Take a grand tour of New England — by bike


The Lake Champlain Causeway in Vermont and other New England trails are connected to the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. (Island Line Images) By Melanie D.G. Kaplan May 4, 2018

Everything we love about New England is better by bike. When you’re on two wheels, the air is crisper, the small towns lovelier, the coast a bit more like heaven, and the wild blueberries may even be sweeter.

Last summer, when I found myself without a bike while visiting family in Vermont, I rented one at Omer and Bob’s Sportshop in nearby Lebanon, N.H., and rode part of the Northern Rail Trail. I pedaled on flat, easy terrain through a tunnel of brilliantly green trees and detoured to a sparkling lake. Since then, I’ve started jotting down names of other trails in the region that I want to bike this summer — probably many summers hence, by the length of my list.

The East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile bike route under development from Canada to Key West, Fla., is a good place to start. Bruce Donald, acting New England coordinator for the Greenway Alliance, said the region is further along than the rest of the East Coast in Greenway development. Many of the region’s trails are built on former railways, guaranteeing a relatively flat ride. Also appealing: the variety of cycling options in New England. “You have the urban areas where people are commuting and suburban sections with fewer cars,” Donald said, “and then you get to these bucolic places — in every state — and you’re literally in the woods with nature, with an eagle and the occasional black bear.”

If you’re not sold yet, just wait until the muggy season hits the Mid-Atlantic, and New England will be calling your name rather convincingly. Below are suggested routes by state — a mere sampling of biking trails in the region — followed by helpful links and tips for renting and riding. Begin here, but detour often.


Cyclists need to keep an eye out slower travelers on the Down East Sunrise Trail in Maine. (East Coast Greenway Alliance) Maine

The East Coast Greenway begins in Calais, Maine, at the Canadian border. The 87-mile Down East Sunrise Trail, on former logging roads in the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (you may see moose from afar), is the longest continuous stretch of Greenway to date. The route is stunning, passing through primeval forests and storybook villages; don’t be surprised if you cover miles before you encounter another human. But keep in mind, this stone dust-trail is the only Greenway route that allows ATVs. If you hear one, pull over and yield to the motor.

In Portland, rent a bike at Gorham Bike and Ski, and hop onto the Eastern Trail, also part of the Greenway, in South Portland. The majority of Gorham’s rental customers bike down the coast and hit Portland Head Light, the lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park. From there, take the marked trail to Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk and — if you’re ambitious — all the way to Portsmouth, N.H., and back, about 100 miles. Range Morton, a manager at Gorham, also recommends exploring the islands of Casco Bay by bike; the largest, Peaks Island, is a 17-minute ferry ride away. If you love lobster rolls, Morton suggests stopping at the no-frills Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth or the new Highroller Lobster in Portland. Gorham has additional rental locations along the trail in Saco and Kennebunk.

New Hampshire

The Northern Rail Trail is built on the old railroad bed of the Boston and Maine Railroad’s Northern Line. The path begins in Lebanon, close to the Vermont border, and stretches 58 miles through Enfield, Canaan, Danbury and Andover, ending just past Boscawen. “It’s hard to do an extensive ride here and stay away from hills, but the rail trail isn’t hilly, it’s very scenic, and it’s away from cars,” said Jonathan Wilmot, a manager at Omer and Bob’s Sportshop. The shop is a parking lot away from the start of the trail, which has a crushed rock surface. The section closest to Lebanon is the most scenic (and busiest), following the Mascoma River and passing Mascoma Lake about four miles from the shop. In Enfield, stop for lunch at Mickey’s Restaurant & Tavern. If you make it to Danbury, the Country Store offers picnic provisions.

If the flat rail trails leave your legs begging for more, head to the hills. Franconia Notch is a breathtaking mountain pass in the popular White Mountain National Forest, and Franconia Notch Bike Path is a nine-mile trail within the state park. The path is paved and hilly, with an approximately 800-foot elevation gain from south to north. To bike in the mountains without actually climbing, start at the base of the aerial tramway (which takes visitors to the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain for views of New York, Maine and Canada) and ride downhill to the Flume Gorge at the base of Mount Liberty. You can catch a shuttle back to the tram from Sport Thoma ski shop, which also rents bikes.


The 14-mile Island Line Trail follows Burlington’s waterfront and continues into the middle of Lake Champlain. (Island Line Images) Vermont

Last August, I was in Burlington and somehow missed what must be one of the country’s most spectacular bike trails: the Island Line Trail . The 14-mile, kid-friendly route, which is part of the Lake Champlain Byway, is now high on my list; it follows Burlington’s waterfront and continues smack into the middle of the lake. Cyclists ride an old railroad causeway once used to export granite out of the state and take in an awesome panorama from the middle of Lake Champlain, with the Adirondacks to the West and Green Mountains to the east. (I’ve heard the view’s even better at sunrise and sunset.) The causeway continues nearly across the lake, save a 200-foot gap for boats. That’s where you walk your bike onto the bike ferry (naturally) to continue on the trail. Ross Saxton, a manager at Local Motion, an advocacy organization that has a trailside bike-rental shop, suggests crossing the lake to South Hero and pedaling to Hackett’s Orchard, where you can fill your backpack with apples, or Snow Farm, the state’s oldest grape winery (with its own vineyard). On the Burlington side, explore Colchester Bog Natural Area and Rossetti Beach Natural Area, then hit Switchback Brewing for lunch. For a longer bike, try the 40-mile triple ferry loop, which dips into New York.

When the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is complete, it will run 93 miles through 18 communities across northern Vermont, making it the longest rail trail in New England. The scenic path is on the right of way of the former St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad, and passes through the spine of the Green Mountain range. Currently, two sections are open: Section 1A is 15 miles, winding through farmlands and forests of Caledonia County; Section 1B is 17 miles, following the Lamoille River and connecting to the Greenway in Cambridge.


Cyclists and pedestrians cross the Connecticut River on Founders Bridge in Hartford, Conn. (East Coast Greenway Alliance) Massachusetts

In Boston, the Greenway follows the Charles River Bike Path for 12 miles, past the Museum of Science and the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham. The path is heavily used by cyclists, as well as runners and walkers, who share the scene with rowers and sailors on the river.

Visitors to Cape Cod can try the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a newly expanded, 26-mile paved path that passes through a half-dozen coastal towns, from Wellfleet, near Cape Cod National Seashore, southwest almost to Yarmouth. Rail Trail Bike & Kayak, which has a rental fleet of 100 bikes and a website that details stops along the trail, is located roughly in the middle, near Nickerson State Park. Dan Poitras, who owns the shop, said vacationers often bike around the Cape and never get in their cars. “There’s something for everyone — cranberry bogs, state parks and forests, beautiful views, small towns, beaches, the Three Sisters lighthouses,” he said. “The bike trail creates accessibility to certain beaches without traffic.” For fueling up, he suggests Eat Cake 4 Breakfast Bakery near his shop or Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar in Eastham. For the adventurous: Bike the rail trail to Provincetown, board the ferry, then pedal along the Charles River in Boston.


