Marblehead Rail-Trail


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Marblehead Rail-Trail Facts

States: Massachusetts
Counties: Essex
Length: 3.34 miles
Trail end points: Lafayette St, near Marblehead/Salem town line (Salem); Bessom St & Round House Rd (Marblehead) and Swampscott Rail Trail at Seaview Ave (Swampscott)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Dirt, Gravel, Sand
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015977

Marblehead Rail-Trail Description


The Marblehead Rail-Trail appears on maps as a Y resting on its side, connecting Marblehead and Salem in the north and the city limits of Swampscott in the west. The 3.34-mile trail knits together a coastal area that’s steeped in Colonial history, from The Spirit of ’76 painting hanging in a Marblehead museum to the infamous Salem witch trials of the 1690s. 

About the Route

The old station site in downtown Marblehead is a central starting point with plenty of parking. It’s only a few blocks from the town’s historical waterfront, where fishing and whaling ships docked alongside privateers during the American Revolution. Reflecting the spirit of those times, the distinctive Abbot Hall museum on Washington Street displays The Spirit of ’76, a painting depicting a fife and drum corps marching across a battlefield.

Follow the sandy path across from Round House Road for 0.25 mile to a utility yard, and take the right fork toward Salem. The sandy trail enters the 10-acre Hawthorn Pond Conservation Area, where there are marshes, ponds, and nature trails. Crossing West Shore Drive, the route enters the 34-acre Wyman Woods Conservation Area to find more wetlands and hardwood forests alongside Salem Harbor. Trail users can hike down a sandy footpath to the water’s edge or view the scenic harbor from a bridge.

The trail's southwest end is at MA 114/Lafayette Street, where it connects to the Salem Bike Path (also known as the Mayor Anthony Salvo Bike Path). If continuing along the 1.8-mile paved bike path, use caution when crossing busy MA 114/Lafayette Street. Heading west before curving north, the Salem Bike Path passes Salem State University and parallels an active rail corridor until it ends at Mill Street. The MBTA Salem Station, Salem Old Town Hall, the harbor, and museums related to the witch trials are all close by.

The left fork at the Marblehead utility yard heads toward Swampscott, nearly 2 miles away. The sand and gravel trail crosses Pleasant Street and runs beside playing fields at Marblehead High School. Students from nearby homes use the trail as a commuter route. About 0.5 mile past the Temple Emanu-El parking lot, the trail passes a side path to the 9-acre Ware Pond Conservation Area, where nature trails provide access to the pond and the wildlife refuge.

The trail becomes a narrow path before it ends on Seaview Avenue at the Swampscott town limits. Residents voted in 2017 to design a 2-mile extension along the old railroad right-of-way to the MBTA Swampscott Station, where the 1868 Eastern Railroad station is located.


At its southwest end on MA 114/Lafayette Street, the trail connects to the Salem Bike Path (also known as the Mayor Anthony Salvo Bike Path).

At its southeast end on Seaview Ave, the trail connects to the Swampscott Rail Trail.

The Marblehead Rail Trail 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 the East Coast Greenway, a connected network of trails that will stretch from Maine to Florida when complete. 

Trail History

The rail-trail follows a short spur of the historical Eastern Railroad, which launched service from Boston to Salem in 1838 and eventually served the coastline from Boston to Portland, Maine. The Marblehead spur opened in 1839 to connect that fishing village to Salem on the main line, followed by another branch linking Marblehead to the Swampscott depot. The rival Boston & Maine Railroad bought the Eastern Railroad in 1890 and operated the Marblehead branch until 1959. In the 1970s the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) acquired the main line, where it runs commuter trains.

Parking and Trail Access

The Marblehead Rail-Trail runs between the intersection of Bessom St & Round House Rd (Marblehead), Lafayette St near the Marblehead/Salem town line (Salem), and the Swampscott Rail Trail at Seaview Ave (Swampscott).

Parking is available at the northeast endpoint on either side of Round House Road in Marblehead. Visit the TrailLink map for detailed directions.

