Mass Central Rail Trail


Mass Central Rail Trail Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Essex, Hampshire, Worcester
Length: 31.9 miles
Trail end points: Cedar Street and Alpine Street (Somerville) and Look Memorial Park (Florence)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone, Dirt, Grass
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032228
Trail activites: Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Mass Central Rail Trail Description

A 104 mile rail line was shattered by hurricane in 1938. Now, more than 60 years later, dedicated volunteers in 33 communities are working to reconnect it. Instead of trains there will be cross-country skiers, bicyclists, hikers, and joggers.

It won't be easy. While much of the old railway is passable to a dedicated hiker, the ownership is less clear. The railway has faded so far from memory that many maps don't even show the former route. A number of the bridges were torn down for scrap. Some of the land was sold, and neighboring landowners in other areas took advantage of the situation to build swimming pools, backyards, parking lots and other structures.

Despite the obstacles, the Mass Central Rail Trail continues to be developed between Boston and Northampton; several sections, totaling nearly 32 miles, are now complete.

Parking and Trail Access

There is plenty of free parking at the Junction of Route 140 and Thomas Street, one mile south of Exit 5 on Interstate 190 in West Boylston. Other sections in Holden, Sterling, and Rutland are open to the public but not officially completed. Horse restriction applies only on rail-trail sections that pass through watershed lands owned by the Metropolitian District Commission.

Mass Central Rail Trail Reviews

The trail is very well maintained and flat for the first 3 miles, (we started on Thomas Street - Boylston). The trail is entirely within the woods, tall pines on either side with plenty of opportunity to stop, sit on one of the many scenic view benches and take in the river and woods. With so little rain, we were able to go to the waters edge, very lovely and peaceful. There are two bridges you cross, and also go under 190. The next section of the trail is a bit more hilly, but quite fun coasting through the woods. This section is on higher elevation with great views. It seems that much progress has been made on the trail expansion, however, we did not go beyond to the next section. Will absolutely return without question.

We started from Thomas St in Boylston and went about 3 miles. The inclines were really steep for biking, unless you are a hard core bicyclist. More suited for hiking. The views were lovely although the many admonishing signs along the way detracted.

This is a jewel. The river follows the trail the entire way and is very scenic and peaceful. There are the ruins of a old mill village just shy of half way through. There are plenty of benches to sit at along the way. It was a bit muddy and mucky but once you got halfway through it was pretty dry.


I enjoy this trail so much and primarily use the section between Thomas Street in West Boylston and Manning Street in Holden. It is amazing for running and and easy bike ride for the whole family. Very well maintained, quiet, clean and not over crowded.

Tomorrow we will visit this trail for the third day in a row. It is beautiful & well maintained. The section after the first tunnel, heading east from Rutland State Park is breat-taking. A bonus is the option to swim & picnic at Rutland State Park.

Review: We rode from Rutland State Park to the end in Barre. Easier access from outside the park. Great trail conditions. Few people on a beautiful summer weekday afternoon. Took a swim after. We'll definitely return!

Limited parking on Glenwood Ave. no facilities black flies abundant but not biting yet. Trail is hard packed gravel in great shape beautiful lakes and ponds lots of birds and beaver dams. We stopped at a parking area about .3 mile beyond 122A crossing (USE EXTREME CAUTION THE CARS TRAVEL AT A VERY HIGH RATE OF SPEED DESPITE THE WARNING STRIPS IN THE ROAD) the trail continues but we turned around. The trail is all down hill from Glenwood Ave to where we stopped (elevation goes from 1219' to 848') I suggest starting at the 122A end if you prefer the return trip to be downhill.

This is the second time on this trail last summer after finishing our ride we went to Rutland State Park (part of the trail is in the park) for a swim and a picnic.

The wife & I traveled the Wachusett Greenway section of the MCRT last weekend and enjoyed every minute of the ride. We began at the Glenwood
road parking area in Rutland, which has space for about six vehicles, crossed the road and headed west on a nicely hard packed trail.

A quick note, the trail between Wachusett street parking area and the Glenwood road parking area is still very much unimproved with many blown down trees, heavy brush, and large areas of wet & muddy rough trail.

As we peddled along, we passed many ponds and marshy areas littered with beautiful pink Lady Slippers, we rang our bells inside several under road tunnels, and entered a long section of trail dug through solid rock called the Charnock Cut. This area is absolutely beautiful, and the blast of cool air that greats you as you enter on a hot summer day is a real treat. Stop and enjoy the sound of dripping water from the lush fern lined walls, you may not want to leave..

At Miles Road, There are no signs and the trail seams to end, but turn right onto the road and travel down and to the left aprx. 1/8 mile, you will see another parking area on the left and the trail will continue from here.

There is one high speed road crossing at route 122 where the cars are really moving, fortunately the traffic is light, so crossing is not much of a problem.

