Upper Charles Trail


Upper Charles Trail Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Middlesex, Worcester
Length: 12.3 miles
Trail end points: MA 16/Washington St. between Old Locust St. and Whitney St. (Holliston) and Cedar St./SR 85 at Hopkinton town line (Milford)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6218353
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Upper Charles Trail Description

The Upper Charles Trail will one day span more than 20 miles, connecting the communities of Milford, Ashland, Hopkinton, Sherborn and Holliston along a former CSX rail bed. The trail is being developed in sections over two counties—Middlesex and Worcester—with the surface to be chosen by the town through which it passes.

As of 2014, the trail is open and continuous from downtown Holliston to the Hopkinton town line. About 5 miles of stone dust-surfaced trail stretches from Central Street in Holliston to South Street in Braggville. From there, the paved trail begins, stretching nearly 7 miles through Milford to the southern edge of Hopkinton along Cedar Street (State Route 85).

In Milford's town center, the trail pivots from its southwesterly course to head due north. A highlight of this segment is the trip through Louisa Lake Park, a popular spot to fish. North of Interstate 495, the trail passes through dense woodlands. The scenic and peaceful area is part of more than 1,000 acres of protected open space.

Progress continues along the Upper Charles Trail, with Hopkinton most recently opening the upgraded Center Trail on the same former rail corridor. In Holliston, the corridor north of Central Street is now owned by the town, and may be passable (but rugged) to Sherborn by intrepid hikers or mountain bikers.

Parking and Trail Access

In Holliston: Parking is available at Blair Square off Front Street and in a municipal parking lot off Exchange Street. On weekends only, you can also park at the New England Waterworks Association Building (125 Hopping Brook Road). On-street parking is available on Cross Street and Hopping Brook Road.

In Milford: Parking is available at Fino Field (off Granite Street) and Louisa Lake Park (off Dilla Street). A large parking lot is also located at the northern trailhead on Cedar Street (State Route 85) at the Hopkinton town line.

Upper Charles Trail Reviews

The improved section of the trail has been extended further at the Holliston end. There is now an nice packed stone dust surface starting across the street from the Sam Placentino school in Holliston and running all the way to the paved portion that starts at the Milford town line.

Start is still at Holliston, where the trail is hard pack and gravel in places. It changes to tarmac at the Milford town line. It is not road bike friendly until you get to the town line.

The scenery is really nice and the only interruption to this is when you reach route 495. The section from Milford north us a beautiful ride. Really enjoyable and suitable for all bikes. The latter section is fully paved, about 3.5 miles one way.

A great rail trail.

My wife and I are in our mid-60's and enjoy bike-trail rides that are about 25 miles roundtrip. We recommend this trail!


I use the trail from Sherborn (unfinished but ok with thick soled shoes) and walk towards Milford a couple of times a week. The trails in Holliston from Exchange Street towards Milford are wonderful! With any luck, some donors and workers will get this trail finished! The trail is used extensively and it is a joy to connect with people I normally would not even see! The celebration on the Holliston section first night last December was terrific!

The asphalt part in Milford is really nice. The stone dust in Holliston is good.

It is easy to lose your way when the trail turns at the field, but there is a map posted on a board in the parking lot at Lake Louisa and friendly people at the Milford Bicycle store right near where the trail turns.

Many beautiful areas on the trail. Extraordinarily polite motorists with very cool light systems at some of the intersections. Good parking at the north end.

Brought my black lab to this lovely trail, and I think I enjoyed it more than her. It has a nice paved path, and starts right at the Milford/Hopkinton line. Lots of history, and active almost everyday. No matter which you go you won't get lost. In general, its a hidden diamond and I love that its so close to my house!

I recently tried this trail. I started in Hopkinton and ended in Milford.. trail was ok although there were quite a few major roads to cross ..though did have lights etc... the bad part was just getting to the trail parking in Hopkinton with the heavy afternoon traffic, its a very wooded path... paved..was ok..not very long though...worth a try

This is a beautiful trail, shared by bikers, dog people, runners etc. Everyone is friendly, but many small children weave across the trail unaware that they are in the way and as they are unpredictable, a bit scary. They were accompanied by oblivious parents. Give me dogs any day.