Marblehead Rail-Trail Reviews


I do this trail all the time I recommend it¿¿


I thought it was awesome. I love it, but it is really bumpy. I got to ride My bike with my dad.

fun little trail

This is a fun little trail . I started on the Salem side where the trail is wide and paved. Once you cross Rt114 in Marblehead the trail turned to packed gravel and dirt, unfortunately it rained the day before so the trail was a little muddy with puddles through. The Marblehead section is not very wide with a lot of over growth. Still fun. Going into Marblehead was nice. It’s a nice town to ride around and visit, people were nice. On the return I went the Swampscott route. That was not as fun. Just when you’re getting started , the trail ends. Booo!!! Still fun trail… the Swampsvott

Nice trail that connects historic towns of Salem and Marblehead

Consider this a great way to travel between two lovely towns rather than a picturesque trail with stunning views all the way. However take in a great view from the end of the bay at the Lead Mines area. In summer hundreds of fishing and pleasure boats are moored between the towns of Salem and Marblehead . If ,coming from Salem , you take the right spur to Swampscott the trail ends and there isn’t much to see like there is in Marblehead or Salem. In Marblehead make sure you visit the old fort and gun battery .


Marblehead Rail Trail

This trail that started at the Squamscott line is hard packed and rather bumpy. Parking is nearly impossible at the start of the trail. I didn’t get a ticket or towed but was unsure. The trail is not what I expected for this area. It definitely needs some work. Once the trail ended, going through the streets of Marblehead there are many shot steep hills. Anywhere from 40 to 60 feet. It gets the heart rate up. The payoff is the harbor and the views. Sewall park was closed due to construction, which was disappointing. It’s the better view of the harbor. Crocker Park was open where we stopped for lunch and chatted with friendly locals. It wasn’t perfect, any time you’re out and around the ocean makes up for a few bumps in the road.

Ok trail

Any trail for the community is better than none but this one leaves a lot to be desired. Not paved, narrow, not scenic at all. It’s ok at best.

Clmfortable trail

Nice little trail with a spot in between for beach viewing.

Great Trail

This trail has been well-maintained recently and there are so many great side-paths and conservation areas to explore. Good for walking, biking, dogs, and has a nice mix of dirt/gravel options.

Great asset for North Shore, good for biking/hiking

Disagree strongly with August review from “hungrypiper” - this is a perfectly fine trail, which conveniently takes you away from busy streets on your way from Salem outskirts to nearly the center of Marblehead, and then on towards Swampscott. Very green trail, reasonably well maintained, but little to no signage at trailheads and the fork. Trail is narrow in spots with not enough room for all bikers/hikers/joggers. On a Saturday morning, we experienced most traffic in the section closest to Marblehead.

We trained from Boston to Salem on the special $10/weekend all-you-can ride commuter line ticket, then walked from Salem to Marblehead, lunched in Marblehead, then continued along rail trail to the end in Swampscott then meandered on sidewalks along the coast all the way to Lynn (no formal trail from Swampscott to Lynn). Was about 13 miles one way. A fun day out!

Here’s hoping North Shore communities invest more in signage and connecting all these trails to public transport and parking.

Terrible Rail Trail

One of the worst, if not THE worst, Rail Trail in the Boston area. Trail is not properly graded, edges are overgrown, there are low hanging branches you cannot miss as you’re riding and there are large rocks and stones on the trail itself.
On my ride today, there were large puddles that spanned the width of the trail which indicate the trail needs to be properly graded to prevent puddling.
The view itself is Boring (with a capital B). Just vines, small trees and weeds with no interesting views. I hit any number of large rocks on my ride and found the posts at crossings too closely spaced together.
All in all, a very disappointing ride.

OK if you want to get away from traffic noise.

I ride a recumbent trike. At the beginning of the Salem bike path there are three sets of post to block vehicular traffic I guess, but the posts are not wide enough for recumbent trikes. I had to lift my trike sideways and angle it so I could get it past the barriers. I ended up going back route 114 so I wouldn't have to pass the post on the way home. I will not ride my trike there again.