When you reach Coldbrook Road and the parking area, you'll find an interesting site marker for the old Coldbrook R/R Depot. Here unfortunately, the hard packed crushed stone stops. The trail does continue straight across coldbrook road and the open gravel area, look for the wide swath of new gravel roadway. Here the gravel is slightly courser but not too tough on the shins. The new road switchbacks gradually down hill bringing you alongside the old Ware River Dam and eventually crossing the Ware River via a new steel bridge. You are now on route 122 in Barre, and at this point, there is no clear sign as to where the trail would continue, so we turned and headed for home.

Distance traveled from Glenwood Road to the Ware River crossing @ route 122 is apprx. 10 miles.

This was a great trail through a beautiful expanse of forest, we can't wait to do it again in the fall. Also looking forward to more of this trail being completed..

We've been walking & biking this trail for years. My young son loved to bike it as a preschooler, at one point it was too short for us. We were delighted to come back 10+ years later to find it lengthened! The ruins of the old Mill we had no idea were there! Lots of interesting things to see, bridges to walk on, granite benches to rest on, and lots of native wildflowers to look for. It's one of our favorite trails and we are there often. We even started snowshoeing so we can go in the winter!

On October 27, 2012 I rode the Wachusett Greenways section of the MCRT west of Coldbrook Road to the Ware River, a newly constructed section. The new section goes off the ROW and uses a bendy switchback to drop down to another abandoned ROW along the Ware River near the Ware River Dam. A new footbridge is being constructed to replace an older one a short distance downstream from the dam, allowing access to the trail from Rte. 122 (Worcester Rd) in Barre, MA. The new section is currently dirt and gravel, but it's very smooth and very usable.

I rode part of the Wachusett Greenways section of the MCRT from Glenwood Rd. in Rutland, MA to Coldbrook Rd. in Barre, MA, roughly 7 miles each way. The trail is mostly on the old right of way, although it skips off from time to time where bridges are no longer available or where the trail had to be re-routed for other reasons, such as private property.

When the trail reaches Miles Rd. in Rutland, there's no obvious spot where it continues, and there is no signage. If heading west, turn right on the road and go down a small hill about 1/8 mi and look on the left for a kiosk, parking lot, and the trail.

The trail is stone dust and fairly smooth. From east to west there is an elevation drop from about 1100' to 770', so it's a fast ride. The trail is woodsy and fairly secluded with a few quiet road crossings, one high speed but low traffic. You pass many beautiful ponds along the way, but the jewel is the Charnock Cut, a lush, green section of trail loaded with mosses and ferns owing to the water dripping from the sides of the cut. It's a must-see.

I went a bit past the end of the "improved" section of trail at the old Coldbrook Springs Railroad Depot site near Coldbrook Rd. to see what the trail is like heading to Barre. There is logging in there right now, and the right of way is "unimproved". At a small stream about a third of a mile away from Coldbrook Rd. the bridge is gone, and that was the end of my ride. My total ride was just under 16 miles that were well worth it on a gorgeous spring day.

Right now, the trail goes from the Belchertown line to Leeds, MA. The "old" section, Belchertown line to the CT River is pretty rough, well more than rough, a good portion is very uncomfortable to ride. The section from the CT River west past Look Park in Leeds is relatively new and in nice shape. A new trail branch also connects to the Manhan River Trail in Easthampton (though a small section along Lovefield St in Easthampton is still under construction; Lovefield St is pretty low-traffic so that shouldn't present much problem.).

Eventually it will connect to the Farmington Canal Trail starting in Southwick and ending in New Haven, CT, once Southampton and Westfield get their act together, but that's probably a different review.

"Right now the 11 mile western paved section called the Norwottuck trail is open to the Belchertown line. A short section west from Damon Rd. to almost Rt.5 in Northampton will be open shortly. Belchertown has acquired 6 1/2 miles of the old RR bed to establish a Greenway thru this town.Right now about 4 miles between Rt.202 and Rt.181 is open and can be biked, But it is dirt and sand, but really a nice ride. East of Rt.181 the old RR bed is in privet ownership and is posted no Wheeled vehicles. So you could hike part of it. I have been exploring the old route to determine and publicize what is now open to biking and if others can provide some input on open sections would appreciate it. "

From Rt.122 in Rutland to Sterling about 30 miles of the MC RR is being pieced together. 5 or 6 sections of varying length are now open and bike-able. While not following the old MCRR for the entire length it might be possible in the near future to bike it all without using roads. The best and newest section runs west from Rt.12 in West Boylston for about 5 miles. On the west end from Glenwood Rd. in Rutland to Rt.122 is another longer section and the new underpass at Charrock Rd. and the fern covered rock cut here are not to be missed.

"This is a very popular trail, especially the parts closer to the parking areas. It is well used and most people are very polite, but on each of my recent trips I have been startled by a speeding bike ""sneaking"" up on me. Most of the polite riders let you know that they are coming through.

The views of the river are nice, and if you are interested in history, you can see a lot of interesting old stone foundations along the trail."

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