North Central Pathway


25 Reviews

View Trail Map
View Map
Send to App

Register for free!

Register for free with TrailLink today!

We're a non-profit all about helping you enjoy the outdoors
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your own favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Leave reviews for trails
  • Add new and edit existing trails

North Central Pathway Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Worcester
Length: 11.2 miles
Trail end points: Summer St behind the Clark Memorial YMCA (Winchendon) and Green St by Crystal Lake (Gardner)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 7282260

North Central Pathway Description

The North Central Pathway is envisioned as a trail network connecting points of interest through and between Winchendon and Gardner. Several completed sections of trail make for a lovely ride or walk between these two towns, punctuated by a stretch of less than a mile requiring travel on public roads.

Beginning at the northern endpoint in Winchendon at Clark Memorial YMCA on Summer Drive, this well-maintained asphalt trail parallels Whitney Pond before arriving at another parking lot for trail users in 0.9 mile at Glenallen Street and MA 12. Continuing east from here, the path soon enters beautiful bogs where one can easily imagine moose inhabiting—and a close eye may just see one. This stretch of trail is railroad-straight as it sits just above the shallow waters, with light tree canopy allowing the sun’s rays to reach the ground.

Traveling 2 miles past Whitney Pond brings trail users to the terminus of this segment at North Ashburnham Road, where a short gap exists before the next section of designated trail. To access the next section, turn right onto North Ashburnham Road and follow it to make another right onto MA 12/Spring Street. Continue west on MA 12 approximately 800 feet and make a left onto Old Gardner Road. Continuing down Old Gardner Road about 0.5 mile leads to the trail once again.

Another parking lot for trail users is located at the intersection of Old Gardner Road and MA 140/Gardner Road. From this point, whether starting here or having arrived from Winchendon, the route continues as a well--maintained asphalt path through forest and bog. Approximately 2 miles from the Old Gardner Road parking lot, a trailside bike repair station with air and basic tools has been installed, along with a bench for those wishing to rest a bit. Another mile of smooth trail leads to the crossing of MA 140/Green Street, where a small parking area suitable for one or two vehicles is located.

After the MA 140 crossing, the trail turns to packed dirt suitable for many bicycles, though narrow tires may find the terrain challenging. This section of trail is not as inviting or developed as its northern endpoint in Winchendon. It stretches approximately 1.5 miles, ending near Crystal Lake Cemetery in Gardner. Crystal Lake is a beautiful body of water with great views atop the cemetery. 

Continuing through Crystal Lake Cemetery brings you to a new short paved section of trail behind Greenwood Memorial Pool and on to the new Park Street Park, where there is ample parking. Heading a few hundred feet east on Park Street, you can turn left into the Gardner Veterans Arena and head behind the building to pick up the paved trail. The trail heads north along the east side of Crystal Lake and comes out on Green Street, where there is an additional parking lot.

Nearby trails include the 7.2-mile Monadnock Recreational Rail-Trail, just 2.2 miles north of the Winchendon endpoint; and the 1.3-mile Ashburnham Rail Trail, 5.2 miles from the small parking area at MA 140/Green Street.

Parking and Trail Access

The northern endpoint is located behind the Clark Memorial YMCA on Summer Drive in Winchendon. After curving around Crystal Lake and briefly heading north, the southern end of the trail is on Green Street in Gardner.

Parking and trail access is available at numerous points along the trail. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions. 

North Central Pathway Reviews

connecting on

We continued on to the MA/NH line and connected to Cheshire Trail to Keene, switched to Ashuelot and connected to The Fort Hill in Hinsdale, NH. Gardner to Brattleboro via Keene! All good trails.

Ride it often

This is a nice (mostly flat) trail that is paved from the road behind the Clark YMCA all the way to 140. There is a short on-road section with a decent uphill to pick up the trail over by Rt 140. Past 140, the trail alternates between sand, gravel, and loose rock on one uphill. Trail suddenly ends at a barrier that’s the edge of a cemetary.

So nice

So nice

Great paved trail; beautiful sceenary

Started off in Winchendon Center - plenty of parking. Trail is paved and easy. Stretches along Whitney Pond and thru some marsh land. It is really beautiful. We caught it on a overcast and pretty cool day so it was not crowded - most people were masked. Winds its way along Rt 12 an ends at North Ashburnham Rd at which point you have to take a right on the street, then a right onto Rt 12 (be careful - easy to walk tho), then take the first left onto Old Gardner Rd. Follow Old Gardner Rd a short distance (5 mins or so) to the next portion of the trail. There is also a lot here and pick up the trail. We walked only about another half hour before we had to turn and go back. This is a really nice trail. Highly recommend it. We hope the two portions somehow get connected. If not, signage would really be helpful. Enjoy.