Ok For Short Walks or Bike Rides- Longer Adventurers Look Elsewhere

I just came off walking the Cotton Valley Trail (Wolfeboro, NH), which I found to be my favorite trail to date, so kindly keep in mind that my review of this trail is probably a little skewed. Marblehead Trail is not a bad little adventure. Best part of this trail is definitely the trail itself; really nice upkeep of the gravel and dirt, very even terrain. For my personal tastes in trail adventures however, I found this trail lacking the rustic, woodland/nature feel of many of the other Rails To Trails. Along this 4+ mile path, you must cross a number of busy streets. While these crosses all have clear cross walks, the crosses could potentially be dangerous with small children on bikes. Most of the trail is traversing behind neighborhoods and by a large power plant, so I never felt like I was really escaping into the woods like I do with other trails. Overall, it was an ok hike. For people who live locally and want to get a few steps in or want a spot for their kids to ride their bikes away from traffic, I can see this trail being enjoyable. But for those who would have to travel a distance to walk this or like me, prefer more walks deeper in the woods, look elsewhere for a better experience.

Nice stretches but average Rail To Trail path

The need to cross multiple busy roads, as well as some eyesore landscape brings my review of this path down a notch. Decent path for those looking for a quick walk or bike. For those looking to get "lost" in the woods on a long walk, I definitely recommend other R to T paths.

A trail with great potential

We wanted to ride this trail from Swampscott up to Marblehead, but couldn't find the end of the trail in the neighborhood where we expected to find it. So we started from the Salem end, which is well marked and has a handy parking lot.

The initial section through the Salem State campus is paved and in good shape. After crossing Rte. 114 it is packed dirt/gravel, and the biggest concern became the narrow gap between the bollards guarding the two wooden bridges in the conservation area. There are some raised manholes to be aware of, and closer to the Marblehead end a couple of fair sized stones sticking up 3-6 inches, so it's important to pay attention to the trail. There's one short stretch of fresh gravel near the Marblehead end that hasn't yet been compressed.

It was slightly muddy after a week of rain, but all in all was in pretty good shape. We hope to return soon to check out the Swampscott end.

Salem-Marblehead---"Swampscott town line" walking trail warning

Getting off a inbound MBCR train from Gloucester a last Sunday morning[May 4], I proceeded from Salem station along Lafayette Street to connect with the Salem-Marblehead walking trail/bike path at Forest River inlet crossing, following the old former rail bed to its terminal in downtown Marblehead. It was such a really attractive excursion, with the former rail bed passing through a wooded swamp along the way and several footpath side trails tempting exploration, that I decided to take up the bike path's alternative route for my return to MBCR Rockport line train access, supposing that the former rail bed that led from Marblehead southward to its connection with the Newburyport/Rockport MBCR line just north of Swampscott station was likewise viable for its entire length. Upon reaching the Marblehead/Swampscott town line, however, I found out that this "rail trail" effectively ends in abrupt suddeness, leaving the would-be walker facing a disconcerting tangle of overgrown thicket and rank underbrush,completely obliterating the embankment confines and any further advance. Inquiring with a local resident who happened to be passing along this Bellevue Avenue crossing, I was told that the old rail embankment was completely impassable from this point on -- that Swampscott had not been interested in rehabilitating its own section of the abandoned Marblehead branch line-- and in fact residents abutting the embankment in places had actually further impeded passage with physical obstruction of their own to completely block the way. It was necessary to leave the walkway at this point and follow heavily transited Atlantic Street the rest of the distance on to downtown Swampscott....
I'm calling attention to this defect of a otherwise very appealing walkway for prospective users unfamiliar with the reality that the trail in its present state must be considered incomplete for those expecting to follow it for its full distance and should be forewarned. John Prybot, 5/10/2014

Very Nice, Convenient Trail

Just moved to the area and finally had the opportunity to try out this trail. Having been avid trail riders back in PA we were hoping for a good experience and we certainly got one. The trail was very nice, got a bit confusing at the second crossroad (you have to stay straight down a paved street and pick up the trail again after the parking lot) but other than that it was great. We took the trail all the way to Salem State University. There were many people using the path for recreation, fitness as well as to get from place to place. The trail will be nice to use if I need to run a quick errand on the bike and do not want to ride on the road. Kids can also use it in a few years to get to and from the high school. Definitely recommend it if in the area.

