Nashua River Rail Trail
GOOD FOR: All Ages
RATING: (3)


Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:Groton Street and MA 2A, Ayer, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free
Contact:

mass.gov/dcr; 978-597-8802

Bathrooms: Portable toilets at the trailhead in Ayer
Water/Snacks: Water fountain in front of the Groton Town Hall, close to the trail on Station Avenue
Map:

The 11 miles of this former railroad turned trail offer easy walking or bicycling with scenic views.

Nashua River Rail Trail crossing Groton School Pond.
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/Michael A. White at en.wikipedia

The Nashua River Rail Trail is a great safe place to take kids biking, hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. The 10-foot-wide paved trail—which mostly follows the lines of the river and passes through the towns of Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, and Dunstable—is used by walkers, bicyclists, skaters, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers.

The trail is built along the site of former railroad tracks, where trains, beginning in 1848, ran between Worcester and Nashua, New Hampshire. Starting in 1929, the tracks began to be dismantled; finally, in 1982, the last freight train ran on the line. In 2002, the rail trail was built. Along the route, you’ll see wetlands, ponds, woods, swamps, and farms as well as plenty of resting stops. Kids will enjoy exploring along the river.

Remember: Tell your kids not to be surprised to see horses on the trail. Yield the right of way to riders, and never pass horses without giving a voice warning. Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.

Plan B:

The Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge (Trip 43) has great hiking along the Nashua River. It’s about a ten-minute drive south of the rail trail in Ayer.

Where to Eat Nearby:

You can make a stop in any of the towns along the route for a snack. A café is in Groton and ice cream is available in Pepperell.



PHOTO GALLERY




TRIP COMMENTS

By: virtualeditor
Posted: 06/24/2013 14:34
Rating:

I drove my 10-year-old twins over to the trailhead in Pepperell to ride up to the northern end of the trail. We went on a warm Saturday afternoon and saw other people, certainly, but never felt crowded. The going was easy and shady, and it felt nice to make our own breeze. Not too far down the path, we stopped to rescue a painted turtle.

Owen was a little cranky on the way up, not having been overly happy to leave the comforts of home, but I think he suffered a bit from not quite knowing how long it would take to get there (not long at all, really!). Once we arrived, his mood shifted rapidly, and he and Will both liked watching another visitor work on field training her Golden to swim in the little pond at trail's end.

Knowing we'd be returning to Pepperell for ice cream after our ride was my carrot-on-a-stick to keep Will moving (though he seemed motivated just by the idea of reaching the end of the trail...and was incredibly pleased with himself for outpacing Owen and Mom). That worked as expected, with an extra boost from telling both boys we could ride along the river a bit when we got back to Pepperell (we have family in the area, and they are always fascinated by the dam in town). We even left our bikes and the trail for a minute to explore a short path into the woods where we found some type of drainage culvert that caught their eyes and imaginations.

My only suggestions, and they're ones I could make for any trip in warm weather, really, are to bring more water than you think you'll need and to have bug repellent on hand in case of unplanned detours into the woods.

 

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By: Salter Mom
Posted: 04/08/2013 10:35
Rating:

We took this trail on a Sunday in spring with our kids who wanted to brush up on their riding skills. After announcing our plans at church, two other families joined us to enjoy the brisk winds and bright sunshine. We left the Ayer trail trail parking lot with three walkers plus dog, three riders, and one beginner rider and we broke the group into two. It worked perfectly with the older kids setting out to see the beaver ponds and the walkers and beginner rider staying together with the dog in the rear. A lot of people use the rail trail on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but everyone seemed to follow the "keep right" rules and a few of them managed to reign in our faster young riders who got too far ahead. We could have stopped in for snacks in downtown Ayer at the end of the ride, but we all had Sunday afternoon chores to attend to. Maybe in summer!

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By: terimorrow
Posted: 05/15/2012 18:36
Rating:

This is our family's favorite bike ride!  Not at all crowded. Great for kids of all ages. We've started at both ends and like them equally.

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