Super Ride

Nice stretch of paved trail between Winchendon and Gardner, MA. It’s a quick 14 mile out and back with only one small stretch where you have to merge onto a road to find the trail again.

Very Nice

Ride here all the time. Never crowded. At least 7 miles are relatively flat. Highly recommend this trail for all ages and abilities.

Nice ride, will be back

Summary first (in case you don't wanna read my drivel): I will be back...might dust off my rollerblades too :) I gave the trail four stars because sections one and two (plus the short section to downtown Winchendon) are very very nice. Lost a star for poor signage between sections, not having completed connectors between the sections, and the poor condition of the third section from Rt 140 towards Gardner.

Parking/Starting Point: Parked at the Glenallen Street/Rt 12 junction parking lot just outside of WInchendon. The lots were plenty big enough and very nicely kept with benches and picnic tables and flowers and plantings.

Plan: ride South completing section one between Glenallen Street and N Ashburnham Road (about two miles), connect up to section two between Gardner Road and Rt 140 (about 3.5 miles) and see how I felt and if I could find more trail worth doing. Was hoping to have enough energy on the return trip to pass my starting point and ride the one mile section from Glenallen Street into downtown Winchendon.

Crowds: the trail was not very busy because it was a Monday afternoon but I could see this trail being quite active after work or on the weekends. It is very well maintained and suitable for walkers/dog walkers, rollerbladers (yes I saw several today) and cyclists. Obviously the further you get from downtown Winchendon the lighter the crowd (mostly just cyclists after section one).

Signage: I guess I needed to print off the information here because the signage isn't good. If not for a couple of guys I would have not found the connector between section one and two. This is an easy fix, shame on those maintaining the trails.

Connectors: Again this was a Monday afternoon so I had no traffic issues between sections one and two...even crossing Route 12 on to Gardner Road was easy peasy but I have driven this road at other times and it can be busy and cars can be moving fast. Careful.

The trail: really nice! Not only is it well paved and maintained but I heard very little road noise and quite scenic! This could be a five star trail if the connectors could be fixed...and they upgraded section three from Rt 140 South to wherever it goes.

The third section South of Route 140 is not great. I was riding my hybrid and I have no issues with hard pack dirt but this was basically uneven stone and rock. I spent more time swerving back and forth to avoid the larger rocks that I finally gave up after 3/4 miles and turned around and headed back to Winchendon. Not enjoyable unless you are on a mountain bike.

With my ride shortened on the South end I decided to do the last mile into downtown past my parking lot to get my mileage up to fifteen roundtrip. Good decision (thumbs up) because that last mile was very scenic riding along Whitney Pond and watching people fishing.

Beautiful water view trail

Park in Glenallen St. parking lot in Winchendon. Ride trail towards Gardner. On the way you will see rivers and wetlands, and starting now, beautiful foliage. After riding that stretch, head toward downtown Winchendon. This is a short section but worth the little side trip as it skirts a pond that reflects the colorful foliage.

Nice start and ride but disappointing end

Started my ride at the parking lot, which by the way had many spaces, near the Old Gardner Rd and MA 140/Gardner Rd intersection and planned to ride south to where I thought the trail would end per the Rail-Trails Southern New England guidebook in Gardner near the Crystal Lake Cemetery. From the parking lot south to MA 140 the trail was asphalt and a nice mixture of gentle shaded grades and flat open areas. Crossing over MA 140 the trail became packed dirt and was mostly wooded. However when I got to the parking area at Park/Eaton St the trail just ended. I could not see any continuation of the trail on the other side that would have taken me closer to downtown Gardner near Crystal Lake Cemetery.

Autumn on the North Central Pathway!

Can be busy, but worth the trip...Autumn is the best time of year for this sweet little rail trail. Good for children and dogs!

Awesome Adventure!

We took the scouts from Rte 140 (just past Stone St) north to the end by the Winchendon YMCA - 13.9 miles round trip - this was our first time ever on this trail, though we drive past it all the time on the way to camp.

Mostly paved, the short unpaved stretch added to the "Wicked Coolness" for the kids/adults with mountain-bike-type tires. The dad with skinny tires rode around on Old Gahdnah Rd.

