until you’re heading west on Nonantum Road. Continue on Nonantum Road 0.5 mile. The Newton Yacht Club will be to your right. You will cross the trail to enter the parking lot, which is 1 mile from the Watertown endpoint on the southern bank of the Charles River.
In Waltham, parking is available on the south bank of the Charles River, opposite the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. From I-95 N, take Exit 26 for US 20 East to Waltham. Stay on US 20 for 1.9 miles as it becomes Weston St. and later Main St. Take a right on Moody St. Take Moody for 0.3 mile as you cross the Charles River. Take a left on Pine St. In one block take a left on Cooper St. and look for the large parking lot on your left.
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.
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!
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 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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