I parked in the Fino Field park, Main St in Milford. This is adjacent to the Commuter Parking lot in Milford, which is a slightly more centrally located spot. I rode both parts of this trail (the Hopkinton part and the Holliston part), starting with the Hopkinton part. It's about 4.5 miles to the northern end, all very beautifully paved, and landscaped. There are a couple of busy street crossings - I found all the drivers to be very polite at the crossings - very welcoming! Northbound, passing Louisa Lake park there are lots of people, so be attentive. From there to the northern end of pavement, the trail is very pretty, rambling through woods, with some historical sights on the way to the northern terminus at a parking lot on what is Rte 85, I think.

I also rode the other section which heads for Holliston. The two section of this trail can be done together, but that requires riding through the busy traffic sections of Milford - OK for experienced cyclists, shouldn't be attempted with inexperienced riders. The roads and signals through Milford are fine however. Again - very polite drivers in the city traffic in Milford! The Holliston section starts in back of Friendly's on Medway Rd, rte 109 about 1/4 mi east of the split with 126. Friendly's has designated a signed parking area (thank you very much!). The trail northbound is actually paved about 2 miles north, and then it is unimproved. I also rode the portion from there to Holliston, varying from muck holes to sections with nice stone dust - not really recommended for road bikes, but fine for a cyclocross or mountain bike, if you are OK with getting dirty. Just slightly south of Holliston there is a magnificent (and short) tunnel definitely worth seeing - the stonework is beautiful

Overall - a nice afternoon - this would be a great ride for the kids, just be careful crossing the roads, although I'm sure the drivers will treat you right. Both sections end to end with the city ride about 9 miles, one way.

April 13, 2013: Did some trail work (with some very nice people) on the Holliston section near the Milford line and in the afternoon rode into Holliston on the unimproved section. There's .9 miles of nice stone dust at South St. (hint of what's coming!), and that turns into cinder, later gravel, some single-track through grass, and finally ballast as you go along. At one point (depending on conditions), you need to hop up on the side onto a single track for about 1/4 mile to get around some significant water (this was April, so...). There's an unimproved bridge over a road not far from the Phipps Tunnel--be careful, you can't just "bomb through" on this trail! The ballast used on this railbed is large, sharp chunks of rock I didn't want to ride my bike on, so I walked from time to time, finishing my ride-walk at the Dopping Brook Water Treatment Plant, returning on-road to South St.

In stark contrast with the paved Milford side, the Holliston section is a work in progress. But don't write it off entirely. The humps in the cinder created by the ATVs are fun, the trail goes through Holliston Conservation Land where there are walking trails, through the Phipps Tunnel (must see!), and over an 8-arch bridge. You can make it from the Milford line to the Phipps Tunnel at Highland St. fairly well, but the 8-arch bridge (for now) is in a ballast section where I did a lot of walking. And because there are no railings on the 8-arch bridge, I recommend walking anyway.

The plan is to clear the trail and put down stone dust, then make it part of a 20+ mile Upper Charles loop with surrounding towns. I think they have a great start and some must-see items like the Phipps Tunnel that will shine as more of the trail is completed. Really looking forward to this in the coming years!

You can access the Upper Charles Trail on South Street in Holliston where is joins up with an unimproved section of the Milford Upper Charles Trail. Although it says the trail ends at Cross Street, you can ride it all the way into downtown Holliston. The surface is everything from smooth cinder to dirt/mud to some pretty rough ballast. There are a couple overpasses that require care, and plenty of moguls that are spaced part enough apart to be fun. The crushed cinder section at South Street can be ridden on almost any bike but after Hopping Brook Industrial park you'll need off road tires and front shocks. About 13 miles round trip. Some of the road crossings are very busy, but you can't lose your way on this trail.

My husband and I packed up our bikes & traveled to the Upper Charles Trail expecting a round trip ride of over 12 miles. It was a lovely trail with great water views, but we were quite surprised that we reached the end (in the Senior Center parking lot - after Dunkin's) so quickly. The return trip has mile markers & we discovered that we had only traveled a bit over three miles (over 6 round trip). Not sure why this trail is marked as an over 6 mile trail. Each end was clearly marked "end of the trail". What did we miss???

