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Even though the Narrow-Gauge Rail-Trail traces the nation’s first narrow-gauge railroad for 3 miles from Bedford toward Billerica, the mostly crushed-stone path is plenty wide enough now to accommodate people passing on foot or bicycle.
The trail follows the route of the Billerica & Bedford Railroad, built in 1877 with a narrow 2-foot-wide track to save money on construction costs. The company soon went bankrupt anyway, and in 1885 the Boston & Lowell Railroad used the corridor to build a standard-gauge railroad. The tracks went out of use in 1962, and the town of Bedford purchased its share of the right-of-way to build a 10-foot-wide trail. The town of Billerica is seeking funds to do the same for a future trail tentatively named Yankee Doodle Bike Path.
The route starts across Loomis Street from Bedford Depot Park, where it meets the Minuteman Bikeway. An old railroad building that served as an engine house for the Billerica & Bedford Railroad and later as a freight house for the Boston and Maine Railroad has been restored there and is open on weekends April–October with displays of railroad memorabilia. Park visitors also can see a restored diesel passenger car that ran on the line.
The first 0.3 mile of the trail to MA 4/Great Road is paved, but the rest is stone dust. Mountain or hybrid bikes are recommended for this surface. Use caution at this road crossing as a commercial district is located nearby.
Entering a wooded residential area, you’ll pass the former site of a passenger station on Springs Road. The trail passes the sprawling Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (built in 1928) on the right about a mile past MA 4/Great Road. The York Conservation Area on the left offers a welcome stop for a picnic on the green or a stroll around the pond. Bikes are not permitted on paths in the conservation area, but you can explore on foot.
Sweetwater Avenue crosses the trail about 0.8 mile past the hospital. The former site of the Bedford Springs Station, nearby Fawn Lake served as a health resort for well-to-do visitors from Boston and New York in the late 19th century. A self-guided path encircles the pond. The trail ends at Springs Road, just across the Billerica town line.
To reach the trailhead at Bedford Depot Park from I-95, take Exit 31B onto MA 4 N/MA 225 W toward Bedford. Turn right, and go 1.8 miles. Turn left onto Loomis St. Go 0.4 mile and turn left into the park just past Hartford St. on the right. The trail starts at the northeast end of the park at a crosswalk across Loomis St.
To reach parking near the north end of the trail from I-95, take Exit 31B onto MA 4 N/MA 225 W toward Bedford. Turn right, and go 2.6 miles. Bear right onto MA 4/North Road, and then go 1.3 miles and turn right onto Sweetwater Ave. Go 0.4 mile and look for parking on the right, just past the trail crossing. The trail ends 1.1 miles north on Springs Road.
Started on this trail (by the noted parking), with a goal of connecting to the MBT. We found the trail very smooth and well maintained, not crowded (even on a weekend) and very pleasant. Not long enough for a ride by itself, but definitely a more interesting way to start your Minuteman experience.
Pulling into the Bedford parking lot for the Minuteman Trail, we happened to notice a rider peddling out of the entrance of the Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail-Trail. My wife and I decided to check it out first and I'm glad we did.
This is a short trail which travels through thick, peaceful, wooded sections, with only a few road crossings. At one of those crossings is a beautiful, well maintained memorial to our Veterans from all our countries wars fought. This is worth getting off your bike for a moment of quite reflection. There is also a town forest with foot trails traveling around a quiet secluded pond.
My only complaint is that all of the trail gates at the road crossings were open, and while peddling back to the parking lot, my wife and were forced off the trail by a couple of kids bombing around in an off road vehicle. This trail has a lot going for it, don't let the hooligans tear it apart !
Keep them out !! Close the Gates !!!
The gates on this trail are a disgrace. I thought these trails were made for people to use them, not designed to keep people out. This trail is a joke. At the edges of the gate openings are boulders and the 12 inch path that is the opening around the gates is covered with loose gravel and sand. My wife went down in one of the sand pits and broke her pelvis. Thanks a lot to the morons who designed and maintain this trail.
The Narrow Gauge Trail is just across the street from Bedford, MA Depot Park. On Saturdays, the 6211 Diesel Car is open for visitors and you get a great history of the railroad. (My 9 y/o enjoyed it)
The trail itself is shaded nicely by trees. We rode on a humid day & still found it very tolerable. There are several road crossings, but they are very clearly marked and the roads are not high-traffic streets.