The view from the mostly flat East Bay Bike Path in East Providence, R.I. (East Coast Greenway Alliance) Rhode Island

The Ocean State has an impressive network of bike paths and no shortage of killer water views. The Blackstone River Bikeway runs north and south for almost 12 miles, a continuous path that experienced cyclists can ride (on- and off-road) for an additional five miles to India Point Park in Providence, at the head of Narragansett Bay. The trail follows the Blackstone River and Blackstone Canal with views of waterfalls, marshes and wildlife, including great blue herons, cormorants, ospreys, eagles, foxes and muskrats.

From India Point Park, at the confluence of the Seekonk and Providence rivers, the mostly flat, 14.5-mile East Bay Bike Path follows the footprint of the former Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad. “It’s quite a treat to bike into historic Providence from the East Bay Bike Path and enjoy views of sailboats on the Narragansett Bay,” said Dennis Markatos-Soriano, the East Coast Greenway’s executive director. The Greenway in Rhode Island also includes the Blackstone River Greenway and the Washington Secondary Bike Path, which has 19 miles of continuous off-road trail. For bike rentals, head to Dash Bicycle Shop or NBX Bikes, which has four locations.


Cyclists meet horseback riders on the Hop River State Park Trail in Connecticut. (East Coast Greenway Alliance) Connecticut

The Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway is one of the favorite rides in New England’s southernmost state.

The nearly completed trail, part of the East Coast Greenway, runs for 47 miles in central Connecticut and extends to Northampton, Mass. Greenway Alliance’s Donald recommends starting in Simsbury for a “flat, scenic and historic” 28-mile loop passing through five towns in the Farmington River Valley. The loop is all paved and offers access to small downtown areas with restaurants and inns.

Air Line State Park Trail begins in East Hampton and stretches to the eastern part of Connecticut, along the 1870s rail bed. Cyclists on this path — named because it was part of a straight run between Boston and New York — pass waterfalls and cross viaducts, sharing the path with hikers and horseback riders. In the southern section, East Hampton to Colchester and back is a 22-mile spin. Take the trail all the way to Thompson, in the northeast corner of the state, for a ride that tops 40 miles. Rent bikes at Pedal Power, which has four locations.

To bike with the locals, check out the five or six weekly rides offered out of Ridgefield Bicycle in southwest Connecticut. Offerings range from leisurely back-road spins to cutthroat road rides, and they often end at local watering holes, such as CakeBox or Tusk & Cup. Bike shop owner Jacqui Dowd said visitors are welcome to join the Ridgefield Bicycle Sport Club rides, which can attract more than 100 cyclists at the height of the season. “Expect hills for sure, and if you’re on the road, definitely wear bright colors and use lights in the front and rear,” she said. “There’s miles and miles of gorgeous, beautiful backcountry New England roads, but the roads can get windy and narrow.”

Rules of the road

If one of these excursions calls out to you, contact the bike shop ahead of time to inquire about rentals — availability, types of bikes offered and what’s included. Prices vary depending on the length of rental and whether you want kids wheels, a high-end road bike or something in between. Rentals typically come with a helmet, lock and water-bottle cage, sometimes with a pouch, lights and a car rack. I generally find bike shop staffers to be helpful and kind. Ask them about local rides, local eats and local weather when planning your trip. Many shops offer free local cycling maps.

When it comes time for your ride, wear padded shorts if you’re doing any distance. Drink plenty of water ahead of time and while you’re cycling to prevent dehydration. A small pack is useful for things such as a phone, camera, snacks, sunscreen, a towel for beach detours and a windbreaker if the weather’s iffy. I’d suggest bringing credit cards for bike -shop deposits and greenbacks for country stores, ice cream parlors, sandwich shacks and ferries that don’t take plastic. Follow bike trail etiquette: Ride on the right unless passing, and give an audible signal when you do pass. Stop at all stop signs; slow down and use extra caution around dogs, kids and pedestrians; err on the side of safety and walk your bike in heavily congested areas.

Kaplan is a freelance writer in the District. Her website is melaniedgkaplan.com. Find her on Twitter: @melaniedgkaplan.

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Just over a century ago, New England was crisscrossed by dozens of railway lines, competing against one another to transport people and goods between the area’s port cities and its interior. Trains were the primary mode of transportation at the time, but they declined in importance with the development of the automobile and construction of paved roads. The lines were eventually closed, and the tracks were left idle.

Thankfully, passionate outdoors groups have taken over much of the land formerly owned by the railroads and turned these vacant pathways into excellent trails for hikers, runners, and cyclists to enjoy. Old trains often passed through some pretty interesting and historic places, and now you can follow in their formerly soot-choked footsteps.

Plus, since they follow the grade of the railways, rail trails usually have little change in elevation, so you can enjoy pedaling them even if you’re not in great shape or an expert cyclist.

We’ve loved biking in New England, so we wanted to share some of our favorite routes. Each of these five bike paths near Boston are easily accessible from the city, and all but one is reachable on public transportation. And if you don’t own a bike, four of the five trails have a nearby rental shop.

Try one of the top 5 bike rides in #NewEngland – most can be reached by public transportation! #cycling

Blackstone River Greenway – Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Back in the 1800s, the Blackstone River was at the heart of the New England’s industry. From Worchester to Providence, textile mills dotted its shores, using the river’s flow to power their machines. Sadly, it was also where all the dyes and heavy metals from the mills were deposited, leading to substantial pollution of the waterway and of Narragansett Bay in Providence.

Fortunately, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have both invested significantly in cleaning up the riverbed and building trails alongside it.

The ten miles of trail from Woonsocket to Pawtucket passes through a mixture of verdant parklands, peacefully flowing waters, and relics of the river’s industrial past. On much of the path, you don’t even realize there’s a road only a few hundred feet away. The peace is broken occasionally on the northern half of the trail, where the path parallels an active rail line – though a few toots from the train shouldn’t ruin your day.

This is an especially nice trail to ride in the fall, right as the leaves are changing. Riding along the canal under a canopy of copper and gold showcases some of the best scenery inland Rhode Island has to offer. It’s a perfect example of how a formerly industrialized area can be returned to its beautiful state of nature.

By John Phelan.

Length: 10 miles one-way

Transportation: Take the Providence/Stoughton purple line to the South Attleboro stop (50 min. from Boston, $10.50 one-way). Warm up for your bike ride by cycling the three miles to the Pawtucket end of the trailhead.

Rental: Sadly, there’s nowhere to conveniently rent bikes near this trail; you’ll need to bring your own.

Minuteman Bikeway – Boston, Massachusetts

Unlike most of the other trails mentioned here, this one wasn’t built purely for recreation. The Minuteman connects the towns of Bedford, Lexington, and Arlington with the Alewife MBTA station in Cambridge, allowing suburbanites to commute into the city without needing a car.

This means it can get a bit more crowded than your average rail trail, but its location in Cambridge and proximity to the MBTA makes it one of the most convenient cycling options for visitors to Boston.

By John Phelan.

Much of the path parallels the route Paul Revere rode as he announced the arrival of the British in 1775. About half way along the trail is the town of Lexington, home of the Battle Green, where the first deaths of the Revolutionary War occurred, and the historic Buckman Tavern, where Minutemen awaited the attacking British. You can pedal, or walk, the town’s main street in just a few minutes; the interesting little shops (and Rancatore’s Ice Cream) make it worth taking a break there.

From Lexington on to Bedford, the trail feels farther removed from the urban landscape, and you begin to feel that you’ve truly left the city (though you do cross over bustling I-95 towards the end of the ride).

