Clipper City Rail Trail


17 Reviews

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Clipper City Rail Trail Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Essex
Length: 3.9 miles
Trail end points: Merrimack River (Newburyport) and MBTA Commuter Rail Station
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015998

Clipper City Rail Trail Description

Almost complete, the Clipper City Rail Trail will be a multiuse trail loop through Newburyport. Currently 3.9 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 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 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 and Trail Access

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. 

Clipper City Rail Trail Reviews

The Best!

This rail trail offers easy parking, beautiful scenery, great rest spots, and stunning sculptures and art work to view! We park at the playground (bathrooms) and ride through the town’s parking lots to connect with the paved trail. If we could get it more stars we would.

Great for Rollerblading!

Great clean trail for rollerblading/inline skating. All pavement with the exception of a few wooden bridges (still able to easily skate across). Highly recommend if you are the Newburyport area.

nice job Newburyport

This is a really nice trail. Once again Newburyport has done a great job and has made a really nice trail. Though you have to walk your bikes on the boardwalk, it’s to bumpy to ride anyways. I took a detour to plum island. It’s a nice ride with very few stops.

great trail

Did whole loop. Only had to walk on road for short distance. Fun to see all the art along the trail. Wheel chair friendly made it awesome.


great walk

We found the trail while walking around town-great find!!

Learned about it from a friend ¿¿

I’m learning/exploring lots of fabulous new to me places close to home and today’s walk was a treat!

Don’t tell anyone

This place is so nice let’s keep it a secret

Beautiful Walking Trail

Very scenic trail with some beautiful landscaping, sculptures and, of course, water views. Bikers must walk bike on boardwalk; but it is well worth it. Relaxing trail with much to see, eat, drink and do in Newburyport.

Clipper rail trail

We brought our puppy dog Sam to this trail for the first time absolutely loved it will be back

Great Trail

Really enjoyed the trail. Great views.. sun and shade . We will be back !

Interesting, diverse, but needs better wayfinding signage

We bicycled a sort of loop, from Mosely Woods parking lot, along Merrimac River, crossing to Salisbury and then returning via I-95 bridge bike path. The latter was our true goal, as this was a mighty project! From the start and throughout, we had some head-scratching moments trying to find our way on the network of rail-trails and roads. I'm not sure if it's the fault/responsibility of the municipalities, the DOTs, or the trail organizations, but there are few, if any, signs indicating bikeways. This struck us as odd because in many other areas throughout Essex County in Massachusetts, and in parts of NH and ME, we have seen copious signs for the East Coast Greenway in remote countryside locations.
Before I say more on that, we enjoyed the gravel-paved Marsh Trail and Ghost Trail. The latter was shaded and welcome on a very hot summer day. The mile or so of asphalt-paved trail that parallels I-95 and crosses the Merrimac is great for getting from A to B, but it's open and not especially pleasant except for the river views, which can be enjoyed from two bump-outs on the bridge and include historic interpretation signs. (A note: if you are nervous crossing major bridge structures on bicycle, this is a good crossing. I have minor such fears, but felt completely comfortable.)
Back to signs. There are signs. But I don't think they are always where they should be, nor say what they should say. More than once, we came to intersections of various kinds and it was unclear where each option would take us. In some places there are posts with trail names and mileage., but few signs to provide context. Within long stretches of the bike paths there were posts indicating mileage (for what reason, I have no idea). Coming from the Ghost Trail there was no explicit sign to point the way to the I-95 crossing. And in Newburyport, we did not see any signs pointing the way to the trail, crossing via the Route 1 bridge. Coming off the I-95 crossing into Newburyport, we had to intuit the way back to Mosely Woods on a neighborhood road.
My suggestion is that if you are solo or with a partner, have fun and explore, and if you have to do a bit of back-tracking, no big deal. If you have kids, it might be better to thoroughly plot your route, as you don't want to be fumbling on roads with cars with kids or a larger group. That said, it would be a nice adventure to cross by two different bridges and experience a variety of trail types and scenery that runs the gamut from marsh, woods, industrial (including a massive solar array), neighborhood, etc. It is almost all flat, and eminently do-able for people of various fitness levels and bike types.
A note: the Route 1 bridge does not have a bike lane, so you must walk your bike across on a sidewalk, and will likely encounter others either on bike or foot in either direction.

great example of what a rail-trail can be

This is one of my favorite trails in Massachusetts. It’s well paved, not monotonous and it functions well connecting different parts of Newburyport. Biggest disappoint is how short it is. If you’re looking for an enjoyable weekend ride with lunch or a coffee break thrown in this trail can’t be beat.

shorter walk

Very good walk if doing 3-4 miles. Good breeze of water. Well used but path wide enough to make it enjoyable

Outstanding trail!

This trail through Newburyport is in excellent shape, is well-signed, and has lots of public art and even a little train car where kids can go in and ring the bell and blow the whistle. Since it is short and because of the art it is an excellent trail for kids. I highly recommend it for a leisurely stroll with the family or to combine with other local trails for a half-day bike tour. This is one of the best rail-trails I have done even though it is very short. Fortunately the Old Eastern Marsh Trail and Salisbury Ghost Trail are nearby which can combine with this to make a decent length bike tour. They are working on even more trails in this area which you can read about at coastal

Video available on YouTube of entire trail

Slideshow animation with a focus on the art:

Regular bikecam in real time:

It's short, but the public art is a nice touch and it clearly serves the very practical purpose of connecting their downtown area to the train station. At no point does it feel cramp, plenty of breathing room on both sides all the way through.

excellent connection between the waterfront and train station

we had the chance to walk on this great rail trail, at one end it connects directly to the newburyport commuter rail platform, and the other connects to the Newburyport Harbor. At the Harbor end you can turn left and cross the new pier/walkway to Cashman park which has a great play ground and views of the harbor, or turn right and follow under the Rt 1 bridge to the Newburyport waterfront and boardwalk via a walk through the gravel of the waterfront boat yard or follow the paved sidewalk to the sidewalk on water street (?). A short walk to the left takes you to the Newburyport boardwalk behind the old firehouse or cross the street there and visit the Inn street Mall or State st where the old city has been recreated with brick sidewalks and old fashioned lamp posts, along with many small shops to see.
You can also get a birds eye view of the area from the sidewalk on the Rt 1 Gillis bride that connects to Rings Island in Salisbury, MA.
For those on Bikes or inline skates, when you reach the end of the rail trail where it crosses to the train station, take a right and then a left at the stop light, and enjoy the wide breakdown lanes on Scotland Rd. for a few miles up to the Scotland rd exit on Rt 95. Scotland rd has great farm land views off to one side and the Coffin Island area is a good one for bird watchers.
For a nice snack stop by Halleys Ice cream which has a paved connection to the rail trail, this is just opposite the huge windmill, something kids find very interesting.
Can't wait for the second half of the loop to be made, connecting the other end of waterfront to the train station by climbing the hill where the big water tower is...

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