I liked the trail. What's even better is how many other trails are near it, so you can shorten/lengthen your ride as you wish.
I’ve ridden the Minuteman trail, but didn’t know much about either the Bedford Narrow Gauge Trail, or the Reformatory Branch Trail which is close by, so reading the other reviews, I loaded up my cyclocross bike and decided to try both of them out. I parked at Depot Park in Bedford, which is a lovely little park at the site of the station and freight house, both restored from 1877, in the center of Bedford. This is also where the Minuteman Bikeway and the other two trails all come together and are accessible. There is plenty of parking, even for a Sunday, but don’t park in the VFW spaces, which I almost did until I read the clearly displayed signs! I did the Bedford Narrow Gauge Trail first. The trail starts at a gated marked entrance on Loomis St., right across the street from Depot Park. For the first third of a mile it is paved, then becomes gravel. Northbound, it is an uphill railroad grade, and after passing the VA hospital, passes through nice wooded sections, including Murray York, and Fawn Lake Conservation Areas both with marked hiking trails. The trail begins to peter out having become single track, crossing Springs Rd in Bedford (still, I think) and ends at 4 miles in an Industrial Park, marked as private property. At this point, return on the same route and then go into the freight house for a snack and drink and browse the nice stock and display of railroad themed items.
I rode this on a dry day. If there had been recent rain, many areas on this trail would be wet and with occasional soft areas. Fenders are good pretection for this if you have them. Ride a mountain bike or a fat tired cyclocross or hybrid bike, not a road bike – there are no technical sections though, so for families and kids it is quite appropriate. Mind the street crossings.
If you do the Reformatory Branch trail also, in the same day, you will end up with about 17 miles, otherwise about 8. See my comments also about the Reformatory branch trail under that listing
What a great trail!
A little narrow at times but great riding past Sweetwater Drive.
The only thing that is aggravating is the loose dogs that are not in control by their owners.
I did some research and according to the town loose dogs are not allowed on this trail!
Very nice trail continuing off the Bedford end of the Minuteman Bike Trail. Because most of it is gravel and not paved, it is relatively uncrowded and feels more rural. There are a number of side trails for hiking, including Fawn Lake which is pretty. The trail continues unofficially past the north end, along a side street, and then along a rough path that dumps out in an office park. I haven't yet found any really great continuing path past this point, however.
I often ride the Minuteman Bike path and was looking for a way to extend the ride and make it more interesting. I learned of the Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail Trail through TrailLink.com and thought I would give it a try today. I unfortunately was only able to do part of it - not due to time or energy or lack of desire. I ride a recumbent trike and after one street crossing I could not continue on the trail because I couldn't fit through the very narrow (12 inches or so) opening. The gate was understandably closed and the only ways around were just on either side of the gate. There were large boulders just next to the gate, leaving only a few inches to pass around. I couldn't fit, so I had to turn around. Anyone on a 2-wheeler would be fine, but anyone with a stroller or trailer on a 2-wheeler would not fit. The part of the trail that I was able to do was lovely and had very few people on it.
What a great little Gem this trail is. I was in the Boston area for Mothers Day and I did the Minute Man Trail and did this extra little. The first 1/4 of a mile is paved and then there is about a tenth of a mile that has a narrow gauge track with a little hopper car on it, Kid will love this trail. It has a great canopy and has an up hill grade to it coming out or Bedford but it is a nice down hill grade coming back. I would not go out of my way for this trail but if you do the Minute Man Trail put this on your bucket list. I am only giving it three stars because it is so short. The one thing that makes this such a nice ride is there is very little traffic on this trail.
It is Short trail good trail.
Good trail for running and to walk.
For anyone interested in the history of the narrow gauge railroad that first used this rail trail route, the early history is presented in an exhibit in the meeting room of the Middlesex Canal Museum, located in the Faulkner Mill at 71 Faulkner Street, North Billerica MA. (See <middlesexcanal.org>.)
Engines, rolling stock, etc. that began life as the B-B RR, served in Maine as the Sandy River and Rangely Lakes RR; and later as the EDAville RR in South Carver MA. Today, components of the RR are split between Portland MA (see <http://www.mngrr.org/>) and South Carver (see <http://www.trekaroo.com/activities/edaville-railroad-south-carver-massachusetts>).