If you decide 20 miles isn’t enough cycling for the day, you can switch trails at Depot Park in Bedford and follow the Reformatory Branch Line Trail for four more miles over to Concord. (The path turns to dirt in Bedford, so road bikes should stay away.) From there, it’s a short 2-mile ride down Route 126 to Walden Pond, following in the footsteps of its most famous resident, Henry David Thoreau.

Length: 10 miles one-way

Transportation: Take the red line to the Alewife stop in Cambridge. If you cycle the Reformatory Branch Trail out to Concord, you can also take the Fitchburg purple line from there back to Porter Square in Cambridge or downtown Boston (45 min., $9.25 one-way).

Rental: Pick up a rental from Cambridge Bicycle for $35 per day. (We don’t recommend the Hubway system, especially if you plan to go out for more than 90 minutes – it’s pretty inconvenient to have to check in at a station every half-hour, and charges add up quickly, at $8 for every 30 minutes after the first 90.)

Shining Sea Bikeway – Cape Cod, Massachusetts

There’s really nothing better than a bike ride on Cape Cod in the summer. This trail from Falmouth to Woods Hole is a straight and mostly level path through the Cape’s farm country. It takes you through the woods, past salt marshes, and finally along the sandy beaches the area is so famous for.

I love the scenery in the northern section, particularly the wetlands and cranberry bogs – if you come in the fall, you’ll get to see flooded cranberry beds with their berries floating to the top.

The last two miles before Woods Hole are the most impressive of the whole trail. The landscape opens wide to the classic Cape Cod coastline – windswept beaches and steeply pitched roofs on clapboard houses, with white sailboats sprinkled out to the horizon.

If the weather isn’t cooperating, it’s also the most challenging section of the ride, as you’re completely exposed to the elements. But on a calm day, it’s an excellent place to put your bike down for a few minutes and just watch the waves roll in.

From Wikimedia Commons.

Upon reaching Woods Hole, there’s not too much to do. But Quick’s Hole Tavern and Pie in the Sky Bakery both have good food, and there’s an opportunity for people watching as the ferry from Martha’s Vineyard comes in.

Length: 11 miles one-way

Transportation: Unfortunately, this trail can only be reached by car.

Rental: Pick up a bike at BikeZone for $20 for the day; they’re located a hundred feet from the trailhead in North Falmouth.

Island Line Trail – Burlington, Vermont

If it isn’t clear from our last couple posts, we love Vermont, especially the town of Burlington. It’s got a plethora of outdoors activities, and if you’re visiting in the summer, the Island Line Trail is an essential trip. It’s easily among the best bike paths in New England, and it’s even been ranked one of the most scenic rail trails in the country.

The trail starts in Oakledge Park in Burlington’s south end, an excellent place to take in the views of Lake Champlain and explore the community treehouse (yes, there’s a community treehouse, Burlington is that awesome). From Oakledge, the path snakes along the lake, passing through part of Burlington’s warehouse district before reaching Waterfront Park, just west of downtown.

If you need a break from the heat of summer, there’s a popular “creemee” shop right across the street from the ECHO Science Center – get the maple, you’re in Vermont.

From the park, the trail follows the lake’s shoreline for another 5.5 miles, with a few side trails along the way leading to campgrounds and sandy beaches on the water. Past the town of Colchester, you’ll reach the true gem of the trail – the spectacular section known as the Causeway.

It was here that Rutland Railroad constructed a rail bed straight through Lake Champlain. Now that the tracks have been removed, a beautiful gravel trail extends for three glorious miles through one of America’s largest freshwater lakes, connecting mainland Burlington to the island of Grand Isle.

You can only complete the full trail between May and October, as there’s a 200-foot gap in the Causeway to allow boats to cross the lake. During the summer, a ferry operated by the non-profit Local Motion shuttles cyclists across the gap (you’ll need $8 cash for the round-trip ride).

The trail technically ends less than a mile after the end of the Causeway, but you can always pedal around the picturesque roads on Grand Isle. Better yet, head to Snow Farm Winery, about 2.5 miles from the end of the trail, for a wine tasting and some snacks.

Length: 13 miles one-way

Transportation: Burlington is too far away (almost 4 hours) to be a comfortable day trip from Boston, but you can certainly make a great weekend out of it. Megabus and Greyhound both run from Boston to Burlington (about $30 one-way).

Rental: Rent a bike for $24 for 4 hours or $38 for the whole day from Local Motion (the same organization that runs the ferry). They’ll also fill up your water bottle and pump your tires for free, even if you’re not renting.

Eastern Trail – Kennebunk & Portland, Maine

In the distant future, when our political leaders decide to invest a lot more money in trail systems and infrastructure, Maine’s Eastern Trail will be part of the East Coast Greenway – a paved cycling trail that will run from the Canadian border in northern Maine all the way down to the southern reaches of Key West, Florida.

At this time, the completed sections are scattered up and down the East Coast, and the Eastern Trail in Maine is one of them. The trail is currently split into two pedestrian-friendly segments, separated by an on-road section.

The first segment starts at a Park & Ride near the Kennebunk Service Plaza on I-95. It quickly makes its way overtop the interstate and then weaves into the forest. The pathway is packed dirt, but it’s very wide, allowing most hazards to be avoided (like the thick mud pits we maneuvered around during our ride last spring).

After six miles, the trail approaches the southwestern edge of the town of Biddeford. For almost five miles between there and the neighboring town of Saco, you’ll have to navigate city streets and country roads, though hopefully an off-road route will be created in the near future.

The trail then continues on through the woods for another 7.5 miles, where it unceremoniously ends at a small parking lot in Scarborough. While the start and end points are a bit anticlimactic, the trail is a fantastic way to see the dense forests of Maine from a dirt path that blends in with its surroundings.

Length: 18.5 miles one-way

Transportation: This trail is much more accessible by car, but if you’re an avid cyclist, the Amtrak Downeaster connects Boston to Portland (2.5 hours, $20 one-way + $5 to bring a bike onboard), which is 9 miles from the northern end of the Eastern Trail. If you’re bringing your bike on the train, you need to reserve space for it in advance

Rental: You can rent wheels in Kennebunk, Saco or Portland at Gorham Bike and Ski for $35 per day.

There are so many great and accessible options for biking in New England – so, what are you waiting for? Oh. It’s winter. Well… start planning some spring trips, then!

What’s your favorite bike paths in New England?

Cycling

Quiet back roads dotted with peaceful villages and views of mountains, lakes and ocean: New England is the perfect cycling destination. Throughout the states, abandoned railway lines are now cycle routes. There are also trails in conservation areas. Many of the larger New England ski resorts also offer mountain biking trails and rentals during the warmer months. So, choose your style and degree of difficulty; then watch for wildlife and enjoy terrific views along the way!

