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The North Central Pathway will one day stretch 16 miles between the cities of Winchendon and Gardner in northern Massachusetts, primarily along a former railroad right-of-way. Three open sections currently offer just over 11 miles of paved, off-road trail.
The northernmost section travels across Winchendon from Summer Street to N. Ashburnham Road, connecting residents to Whitney Pond and the Clark Memorial Community Center.
Southeast of Winchendon, the trail picks up again and travels from Old Gardner Road through dense woodlands to Gardner's north end near the Perley Brook Reservoir.
Another section of trail winds through a picturesque part of Gardner. This section begins at Stone Street and runs past Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Hospital. The trail splits just north of the hospital with one fork traveling to the Veterans Memorial Skating Rink on the eastern shore of Crystal Lake, and the other branch traveling past Gardner Middle and High schools and ending near Dunn State Park.
In Winchendon, parking can be found at the Clark Memorial Community Center (155 Central Street), as well as at the intersection of Glenallen Street and Route 12 on the eastern side.
In Gardner, a parking lot is available off Green Street and at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink (45 Veterans Drive) at the south end of the trail.
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Also, the maps on the signboards are old and out-of-date.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!
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.
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.
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: https://goo.gl/maps/fBSmJJCAoyE2
Enjoyed running with a double jogger- a nice reprieve from the pot holes/frost heaves of typical New England roads!
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.
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.
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 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...
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.
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