There's a tire pump setup alongside the path about 1/4 mile in. Another awesome surprise was the little dirt path that leads to the back of Little Anthony's for Ice Cream &Clam Chowdah!

ps bring bug spray!

Nice and fun ride.

This was a nice ride and major thanks to the directions from majorstratdude. One correction, step 4 there was only 3 miles not 6. We saw a huge turtle in one of the marshes along the way. Make sure to bring the directions with you.

Turn by turn directions to get all 11 miles without riding on Dirt

Start at Gardner Veterans Arena (45 Veterans Dr Gardner, MA) (Parking available)
1. Exit the Arena parking lot to the rear right hand side of the arena. Bike on paved trail on right shore of Crystal Lake about 3/4 of a mile to Green St Trail Parking lot (across from the windmills at Mt Wachusett Community College)
2. Go left out of the lot and Ride North on Green St for about a mile, passing the Community College on your right, for about 1 mile, to the intersection with Rt. 140
3. Turn left onto Rt. 140 (EXCERCISING EXTREME CAUTION IN CROSSING THIS VERY BUSY ROAD !) and proceed roughly half a mile to the 2nd leg of the paved trail on your right.
4. Follow the paved trail roughly 6 miles to the end of this leg at Old Gardiner Rd.
5. Go right down Old. Gardner Rd just over a half a mile to the intersection with Spring St.
6. Turn right onto Spring St and proceed roughly 800 ft (.15 miles) to N. Ashburnham Rd. and turn left onto to it.
7. In 600 ft you will see the entry to the 3rd leg of the paved trail, so turn left onto it.
8. Follow the trail roughly 3 miles to the end behind the derelict Goodspeed Machinery Factory. You are 1 block off the main drag in Winchendon.
Total distance one-way is roughly 11 miles
Towns (Gardner & Winchendon) need to update the outdated trail maps and add signs to guide bikers at the end of the paved sections to find the next leg ! Would be 4-5 stars if this was done !

Hope this helps ! P3

It would be great if the sections were connected...

This is a beautiful trail, or should I say trails. The problem is the three sections are not only unconnected, but hard to move between on a bicycle. We did the two northernmost sections separately, moving by car between the sections. At the end of the second section, in Gardner, we came up against highway speed traffic along Route 140. It looked like the trail continued across the highway, but we weren't willing to try and cross it to find out.
Also, the maps on the signboards are old and out-of-date. And they don't show where you are on the trail, so are pretty much useless.
Based on the problems, I won't return to this trail until/unless they finish connecting the trails!

Mostly paved

I parked where the trail crosses Highway 140 and pedaled north. In about 3 miles the pavement ends at Old Gardener Road. You then have the option to take Old Gardener to Spring to North Ashburnham Roads to pick up the terminus of the next paved segment or if you're feeling adventurous you can cross Old Gardener and continue on the unpaved rail bed. It was full of humps, some mud and some puddles but you end up at an exit crossing Spring Street and a short connector that joins the paved segment that takes you to downtown Winchendon. Frankly the latter route is more interesting than the street connection route. Don't be surprised if you run into an ATV.

Nice trail. Not as long as it is billed.

On 4/11/17 I parked at the Old Gardner Rd lot and began traveling south. The path was nicely paved and level. Very easy and well marked. There is a sign post marking the Winchendon/Gardner Town Line and even a bike repair station w/an air pump. Lots of benches and places to rest.

When the trail meets back up at Rt. 140 (3.24 miles) you have to cross over Rt. 140. This is when the trail gets a little more rough. Still flat, but unpaved and really wet (some ice still) on this particular day. At about 2000' it goes puts you at an electrical transfer station. You can continue on for another 1/2 mile before you reach Park Street.

You can cross Park St, but you'll only go about 2000' before you reach another electrical transfer station. From there, there is no more path to follow. Not that I could find anyway.

I was hoping it was 11 miles one way. But turned out to be closer to 4-4.5.

There is another trail, which intersects the first rough portion. It brings you into the Perley Brook Reservation Area. It's a lot more rugged and wet. More hils and a lot more challenging. Definitely not suitable for a road bike and almost more appropriate for a fat tire mountain bike, especially if it's wet.

Overall, it was a good experience. I was muddy and sweaty at the end, but it was worth it.

great shape for the shape it's in

Much work has gone into it and it's great to see. Only a few short sections to go until it's complete. Ignore the fools who say it's not worth it. They are lightweights. Start with the Winchendon end.