Connecticut

Connecticut’s countryside with its picturesque villages, farms, rivers and streams and many parks and forests covers almost 90 percent of the state that can best be viewed on a bicycle. For help on routes, there’s the Connecticut Bicycle Map and the guide to mountain biking in state parks. The many public trails in the state include Bluff Point State Park in Groton with its mixture of wooded hiking and biking trails along with spectacular wildlife viewing on Long Island Sound, and White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield with 25+ miles of gravel roads for mountain biking through the 4,000 acres of forests. In the Windsor Locks/Suffield area, along the Windsor Locks Canal, bike an historic 4.5-mile trail used in the mid-1800s by horses and mules to tow boats along the canal and offering scenic views of the Connecticut River and Windsor Locks Canal (weekends only). If you’re looking for guided bike tours, try the Connecticut Shoreline Bike/Boat Tour in Guilford, a leisurely three hour, 18-mile guided bike ride along the Connecticut shoreline combined with a 45-minute boat tour of the Thimble Islands (bike and helmets supplied). In the western part of the state in scenic Kent, the Bicycle Tour Company offers year-round bicycle rentals and cycling routes for all levels, plus self-guided tours and custom trips. Learn more about cycling in Connecticut.

Maine

Maine is great for cycling. For an easy ride with lovely water views, take the Casco Bay Route. Part of the East Coast Greenway, this 35-mile (56km) segment links the Portland harborfront with the college town of Brunswick, taking in Freeport on the way. In Acadia National Park, the carriage roads are well-known to cyclists; less traveled is the Schoodic Peninsula in the eastern part of the park. Take the 13-mile (20km) or the 29-mile (46km) loop; either way, spectacular views of this rocky coastline are guaranteed. Learn more about cycling in Maine.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a wide variety of trails are on offer. Best known is the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a flat, easy 25 miles (40km) that links towns like Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Chatham. Pedal through woods and past cranberry bogs; stop at beaches. In western Massachusetts, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail has views of Mount Greylock; this 11-mile (17km) route goes from Lanesborough to Adams. There are even rides close to Boston: the Nashua River Rail Trail is a pleasant 11 miles (17 km) from Ayer through Groton and Pepperell to Dunstable. Learn more about cycling in Massachusetts.

New Hampshire

Explore the beautiful New Hampshire countryside on a bike. Running east-west, the Rockingham Recreational Trail, Portsmouth Branch, is a 25-mile (40km) run between Manchester, the state’s largest city, and the village of Newfields. Pass by Lake Massabesic and Raymond, with its renovated depot and locomotive. Or, take the easy 11-mile (18 km) Wolfeboro Recreational Trail (also known as the Cotton Valley Trail) for an easy jaunt with views of Lake Winnipesaukee. Particularly fun are the causeways across Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake! Nearby, in the Lake Sunapee Region, the Northern Rail Trail offers a 52-mile (84km) converted railway bed with easy, flat biking through simple farm land, around lakes and river valleys, and past a winery and Shaker Museum. Seven historic inns throughout the Lakes and Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee regions of New Hampshire are connected by the Northern Rail Trail and offer inn-to-inn packages. Learn more about cycling in New Hampshire.

Rhode Island

America’s smallest state, Rhode Island is ideal for easy riding. The longest and prettiest trail is the East Bay Bike Path, a 14-mile (22km) route. From Providence, it runs along the Providence River and Narragansett Bay, then cuts inland to Barrington and Warren. It ends in Bristol, a lovely small town, with the fascinating Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame. Learn more about cycling in Rhode Island.

Fall is arguably the most beautiful season in New England. People come from all over to catch a glimpse of autumn’s colors. There are several methods to accomplish your leaf-peeping goals, including hiking, driving, fall foliage cruises, and fall foliage train tours, but if you’re looking for another great way to experience all things autumn, why not try one of the several fall foliage bike tours offered throughout New England?

Read on to learn about some of our favorite fall foliage bike tours!

It’s time for one of New England’s fall foliage bike tours.

Donald Stetz (User submitted)

NEW ENGLAND FALL FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

CONNECTICUT FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Connecticut B&B Escapes | Various Locations in CT

With several self-guided routes to choose from, you can take as long or as short a time as you like. Trails vary in difficulty level, and can be fun for the whole family. Stay at one of several Bed and Breakfasts as you make your way through the colorful landscapes of Connecticut.

Connecticut B&B Escapes: Set your own dates. Various locations. 860-635-5600; www.ctbandbs.com

MAINE FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Backroads | Portland, ME

Book the Classic Maine Bike Tour in Acadia National Park & along Penobscot Bay early. Experience the beginning of fall on this five day tour of some of the most picturesque locations in Maine. Meals and lodging are included in the tour price.

Backroads: Through early October. See site for details. 800-462-2848; www.backroads.com

Discovery Bicycle Tours | Southwest Harbor, ME

Enjoy fall vistas of the hills and shoreline of Maine. Begin your tour in Southwest Harbor, from there spend the six day tour exploring Swan’s Island, Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park among other destinations.

Discovery Bicycle Tours: Through early October. See site for details. 800-257-2226; discoverybicycletours.com

MASSACHUSETTS FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Discovery Bicycle Tours | Falmouth, MA

Spend six days pedaling around Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard on easy to intermediate level trails. Relish the fall weather as you take in views of beaches, marshes, and cranberry bogs. In the evenings relax at two classic New England Inns.

Discovery Bicycle Tours: Through early October. See site for details. 800-257-2226; discoverybicycletours.com

Easy Rider Tours | Great Barrington, MA

Don’t miss this fall foliage bike tour through the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Make sure your camera is ready for stops in cozy New England towns and along paths that lead by peaceful farmlands. You’ll experience lots of culture, too, with stops at the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Clark Art Institute.

Easy Rider Tours: First week in October. See site for details. 800-488-8332; www.easyridertours.com

NEW HAMPSHIRE FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Bike the Whites | Various Locations in NH

This is a package deal. Provided with maps and roadside assistance among other things, start your self-directed tour of the beautiful White Mountain region at one of three inns along the route. Bike through the hills and terrain of northern New Hampshire, enjoying fall foliage at its best with stops at a covered bridge and waterfall.

Bike the Whites: Through early November. See site for details. 603-356-9025; www.bikethewhites.com

RHODE ISLAND FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Guided tours and package tours seem scarce in Rhode Island, but, like all New England states, there are plenty of trails to explore on your own. Spend a day biking in the Arcadia Wildlife Management Area or pedal along the shores of the Blackstone River for breathtaking views of fall leaves above the water.

VERMONT FOLIAGE BIKE TOURS

Back Roads | Burlington, VT

Book this six day loop through some of the most beautiful landscapes of Vermont. Experience all things New England from the brilliant fall foliage to quaint towns. And, what adventure in Vermont is complete without a maple syrup tasting?

Backroads: Through early October. See site for details. 800-462-2848; www.backroads.com

Country Inns Along the Trail | Various Locations in VT

Choose from either the Road Biking or Mountain Biking self-guided, inn to inn, three to five day fall foliage biking tours organized by Country Inns Along the Trail. Cycle through rolling terrain, mountains, and farmland surrounded by some of the best fall colors of New England.

Country Inns Along the Trail: Through late October. See site for details. 802-247-3300; inntoinn.com

Early fall in Champlain Valley.

Allen Karsh (User submitted)

Discovery Bicycle Tours | Various Locations in VT

Choose from several fall foliage bike tours offered by Discovery Bicycle Tours in October. They have varied itineraries including, but not limited to, stops such as Stowe, Lake Champlain, and Ben and Jerry’s. Soak in classic foliage views accented by quintessential towns and authentic New England farms.