We rode this trail on a Saturday morning under the threat of rain. Despite the forecast, there were many people out enjoying this pleasant trail. The trail features interesting water views and some abandoned quarry artifacts. There are numerous benches and pullouts for those wanting to spend time exploring the scenery of the parks through which the trail traverses. We started at the parking area on Main Street and rode up through the Fino Field area to the trail head parking at the north end enjoying views of Milford Pond, Louisa Lake and Wildcat Pond along the way. On our return we took the Senior Center Spur and via the senior center parking lot reached Center Street where we saw the end of active rail and handsome train station. The trail surface is excellent and the signs are very good. We did not do the isolated section of trail east of Route 109. We are from Connecticut and hope to come back and ride this trail again especially if they construct the missing link. I would definatley drive up from Mystic, CT to ride this one a gain!

Rode half the trail last night. I work in downtown Milford, and finally packed the bike to work. It was well worth it. I rode from the Dunkin' Donuts to the highway and then doubled back. This trail is exceptionally well kept. I was surprised that it is suitable for road cyclists. My only obstacles were in downtown Milford itself- I had decided to park in the municipal lot between Central St. and Jefferson St, as that is where I can access my place of employment. Beware, there is much construction in downtown at the moment, and that resulted in my walking the bike the 1/4 mile or so to the trail head. It was so worth it- the trail was beautifully kept. There was traffic on the trail, but not so much that I couldn't keep pace. Other cyclists smiled and waved or nodded. ONE MINOR COMPLAINT: Dear dog people: Because you bought a retractable leash for your dog does not mean that you should give Fido the entire 50 feet of leash to wander. (I had to dodge more than a few retractable leash people.) This trail has a painted center line, and it would really be nice if you could keep yourself and your dog to one side of that line. When we cyclists come up behind you and YELL "On your left!" it means that we intend to pass you on YOUR left side. We (Bicycle people) aren't trying to scare you or be rude, we are just trying to communicate in as few words as possible so as not to disturb the trail. On my ride, I saw runners, walkers, and many young cyclists. I was pleased at how bike friendly this trail really is! All the crossings were super safe- only one car failed to stop. I hope to ride this trail for weeks to come. Thanks to all that shared the trail with me today!

We started at the north end. Biked into downtown Milford. Picked up some snacks at Dunkin Donuts (right at the end of the trail) and returned to the picnic tables at the lake for a picnic. Sports Authority at 495 exit has bike supplies if you need something last minute.

This is a short, flat, paved trail great for young children on bikes, rollerblades or in strollers and for walking your dog. It is accessible from a large parking lot located on Milford's Main Street. The trail passes Fino Field, which has a community pool and ball fields, crosses Dilla Street to a small park on Louisa Lake, and continues on through scenic woodland to an intersection where you can enjoy lunch or an ice cream treat at Wendy's before heading back (trail currently ends right about there). All sorts of wildlife can be seen on or near trail (mostly on the Lousia Lake side); swans, mallards, turkey, heron, baby snapping turtles, garter snakes, turkey vulture, wood chucks, the remains of a beaver dam/activity. The trail can get crowded on sunny weekends. Expect to see lots of dog walkers.

I've walked and biked this trail from Main Street near downtown Milford to Route 495. It is a pretty straight, nicely paved route that runs through a nice water plain before it comes to Louisa Lake across Dilla Street. From here the trail gets very crowded and winds through a hilly area before it comes to Route 495. If you are adventurous and willing to get off the beaten path, there are several side paths. My favorite is a left turn about 3/4 of a mile northeast and up from the Dilla Street parking lot. A bar runs across a dirt path and can be used as marker to find it. If you travel up the path for a 1/4 mile or so you will come to an area that was used as a quarry complete with a water-filled quarry (the water is an unusual green color and quite filthy), old cables and pulleys anchored in the stone that were used by machinery to mine the area and piles and piles of broken stone of all shapes and sizes. This quarry area is a wonderful place to scout around. Overall, the Upper Charles Trail is a pretty good route for families and others hiking or biking.

This is a very nice paved trail. There is a small parking lot at Louise Lake. The trail goes across a few streets. Expect to stop and walk your bike a few times. It is great for the kids. Mostly flat. Very populated.

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