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Almost complete, the Clipper City Rail Trail will be a multiuse trail loop through Newburyport. Currently 3.3 miles, the rail-trail connects the waterfront, downtown Newburyport, the Newburyport MBTA Station, residential neighborhoods, businesses, schools, shops, restaurants, recreational facilities, parks, and more. The rail-trail includes the scenic Harborwalk, which follows the shoreline of the Merrimack River and offers beautiful views of the water.
Along the route, stairways and spur trail provide connections to side streets and to amenities such as Haley’s Ice Cream and the Henry Graf Jr. Rink, an ice-skating rink. A boardwalk continues along the river and connects the rail-trail to Cashman Park.
While delivering wonderful views of the Merrimack River, the trail is set apart by its trailside art. More than a dozen sculptures, ranging from figurative to abstract to interactive art for children and families, are installed along the Clipper City Rail Trail. The sculptures serve as visual focal points that enhance this unique public space and draw people along the trail. The murals, custom planters, garden installations, custom signage, boardwalk, pedestrian bridge, and other functional elements are all designed with a special touch.
When complete, the Clipper City Rail Trail will be a full loop. At present, 3.3 miles of the loop are complete, starting at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Newburyport Station and ending at Parker Street at the base of the Oak Hill Cemetery. If you are a confident road cyclist, however, you can travel the last 0.5 mile on-road to complete the loop.
There are only a few parking spaces at the Parker Street endpoint adjacent to Oak Hill Cemetery, so it is recommended that you either start at Newburyport Station or from the center of Newburyport, as you are only six blocks from the trail in either direction. (Note that the Newburyport Station parking lot charges a daily fee.)
If arriving by MBTA train, your adventure starts immediately upon debarking because the route starts at the station platform. On the other side of Newburyport Station is the trailhead for the 3.4-mile trail within the Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area. This rail-trail, while more isolated and primitive, is an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Once you descend the platform’s northern ramp, you immediately will see large and unique outdoor sculptures along its wider greenway. The compelling use of wood, steel, and glass captures the flora, fauna, and heritage of the river corridor. Steam Loco, a play locomotive train, is a particular favorite for children and families. In 1.5 miles, you’ll come to the Merrimack River, where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the active shoreline and Gillis Bridge, which takes US 1 over the river.
If you would like to add a diversion and cross the river, the 0.3-mile paved Gillis Bridge Connector will take you to the north bank of the Merrimack River, providing panoramic views of the harbor, marinas, and Newburyport riverfront. If biking, make sure to walk your bike on the bridge sidewalk. Immediately across the river, you will hit the 3.6-mile paved Old Eastern Marsh Trail, which features excellent interpretation and birdwatching.
If you aren’t taking the side excursion, you can turn left once you reach Merrimack River to reach Cashman Park in less than 0.5 mile. The park offers tennis and basketball courts, a playground, a boat ramp, and other amenities. Otherwise, head east from the Gillis Bridge and continue along the Merrimack River; the portion of the trail along the river is known as the Harborwalk.
After passing through some boatyards, you’ll come to Waterfront Park. If biking, make sure to walk your bike along the boardwalk promenade until the asphalt continues. You are now in the recently completed Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail project. Throughout this section of construction, planners and designers continued using superior materials and innovative solutions, including the High Street underpass. After this short tunnel, the next 0.5 mile is set in a very different landscape—wooded and serene. The trail ends at Parker Street. Take care on this road and the traffic circle if you choose to head back to Newburyport Station to complete the loop.
The Clipper City Rail Trail is part of the Coastal Trails Network, which is developing in the four towns of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury along the Merrimack River. It is also part of the Border to Boston Trail, a developing trail network that will stretch 70 miles between the MA-NH state line and Boston. The Border to Boston Trail is itself a part of East Coast Greenway, a connected network of trails that will stretch from Maine to Florida when complete.
Parking is available at several points along or near the trail route.
Cashman Park on Sally Snyder Way and Cushman Park (on Kent Street & Washington Street) have free paved parking lots. Cashman Park connects to the official northwest corner of the rail-trail via a paved path running through the park and a section of boardwalk along the Merrimack shoreline. Cushman Park is a few blocks west of the rail-trail in a residential neighborhood. Follow Washington Street east past its intersections with Buck Street, Olive Street, Boardman Street, and Strong Street. Access the trail just east of Strong Street.
The Henry Graf Jr. Rink (28 Low St, Newburyport) has a free paved parking lot. Access the trail via a paved connector path from behind the northeast corner of the skating rink facility.
Free street parking is available along High Street near the High Street entrance to the trail (between Boardman St and Winter St). The trail entrance on Washinton Street has some limited street parking and there are a few free parking spaces by the trail entrance on Parker Street (southeast end of the trail).
At the southwest end of the trail, the large parking lots by the Newburyport train station have paid parking available. This includes the MBTA Commuter Parking Lot.
Visit the TrailLink map for detailed directions and transit options.
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