Discovery Bicycle Tours: Through early October. See site for details. 800-257-2226; discoverybicycletours.com

Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations | Various Locations in VT

Get away to northern Vermont and bike through the gorgeous Champlain Valley. Vistas of autumn’s colors abound as you pedal your way towards Stowe. Explore covered bridges, sample cider and donuts, and take your rest in the evenings at charming country inns along the route.

Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations: Through early October. See site for details. 800-730-4771; gosojourn.com

Great Freedom Adventures | Various Locations in VT

Book the Best of Vermont Fall Foliage Tour for six days of crisp fall scenery. If you’re interested in a shorter excursion, you might prefer their four day Woodstock Vermont Bike Tour or the Short and Very Sweet Vermont Bike Trip. While these are the only tours that guarantee sightings of the fall foliage, be sure to check out some of there other bike tours throughout New England.

Great Freedom Adventures: Through early October. See site for details. (508) 545-1864; www.greatfreedomadventures.com

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New England Bike Tours

Great Freedom Adventures offers New England bike tours during spring, summer and fall to work with any schedule. Spring tours feature landscapes abloom with blossoming trees and fragrant flowers. Summer tours delight with warm sunshine and air redolent with sea salt or freshly cut hay. GFA’s summer bike tours in New England work well for families. And then there is autumn. There really is nothing like New England’s fall foliage. GFA’s fall bike tours take guests on carefully chosen routes through picture perfect landscapes of radiant color – scenes that simply take your breath away.

Great Freedom Adventures guides New England bicycle tour guests on extraordinary journeys discovering the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse natural beauty. Bike to the oldest working seaport in the US, visit coastal towns little changed from their whaling era days, tour homes of US presidents and America’s wealthiest families. Kayak wildlife-filled estuaries, walk oceanside trails during butterfly and bird migrations and sail picturesque harbors as the setting sun colors the sky. Taste artisanal cheeses, maple syrup, local craft beer and estate grown wines at the very places they are made. Walk trails through sand dunes carpeted in yellow beach heather and to mountaintops with panoramic views of bucolic farmland and distant mountains. Bike past lighthouses, dairy farms, sparkling lakes, thundering waterfalls, quaint country stores and classic covered bridges. Rest on stunning crescent beaches watching sand pipers run from the incoming waves.

With a range of terrain and distance options, all cyclists, from novice to avid, will find a tour that suits their riding preference. Vehicle support plus a go-at-your-own-pace attitude means riders of various abilities can enjoy the same tour. To learn more about the rating and terrain of each New England bike tour, click the tour’s “Details, Dates & Prices” tab. Or call us – we love talking about the adventures!

Fine lodging that includes Select Registry hotels, historic inns and luxurious resorts enhances Great Freedom Adventures’ New England bike tours. Dinners feature locally-sourced, creative menus from the region’s best chefs. Throughout the tour, friendly, professional tour leaders provide exceptional service. They love New England and love sharing it with guests!

Whether you are looking for a New England fall foliage bike tour, a coastal adventure, a family bike tour, a weekend bike trip, or any sort of New England bike tour, we’ve got you covered. Grab your partner, friends, family or just yourself and join us in bike touring New England!

New England Bespoke Bike Tour

Our bicycle tours in New England are a celebration for all the senses. You’ll smell the tang of salt air as you spin along the Maine coast. Listen to the symphony of gulls and foghorns in a mist-shrouded cove. Feast your eyes on a kaleidoscope of autumn foliage in the Berkshire Hills. Tempt your taste buds with local treats, from savory crab cakes and seafood chowder to fresh cider doughnuts and real maple syrup. Top it off with a touch of local history and a sampling of world-class museums, and you’ve got New England bike touring, Easy-Rider style.

Bike rental included on all tours.

NEW ENGLAND BICYCLE TOURS

The following are available for groups of 10+ as a private bespoke tour:

Coasting New England – Lobsters, lighthouses, and beaches!
Country roads and coastal views from Massachusetts to downeast Maine. 6 days; contact us a minimum of 3 months in advance.

Autumn in the Berkshires – The quintessential fall foliage bike tour
Historic inns, country lanes, and autumn colors combine for the best foliage cycling in New England. 6 days; contact us a minimum of 3 months in advance.

The “Art” of Cycling – Bike with music in the air
World-class museums and the Boston Symphony Orchestra add an artsy spin to summertime cycling in the Berkshires. 5 days; contact us a minimum of 4 months in advance.

Watch our Biking in New England video

Join us “on location” with our latest New England bike tour video. Discover the best of New England cycling, culture, and cuisine from the Atlantic coast to the Berkshire Hills!

10 Coastal Bike Paths in New England

New England is famous for the rugged beauty of its coastlines, from the rocky coast of Maine to the sandy shores of Cape Cod. There’s nothing like riding your bike along the New England coast, watching the waves roll in as you feel the salty ocean breeze in your face. Here are ten of the most popular coastal bike paths in New England, from north to south. If you’re planning for an upcoming trip, there are a few different books you may want to consider purchasing: Rail Trails New England, Rail Trails Southern New England or Rail Trails Northern New England.

1. Sipayik Trail

The Sipayik Trail includes a panoramic vista of Passamaquoddy Bay with a view across the bay of New Brunswick, Canada. It’s a fantastic place for bird watching as there are always an abundance of gulls and migratory seabirds along the shore, besides birds of prey, songbirds, and others. During the summer months, marine mammals like seals, harbor porpoise, and whales can be seen from the shoreline. Another highlight of the trail is the tide pools. When the tide is out, the intertidal zone reveals several kinds of rockweed, soft shell clams, mussels, periwinkles, whelks, rock crabs, and green crabs.

  • State: Maine
  • Cities: Perry
  • Length: 1.9 miles
  • Trail end points: Treatment Plant Road north of Side Road and Bayview Dr. intersection (Pleasant Point) and US 1/S. River Road between S. Meadow Road and Shore Road (Perry)
  • Trail surface: Asphalt
  • Resources: Maine Trail Finder article

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the eastern trailhead in Pleasant Point from the intersection of SR 9 and US 1 in Baileyville, take US 1 S 27.3 miles through Perry, and turn left (east) onto County Road 190. Go 1.4 miles. Turn left onto Indian Road, and go 0.4 mile. Turn left onto Side Road, go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto Treatment Plant Road. The trailhead and parking are straight ahead. There is no official parking for the trail in Perry.

2. Belfast Rail Trail on the Passagassawaukeag

This rail trail runs through Belfast, a historic seaport with a wealth of antique architecture in several historic districts. Because of its historical significance and “Olde New England” feel, it remains a popular tourist destination. The Belfast Rail Trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a network of trails that stretches from Maine to Florida.

  • States: Maine
  • City: Belfast
  • Length: 2.3 miles
  • Trail end points: Oak Hill Road and Kaler Road/Hills to Sea Trail and Pierce St. at Water St. and Harbor Walk (Belfast)
  • Trail surface: Crushed Stone, Gravel
  • Resources: New recreational trail connects the ‘jewels’ of Belfast, September, 2016

Parking and Trail Access
There are three parking areas where you can pick up the trail — at either end and in the middle. From downtown Belfast, park on Water Street and access the trail by the Armistice footbridge. Parking is also available at the trail’s terminus, at the City Point Railroad Museum along City Point Road, and at the Stephenson Preserve parking lot, near the trail’s midpoint.