Great trail for walking

June 2012: just walked this great trail. Parked in Marblehead at the beginning of the trail and strolled a short distance on packed gravel to the fork as described. There are a few paths to the right that can be taken: we only walked a short distance up two of them for some picture taking. One has a wooden foot path. Very nice. Diverged right, into Salem. A very nice walk...a cool day today, plenty of shade, and some wonderful views of Salem harbor at the end of the gravel path. Then across the street to the Salem Bike Path, along Salem State College. Stopped at the wonderful Salem Diner for lunch and then headed back to Marblehead. At the fork, we walked just a short distance into Marblehead. Very nice and then chose to walk a side street down to Rt 129 and back to the car. We'll definitely do this one again. Every person we encountered was friendly, "good morning/afternoon" from all, lots of dog walkers (all but one leashed). Very easy and most pleasant trail.

Don't get lost

The split is not marked, but simply follow the chain link fence at the power substation and it will lead you to the other arm.

Nice Trail

The trail gets less defined as you travel on it from Salem to Swampscott. I could tell when it turns around after the forks at the midway point in Marblehead but there are no mile markers or a sign to confirm the other end. When it gets tight so that it's only good for walking it's time to turn around.

Nice trail though; no standing water; pretty flat. If you get off the trail at any point you will probably find a beach or shop. I'm from Connecticut but I love coming to this area.

Marblehead Trail Condition(s)

As a recent transplant to Marblehead, I'd note that the trail has been moderately 'updated' with an all-weather crusher refines type surface (gray hard-packed gravel) and is generally in good shape. The street crossings, even at busier roads - are no problem, as most drivers stop and yield to the trail users, even if cycling. The folks in Swampscott, MA are pushing to extend the trail along the same RR right-of-way and bring the trail all the way down to 'Walker Street'. See their website at for more information. The Swampscott continuation would put the trail very close to the Swampscott MBTA Commuter Rail stop.

My 2 1/2 year old boy is learning how to ride his bike on these great trails, and all the parks and open spaces - as well as natural areas - are a nice break from the two-wheeled lessons. It'd be great to see more of the trail / right of way developed!

Nice riding

Started at Seaview Drive and headed east. You are in back yards much of the time and cross streets a lot. Not paved except for about a Mile at the end of the spur to Salem. Nice views and a lot to see in Marblehead. I missed the turn to the spur just before the bridge. The spur is more remote and goes thru some conservation areas before ending at the Salem College and Rt.1A

Woodsy ride

"This is a woodsy ride on a ""rustic"" bike path - with soft gravel, lots of stones and in places quite narrow. Would be a gem if it were paved. "

An easy place for kids on bicycles

"The Marblehead rail-trail has a surface of packed fine gravel. It is suitable for hybrid and mountain bikes, but not pure road bikes. In some places the surface does get a bit rough, especially at the junction near downtown Marblehead, where local DPW trucks may use the trail.
The trail is typical railroad grade, so it is easy for a child to bicycle. The surface is more benign than asphalt, so I chose this trail to teach my children how to ride their bikes without training wheels. I flipped up one training wheel, and ran along next to them (easy to do if you are in shape for it..) so I could catch them if they started to fall. A few hours of work over several weekends, and they were on their own. It was a nice, safe place to do this.
Trail traffic is typically bicycles, runners, and dog-walkers. Most of the trail in Marblehead is densely wooded; the branch to Swampscott is more open, and in some places follows a street."

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