Also, you North Central Pathway people, don't rest on your laurels ! That trolley track from Toy Town Car wash to the Waterville Plaza is just waiting for you to grab it! Seriously there is no impinging development. Do not let it slip through your fingers.

Plain as day on this map:

Rail Trail

Enjoyed running with a double jogger- a nice reprieve from the pot holes/frost heaves of typical New England roads!

Not worth it

Starting in Gardner, the trail begins in the rear parking lot of the Ice Rink. The trail itself does not last very long, then it is on-road only. The road surface becomes a bit nasty after passing the college. I did not ride the separate portion which begins in Winchendon tho, and most likely won't ever bother to do so.

Next - avoid.

A sad collection of little trails not held together by non-existent sign posts.The start of the trail in Winchendon MA (155 Central Street) is not visible from the road. Turn right off Central Street go past the YMCA on the left, take a left at the playing field go past the rotting factories and there is an unmarked start to the trail. I should have taken the hint with this pathetic start and not bothered. Sadly I'm persistent. The first part of the trail is a nice smooth trail with a better 'start' at the roadside with a map. Head south from here and the nice trail continues to North Ashburnham Road where it stops. A useless sign says 'end of trail' if it weren't completely obvious. In fact I should note that at least it was a notice - even if it was completely useless. That's it. Headed south on Spring Street (rte 12) and despite looking for Old Gardner Road missed it. Headed to Gardner on (appalling) state roads (rte 101). Save your time (and possibly valuable vacation time like I did not) and avoid.

Status on construction.

If you begin your ride in Winchendon Center heading South the path is in full service and travels along Whitney Pond. A new section beginning at route 12 and 202 junction, is under construction and looks to be paved from the junction of route 12 and 202 to North Ashburnham Road. There are a couple of bridges along this stretch but I am not sure if they are in service. From North Ashburnham Road you would ride a short distance (appx 100 feet) to route 12, turn right go about 150 feet on route 12 North at which point, you would turn left onto Old Gardner Road. Continue on Old Gardner Road for about 3/4 mile and pick up the paved path heading South toward Gardner (appx 3.2 miles in length)terminating on route 140 just below green Street. Best I can tell, the only way to connect to the final section of paved pathway that ends in Gardner behind the skating rink, would be to cross route 140, travel up Green Street and jump onto the last section of paved trail.


The short Winchendon trail is being extended southwards towards Gardner. As of 8-30-15, blacktop has been laid to about 1/2 mile south of the 202/12 junction. I've walked down the construction site from there towards Gardner and it passes over some lovely streams and wetlands. When finished (soon I hope), this will be very nice indeed.

Work continues on this trail...

Work continues on the trail which will link the Gardner path with the short Winchendon path. As you ride north from the car park on Rte 140 in Gardner, you can continue on an unpaved path to the junction of 140 and 12. After riding on 140 North (Spring St) for a quarter mile, you can pick up the unpaved trail in the parking lot of the Carriage House restaurant, and ride that north for a mile or so. There you'll bump into the construction equipment that is working on finishing this trail. Hope springs...

Needs improvement

This trail could be wonderful; however, trail access difficult to locate; trail markers very hard to follow.

We started off at the Veteran's rink, passed through Mount Wachusett's campus, and then the signs led us through residential neighborhoods with steep hills. When we reached Route 140, a sign indicated that the bike trail ended. On our way home, we saw the access point along further along Route 140, which I assume is the connecting point between the Gardner portion and Winchendon.

Disappointing, but will verify trail access next time before unloading the bikes.

From the north (the Clark Memorial/YMCA) in Winchendon, there is plenty of parking and a paved path the winds beside Whitney Pond. Once you get to Route 202 there is another parking lot. When you cross 202 this section is unfinished and unmaintained. Signs say no motorcycles/atv's or snow mobiles but no one pays attention. This is loose sand, cinder and gravel going through the woods, I had to turn around because of mechanical problems with my MTB. When the trail gets to the Route 12/140 intersection there is another parking lot and the paved section starts again. This trail follows Route 140 but through a wooded area with small ponds and houses alongside. After crossing into Gardner there is a turnaround and a dirt parking area. There is another unfinished section after you cross Route 140 that leads to Gardner, but I haven't finished that portion either.

Nearby Trails

Go Unlimited Today!

  • FREE Account
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Post your trail reviews
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Get a free map in the app!
Register for FREE
Purchase Unlimited

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Log in with Google

Log in with Apple


Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 40,000 miles of trail maps and more!

Register with Google

Register with Apple


Your account has been deleted.