3. Back Cove Trail

This three-mile loop around Back Cove is one of the most popular trails in Portland, and rightfully so. We consider it to be one of our personal favorites in Northern New England since it’s a perfect walking trail and there’s plenty of room for a bike ride as well. Parking is also plentiful on all sides of the trail. It offers a scenic view of the Portland skyline as you bike through a peaceful natural environment. The Back Cove Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway. This is a great trail for kids or dogs.

  • States: Maine
  • City: Portland
  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Trail end points: Turkey Bridge/I-295 and Back Cove Park
  • Trail surface: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
Parking is available at Payson Park (421 Ocean Ave.) and Back Cove Park (Preble St. and Highway 1).

4. Eastern Promenade Trail</3>

The Eastern Promenade follows the coastline around Portland’s East End. You can see Fort Gorges from the trail, a fort that was armed and active during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. There are other historical gems along the trail, so it makes for a great excursion for those who enjoy both history and nature. The Eastern Promenade is part of the East Coast Greenway.

  • States: Maine
  • City: Portland
  • Length: 2.1 miles
  • Trail end points: Sewage Plant Road near I-295/Bayside Trail and Maine State Pier at Franklin St./US 1A and Commercial St. (Portland)
  • Trail surface: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Cutter St. trailhead from I-295, take Exit 7 toward US 1A/Franklin St. Go 0.7 mile south on Franklin St./US 1A, and turn left onto Fore St./Eastern Promenade. Go 0.8 mile, and turn right onto Cutter St. The parking lot is straight ahead in 0.3 mile. The trail is downhill from the parking lot; left (northwest) goes 0.8 mile to the junction with the Bayside Trail, and right (southeast) goes 1.1 miles south toward the Maine State Pier.

5. Clipper City Rail Trail & Harborwalk

Though short, the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk traverses a mix of environments: an industrial park, a neighborhood, and the waterfront. Cyclists will find urban amenities close by, including ice cream parlors, bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants. Perhaps the trail’s most distinguishing feature is the fanciful artwork found along the corridor. Sculptures, murals, and artfully designed landscapes make for an enjoyable ride or walk and reflect the creativity of the city’s inhabitants.

  • States: Massachusetts
  • City: Newburyport
  • Length: 3.9 miles
  • Trail end points: Merrimack River (Newburyport) and MBTA Commuter Rail Station
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk

Parking and Trail Access
Parking is available at Cashman Park (5 Pop Crowley Way) along the waterfront. To reach it from I-95, take Exit 57 for MA 113. Head northeast on MA 113 E/Storey Ave. Stay on MA 113 for 1.7 miles to a left turn on Broad St. Continue on Broad St. 0.3 mile to a right turn on Merrimac St., followed by an immediate left, which will take you directly into the park’s parking lot.

Paid MBTA parking lots are located off of Parker St. at the head of the trail. To reach the MBTA Newburyport Station endpoint, take I-95 to Exit 56, and head east on Scotland Road. In 2 miles continue onto Parker St., and go another 0.6 mile. Turn right to stay on Parker St., and go 0.4 mile. Turn right onto US 1 and follow signs 0.1 mile to the MBTA station. Once at the station, go up onto the main station’s ramp and platform and follow it to the end, where it becomes the trail.

There is no parking available at the trailhead near Hines Way.

6. Cape Cod Canal Bikeway

The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway is a popular but peaceful trail that runs on both sides of the canal. Each year, 14,000 commercial and recreational vessels use the canal and the trail offers a fascinating viewpoint for watching them go by. On the west end of the canal, you’ll have a stunning view of the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, one of the longest lift bridges in the U.S., which carries trains across the canal and rises 135 feet above the water. If you can bring your fishing gear, you’ll be able to drop a line for striped bass almost anywhere along either side of the canal.

  • States: Massachusetts
  • City: Hyannis
  • Length: 13.9 miles
  • Trail end points: (South of canal) Old Monument Neck Rd. to Freezer Rd. and (North of canal) Canal St. to Scusset Beach Rd.
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
North of the canal: To reach the Scusset Beach State Reservation trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. From MA 25 (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.), take Exit 3 for US 6 toward Bourne/Hyannis. Go 0.5 mile to a traffic circle, then exit left to US 6 E/Main St. In 3.8 miles, merge onto Meetinghouse Lane, which becomes Scusset Beach Road in 0.4 mile. Follow Scusset Beach Road 0.8 mile to its end, where you’ll find parking at the East Canal Lot to your right. Note that there is a daily fee for parking.

To reach the Buzzards Bay trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. From MA 25 (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.), take Exit 3 for US 6 toward Bourne/Hyannis. Go 0.5 mile to a traffic circle, then take the second exit onto US 6 W toward Buzzards Bay Bypass. Continue a little over 1 mile to the Buzzards Bay Rotary. At the rotary, take the third exit onto Main St. Go 0.3 mile, then turn right into the Visitor Center for parking. If you pass Wallace Ave. on your left, you’ve gone too far.

South of the canal: To reach the Tidal Flats Recreation Area trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. Take MA 25 S (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.) until it becomes MA 28 (10 miles past I-495). Go 0.8 mile, crossing the Bourne Bridge. At Bourne Rotary S., take the second exit onto Trowbridge Road, which becomes Shore Road in 0.7 mile. Continue another 0.6 mile, then turn right onto Bell Road. Continue straight 0.2 mile to two parking lots.

To reach the Sandwich Marina Park trailhead from US 6, take Exit 2 and head north on MA 130/Water St. In 1.4 miles, turn right onto Tupper Road, heading northwest toward Cape Cod Canal. Continue on Tupper Road 0.8 mile, then turn right onto Freezer Road. Follow Freezer Road 0.3 mile. Do not turn right into the private marina area; instead, continue straight to reach the playground area with public parking.

7. Province Lands Bike Trail

Opened in 1967, the Province Lands Bike Trail was the first bike trail created by the National Park Service. The twists and turns and ups and downs of this trail make it one of the most enjoyable options for a challenging ride or run on Cape Cod. It is located at the tip of the cape, only a mile from popular tourist destination Provincetown. The trail consists of a main loop around Beech Forest, a densely wooded area home to several ponds and lots of wildlife, and a couple of short spurs through natural sand dunes that will take you to beaches on Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

  • States: Massachusetts
  • City: Provincetown
  • Length: 7.7 miles
  • Trail end points: Herring Cove Beach on Province Lands Rd. and Race Point Rd.
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
Four main parking areas are available within the looped Province Lands Bike Trail. To reach Herring Cove Beach from US 6, follow US 6 E to Provincetown. When US 6 ends, turn right at the fork at Herring Cove onto Province Lands Road. Go 0.1 mile. Turn left into the beach parking area, then make an immediate right. In 0.4 mile, you’ll reach the end of the parking lot by the start of the trail. Note that seasonal parking fees apply.

8. Shining Sea Bikeway

The Shining Sea Bikeway is our favorite bike trail in Massachusetts. This paved path follows prehistoric Wampanoag Indian trails, offering beautiful views of woodlands, marshes, salt ponds, and expansive seascapes to the observant cyclist. It is perhaps the most scenic bike trail in the entire state. Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuary is a 60-acre preserve between the bikeway and the ocean that offers a network of footpaths from which you can spot many species of shorebirds as well as river otters and muskrats. The southern terminus of the trail is in Woods Hole, a historic seaside fishing village home to an internationally known scientific community.

