Ayer/Groton/Dunstable/Pepperrell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Car, Bike, Public transportation
Free (Up to 4 hours)
Easy bike trail – Decent views – Easy access to downtown areas
From Ayer to the New Hampshire line, bikers and runners from the entire region know this trail well. Some even commute using the trail!
Well, If you’ve never been before, then you probably have a few questions before getting started.
Luckily, we have all the information you need. Here’s what you need to know about the Nashua River Rail Trail in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
Getting to the Trail
There are starting points in Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, and yes, Nashua (for a few feet). However, if you want to start at one end, you will need to head to either Nashua, NH, or Ayer, MA.
In Ayer, you will head onto Groton Street near the downtown area. You’ll easily find the parking lot using any GPS but you can look for the parking garage just over 100 feet off Route 111. If you turn from Rt 111, it will be on your right just past the NAPA Auto Parts.
If you’re starting at the Nashua/Pepperrell line, then you will also head off (NH) Rt 111 and take either W Hollis Street or Old Runnells Bridge Road (same road) to Gilson Road for only 150 yards or so until you see the parking lot on your right.
Parking & Fees
On either side, there is free parking available, and there is another stop in Groton with free parking. Throughout the trail, you will find plenty of places to lock your bike if you decide to take a walk or try something else.
If you park in Ayer, you can park inside or outside of the parking garage in the spaces marked “Rail Trail Parking” for up to 4 hours.
What Is the Nashua River Bike Trail Like?
If you’re looking for a longer but easier trail to spend some time on, then keep reading. Here’s our review of the Nashua River bike trail!
The trail is 12.5 miles long each way, making for a round-trip total of 25 miles. However, don’t let the length fool you. The trail is not very strenuous, as the total elevation gain over 12 miles is only 269 feet.
Throughout the entire 12.5 miles, the rail trail is extremely flat, which is one of the reasons it’s so appealing to bikers and walkers, as that’s often difficult to find in Massachusetts.
If you’re looking for a more challenging bike ride, then drive 20 minutes west of Ayer to Fitchburg, the hilliest city in the country. Here, you’ll find a brand new bike trail project that cuts between the twin cities (Fitchburg and Leominster). The project is expected to be completed in 2022.
The trail itself is around 10-feet wide and well-paved with 5 feet of gravel for equestrian travel on either side. Overall, it’s a well-kept trail during the right seasons.
Keep in mind, this is a 3-season trail, meaning that there is no maintenance during the winter, and it tends to be very icy. Unfortunately, 4-season trails are difficult to find in Massachusetts, but they are more common in Northern New England.
However, during the warmer seasons, you will find a well-maintained trail with clearly marked (spraypainted) bumps and cracks from start to finish.
Is the Nashua River Rail Trail Worth It?
Here’s our honest review and guide of spending the day on the Nashua River Rail Trail.
For Middlesex County, Massachusetts, you’ll experience some decent views. Keep in mind that this area is mostly flat plains, especially relative to New England, but you will still ride through the trees past plenty of lakes, farmland, and, of course, the Nashua River.
Of course, every view in New England is better in the fall, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find beauty throughout the year.
In general, you won’t spend too much time crossing the road. There are only a few clearly marked stops along the trail where you will intersect with a road, so you won’t have to worry too much about cars.
Is It Crowded?
On a nicer day, you will see people walking and biking along this trail. After all, it is eastern Massachusetts.
Fortunately, the trail is wide enough that you can get around people fairly easily. You can always let people know when you’re coming up behind them and they’ll move.
However, if you want to get away from the crowds, then there are plenty of nice stops along the way where you can get off the beaten path. Just double-check to ensure you aren’t trespassing on private property.
Can You Bring Pets?
Absolutely, you can bring pets for a walk on this trail! Again, this is a heavily-trafficked trail and many people walk their dogs on it, so only bring your dog if you’re comfortable passing by other dogs and keeping them away from oncoming bikers.
Stopping for Food?
The trail runs close to the centers of Ayer, Groton, and Pepperell, so finding a bite to eat is relatively easy. At the Ayer end, you’ll find fast food all around, including a Dunkin’ Donuts (surprise, surprise) and a Subway to reward a job well done!
Try Biking Yourself
Overall, the Nashua River Rail Trail is perfect for a long and leisurely walk, run, or bike. It’s a great place to take your time and enjoy some of the long-forgotten natural beauty in eastern Massachusetts.
As always, check it out for yourself, let us know your experiences in the comments below, and keep reading our blog for our latest reviews of your favorite New England destinations!
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