  • States: Massachusetts
  • City: Falmouth
  • Length: 10.7 miles
  • Trail end points: CR 151 (Falmouth) and Steamship Authority, Crane St. (Woods Hole)
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Depot Road trailhead in Falmouth from the intersection of US 6 and MA 28 in Buzzards Bay, head south on MA 28 for 7.6 miles, and take the exit for MA 151 toward Mashpee/N. Falmouth near mile marker 55. Turn left onto MA 151 W. Continue 0.5 mile and turn right into the Depot Road parking lot, located just after the train tracks and across from Pine St.

To reach the Woods Hole trailhead from the intersection of US 6 and MA 28 in Buzzards Bay, head south on MA 28 for 14.2 miles until Main St. in Falmouth curves to the right and becomes Locus St. In 0.3 mile bear right to continue on Woods Hole Road. Continue on Woods Hole Road 3.3 miles until Woods Hole Road becomes Water St. Turn left onto Luscombe Ave. and continue around the street until the entrance to the trail is visible, just past the new ferry ticket office as the trail travels under the Crane St. overpass. Metered street parking is available in and around the area, such as on Water St. and Luscombe Ave. A free parking lot is located along the interior of the trail between the Church St. and Nobska Road bridges that cross over the trail, though the first 45 numbered spots are reserved for residents. To reach the parking lot, you will need to drive on the trail from the Steamship Authority until you reach the lot. Watch out for trail users in all directions, as well as cars traveling in the opposite direction.

NOTE: Parking at the southernmost end of the trail at the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole can get extremely congested and is not recommended during the tourist season. If you are starting from the southern endpoint, in the event of congestion, please plan to park at one of the additional parking lots that dot the trail as you head north. The parking lot near the bus station halfway through the trail and the parking lot at the northern terminus are your best bets.

9. East Bay Bike Path

The East Bay Bike Path is our favorite bike trail in Rhode Island. The trail takes you through an alternating landscape of stunning natural areas, as well as more urban enclaves. It offers a fairly flat ride with scenic views of Narragansett Bay and local marshlands as well as easy access to myriad downtown eateries, several small state parks and conservation areas, and the Rhode Island Audubon Society Environmental Education Center, which provides a great educational experience for young and old alike. The East Bay Bike Path is also part of the East Coast Greenway.

  • States: Rhode Island
  • City: Providence
  • Length: 14.3 miles
  • Trail end points: Thames St. and Oliver St. in Independence Park (Bristol) and Tockwotton St. and India St. at India Point Park (Providence)
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt

Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Providence trailhead, take I-95 to Exit 19 and merge onto I-195 E. Take Exit 2 for India St. to Gano St. Turn left into India Point Park. The trailhead is on the right; ramps lead up to the bridge where the path begins as a separated corridor alongside traffic.

There are many other places to park along the trail. The closest parking lots to the northern terminus are on Veterans Memorial Pkwy. in East Providence. Traveling east on I-195 from Providence, take Exit 4 to Riverside. Merge onto Veterans Memorial Pkwy., and in 0.3 mile, near Mercer St., you’ll find two parking lots on the right.

To reach the Colt State Park trailhead in Bristol, take I-195 E into Massachusetts and take Exit 2. Follow MA 136 S 1.2 miles to Rhode Island, and continue on RI 136 S another 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Vernon St. in Warren, and then in 0.6 mile, turn left onto RI 114 S and go 2.3 miles toward Bristol. In Bristol, turn right onto Asylum Road and go 0.5 mile.

10. Savin Rock Trail

The Savin Rock Trail runs along West Haven’s coastline for a little more than a mile. You’ll enjoy picturesque views of Long Island Sound along the way and can turn off to walk any of its sandy beaches. This trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway. If you’re planning on hitting the trail soon, check out our favorite bicycle water bottles, bicycling tents and bike racks.

  • States: Connecticut
  • City: New Haven
  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Trail end points: Washington Ave. and Captain Thomas Blvd.
  • Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete

Parking and Trail Access
Parking and restrooms can be found on the trail’s west end in Bradley Point Park, though note that there’s a parking fee.

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  • Plum Island

    Enjoy some of the nature that Plum Island has to offer via bike when you ride through this 6-mile barrier beach that extends south of Newburyport. Most of the path makes up the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, which nearly 300 bird species visit seasonally.

    Cost: $5 by car, $2 walk-in or bike-in

    Duration: Half day

  • The Mountain Bike Loop at Middlesex Fells Reservation

    Middlesex Fells is probably the closest you can get to the wilderness and only travel 30 miles outside of city. This trail is one of the best to ride to escape for a morning or afternoon.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Half day

  • The Lexington Loop

    View some of the most picturesque landscapes New England has to offer when you ride on this 30-mile loop. The trail takes you mostly through back roads, viewing meadows, woodlands, quaint farms, and historic places like Concord, Lexington, and the Old North Bridge.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full day

  • Cape Ann

    Many argue that Cape Ann is one of the best ways to get the real taste of New England. You start and finish your ride in Gloucester, which was made famous by the movie “The Perfect Storm.’’ The trail allows you to pass the rocky shores of Massachusetts, the mansions overlooking the ocean, the thick inland woods and forests, and the great feel of Rockport.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full day

  • Cape Cod

    Biking along Cape Cod will take you to some of the best places on Cape Cod in one day. You will pass through the Rail Trail that spans a good length of the Cape, to the long beaches of the National Seashore and the back roads of the countryside. A rental shop along the way will allow you to go on this ride even if you don’t own a bike.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full day

  • South Shore

    Don’t be intimidated by the 35 mile distance of this trail. The ride is mostly flat and can be done by bikers with limited experience and endurance. This is the best way to discover or re-discover the South Shore, between ocean and countryside.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full day

  • Great Island

    If you need an escape from the big city, enjoy this 26-mile trail (17 miles without the extension to Great Island). You probably won’t see much traffic — however you’ll pass through horse country, where you should expect to see quite a few horseback riders along your bike ride.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Half day

  • Duxbury Beach

    If you are looking for one of the nicer beaches around Boston, head to Duxbury Beach, just south of the city. This relatively short biking loop allows you to go to the beach without the magic beach sticker that limits access to the beach parking, and to ride through the nice countryside further inland.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Half day

  • The Reservations Ride

    This 20-mile loop includes quiet roads rolling through woodlands, meadows, and horse farms. The trail is located around Dover, just beyond the Route 128 west of Boston. As a side benefit, this ride takes you to no less than six different reservations: Noanet Woodlands, Rocky Woods, Fork Factory Brook, Chase Woodlands, Peters Reservation, and Ridge Hill Reservation.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full day

  • Willowdale Forest

    If you are an avid mountain biker, head about an hour northeast of Boston to Willowdale State Forest, located in Topsfield. This ride offers easy, fast and well-maintained trails rolling through an exceptional scenery.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Half day

  • Newport

    Newport is a great destination for a day out on a leisurely ride along the ocean. Located only 90 minutes southwest of Boston, Newport is much closer than you may think. You travel through quiet countryside lanes to world-famous mansions. The trail is especially great off-season, when summer traffic has disappeared to give you more quiet and room on the road.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: Full Day

  • Whitney & Thayer Woods

    Whether you are in the mood to hike or ride, Whitney & Thayer Woods let you do both. This secluded area less than an hour from Boston has its own hidden gem: Turkey Hill. Its 187-foot summit affords spectacular views of Cohasset Harbor and the South Shore.

    Cost: Free

    Duration: A few hours

  • Around City Square Park, across the water, and along the Harbor

    Boston has so many great areas to see, especially by bike. Start your ride around City Square. The park is a quiet haven near the busy surrounding roadways and is located in Charlestown’s historic Market Square. Continue your ride to the Charlestown Navy Yard and hop on the Inner Harbor Ferry at Charlestown Ferry Pier 4- where bikes are allowed. Jump off at Boston’s Long Wharf and finish your journey around the New England Aquarium.

    Cost: $1.70, Inner Harbor Ferry

    Duration: A few hours

  • Around the streets of Boston

    If you aren’t in the mood to trek out of Boston, hop on your bike and explore the hidden parts of the city you rarely see by car. Use your ownbike or rent one from Hubway(available citywide on April 2) throughout the city.Urban AdvenToursalso offers special guided tours through Fenway, the Avenue of the Arts, Back Bay, the South End, Copley Square, Charlestown, the North End, Beacon Hill, and along the Esplanade on the Charles River. You haven’t seen Boston until you’ve seen it through the eyes of a biker.

    Cost: Free on your own. $6 for 24-hour rental. Tours range from $30-$75

    Duration: A few hours

  • Minuteman Bikeway

    If you are in the mood to escape to the suburbs without going very far, head to the Minuteman Bikeway, running from Arlington to Bedford. The roadway is smooth, pretty straight, and has few intersections- which makes the bike way a safe place to ride.

    For more information, visit the official website.

    Cost: Free

    Duration:A few hours/Half day trip

11 great family-friendly bike trails in NH

Taking a bike ride together is a fun way to promote getting fit as a family. Looking for a safe place to finally take the training wheels off your cycling plans? Pedal the day away at one of these 11 kid-friendly (and bicycle-friendly) trails and recreation paths.

1. Rockingham Rail Trail

Rail trails are reclaimed sections of railroad track that have been turned into multi-use recreation paths for public use. Bicyclists love rail trails because they are free of car traffic and provide miles of uninterrupted room to ride. There are more than 20 rail trail systems in New Hampshire, including the Rockingham Rail Trail, stretching more than 25 miles from the Elliot Hospital in Manchester to the old rail depot building in Newfields. For the most part, the wide and even trail is packed gravel and dirt. Experienced cyclists can complete the trail round-trip in one day. Family cyclists will want to explore the trail in smaller sections. This is easy to accomplish thanks to other access points to the trail at such stops as Massabesic Lake and Candia. For a map and more information, go to www.nhstateparks.org and search for “recreational rail trails.”

2. Mine Falls Park

With its scenic terrain winding along the Nashua River as it passes through fields and forests, Nashua’s Mine Falls Park may be one of the most popular —and prettiest — spots in the Merrimack Valley for riding bikes. Easy access to the trail system can be found at Lincoln Park at the end of Coliseum Avenue (there’s also plenty of parking). For more information and a map, go to www.nashuanh.gov.

3. Great Glen Trails

In the summer the smooth, flat rolling carriage roads that criss-cross Great Glen Trails in Gorham become a pedaling paradise for all ages. The ski-turned-bike resort makes taking to its carriage trail system easy by providing bike and helmet rentals on-site. Go to greatglentrails.com for more information.

4. Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail

One of New Hampshire’s crown jewels for outdoor recreation, the Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail is nine miles of jaw-dropping pedaling as it takes you past the state park’s most spectacular sites, including Echo Lake (where many cyclists stop to take a dip), the Old Man of the Mountain site, the Basin (another swimming hole), and the Flume Gorge. The trail is perfect for beginners and can be accessed from multiple parking lots, making it easier to customize the length of your trek. For a map, go to www.nhstateparks.org and search for “recreational rail trails.”

5. Goffstown Rail Trail

For another off-road cycling option in the Manchester area, look no further than the Goffstown Rail Trail, a 5.5-mile stretch of packed dirt and gravel that follows the former Boston & Maine railroad tracks from the Piscataquog River near the Main Street bridge in Goffstown village, through Grasmere and the county complex, to the Manchester city line near the Sarette Recreational Complex in Pinardville. One of the easiest points of access for the trail is at Goffstown Parks and Recreation Center. There’s plenty of parking available, too. For more information, go to www.goffstownrailtrail.org.

6. Odiorne State Park

Most families know Odiorne State Park in Rye as the home of the Seacoast Science Center. What’s not well known is that the state park also offers some of the best bike trails on the Seacoast. A paved recreational path is available, plus an extensive network of gravel and partially paved trails that wind through the trees and along the salt marsh for a total of about three miles. Pack a lunch and enjoy a post-ride picnic in the park’s day use area along the shore. For more information, go to www.nhstateparks.org.

7. Northern Rail Trail

Spanning Grafton and Merrimack counties, the Northern Rail Trail clocks in as the longest rail trail in New Hampshire at more than 60 miles. The surface of cinder ballast and stone dust is well-suited for easy mountain biking. One particularly lovely stretch leaves from the trail’s access point in downtown Lebanon and follows the Mascoma River, crossing it seven times in just the first few miles. For more information and a map, go to fnrt.org.

8. Silk Farm Road Bike Path

At a paved 1.3 miles in length, the Silk Farm Road Bike Path in Concord is an ideal place for a young cyclist’s first real bike ride. Parking and access to the trail can be found just past the entrance to the McLane/Silk Farm Audubon Center on Silk Farm Road. The path crosses a footbridge before reaching its end at a gate. Another unpaved trail system leaves from this same gate, but be aware that parts of this other trail system are prohibited to bike riders without permission. For a map, go to concordnh.gov.

9. Derry Rail Trail

The paved Derry Rail Trail (currently four miles) travels along the railroad bed of the old Manchester and Lawrence Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad, and is part of a larger series of rail trails – including the Londonderry and Manchester rail trails – that will eventually connect and run 20 miles from Salem to Manchester. You’ll find interactive street-level trail map, including where to park and access the trail on the website: derryrailtrail.org.

10. Lincoln Woods/Wilderness Trail

The Lincoln Woods Trail cuts through the Pemigewasset Wilderness as it follows the path of one of the last logging railroads operating in the White Mountains. (The Lincoln Railroad supported logging in the region until the 1940s.) The broad, nearly flat trail of packed dirt and gravel starts at the Lincoln Woods parking area on the Kancamagus Highway and follows the Pemigewasset River for approximately three miles. Leave enough time to explore riverbanks, stop for a picnic — and rest your legs — before the trip back. For more information, go to www.fs.usda.gov.

11. Highland Mountain Bike Park

Ready to add some adrenaline to your family’s next bike ride? Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield boasts an extensive downhill and cross-country mountain bike trail network, with over 15 miles of trails from beginner to expert levels. Ride the lift with your bikes to the summit of Highland, then get ready for a 600-foot drop down the mountain. Or you can stick to the Central Park terrain area where beginners of all ages can work on skill development. www.highlandmountain.com

This spring 2016 article by Jacqueline Tourville was most recently updated in September 2019.

Categories: Fall Fun, Spring Fun, Summer Fun

New england fall bike tours

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