I commute from Arlington out the Minuteman to the NGRT and then to the Tech park at the end.
About 10 miles each way. The 3 miles or so on the NGRT are the best. I ride a road bike with
700 x 32 tires and have no problem with the surface. I'd like to here more about Billerica's plans
to extend this path torwards Lowell.
Start at the Bedford Station across from the Rail Car. The first section is tar to Rt.63 and well packed gravel most of the rest of the way with well marked road crossings. Just after the Bedford line it gets a little sandy and ends in an industrial park in Billarica. Dont miss a walk around the side trail to Fawn Lake.
"When I got my bike, I thought the Minuteman trail might be nice, but it would be a 5-mile trek through busy streets to get to it, unless I dumped my bike in the car and drove there... which seemed kind of silly to me. After looking online for other trails in the area, I found the Narrow-Gauge/proposed ""Yankee Doodle"" trail goes practically across the street from me! So now I have a quick and easy way to get to the Minuteman (if I want, but like others have said, it's significantly more crowded and less rustic/scenic than the narrow-gauge/Yankee Doodle.)
The very end of the trail in Billerica (the proposed part) is a bit bumpy, but not an issue for my hybrid bike. The rest is hard-packed dirt and ash, and the next-best thing to pavement in that there are very few holes or dips, and it's pretty easy riding. I've gone several times now, when it was dry and after it rained. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of water-issues, as it's so hard-packed, and the trail is wide enough that sunlight can get through and dry it out. Any ""soft"" spots look like they've had gravel dumped on them, because those spots get a little ""soft"" after the rain - but not muddy. (Not like the unpaved continuation of the Minuteman B&M that goes to Concord through swamps and unpassable mud-bogs!)
Since the previous reviews of the narrow-gauge trail (on this site), cross-walks must have been added, because every street I've crossed had signs and pavement markings. And no, I probably wouldn't use a motorized wheel-chair, small-wheeled stroller or rollerblades, although it should be fine for something with bigger tires, and is fine for jogging or walking without worrying about twisting something.
I don't know about the poison ivy, as I haven't ridden it during that season yet, but it's pretty hard to find anywhere around here that doesn't have poison ivy. But the brush/trees/etc. seem to be well off the path, so I can't imagine it being an issue unless you go tromping through the woods off the path.
As for parking, if you go down Sweetwater Road, you will find a parking-area right by Flint's Pond and the trail-crossing. You could probably also park at the Bedford Depot (where you'd park for Minuteman) and just go a block down the paved section and cross Great Rd. - really, it's not THAT far! And (along the paved section) you can learn a little bit of history while you see some actual sections of narrow-gauge 2' track off to the side. This was the first narrow-gauge rail in the U.S., I think I read.
It's a nice and pleasant ride, and I'm keeping an eye to see what my town (Billerica) is doing with the ""Yankee Doodle"" extension to the Narrow-gauge trail. It seems the biggest hang-up right now is an alternate route around the tech-park and route 3. But once it gets routed out, I'll be in the perfect spot to ride to Billerica Center OR Bedford. :-)
From the Route 3/Concord Rd. overpass following the trail all the way to the Bedford Depot, it's about 4.5 miles."
"This trail needs upkeep. It's too uneven, with too many dips for a power wheelchair. I blew tire out on it. There is also poision ivy along path. And there's no access to VA."
"If you were to ask almost anyone in Bedford, MA where the “rail trail” was located, most likely you’d be immediately directed to the Minuteman Bikeway. However, Bedford is home base to two other great rail trails and the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail is one of them.
Lesser known than the extremely popular Minuteman Bikeway, because of its rustic character and shorter length, the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail still nonetheless offers locals and visitors alike a wonderful opportunity to view portions of residential Bedford from a route used by trains many years ago.
Ninety-five percent of the trail is unpaved (hard packed dirt). One the day of my visit I encountered dry surface conditions along the entire trail length. The trail is about 10-12 feet wide and passes through several residential areas. It also skirts a Veterans Administration Hospital complex and several conservation/nature areas. There are quite a few street crossings; only one is marked with any kind of safety signs or crosswalk.
There is no designated trail user parking. The trail is best accessed from Page Field, which is just north of Railroad Avenue near the Minuteman Bikeway trailhead. The Narrow Gauge Rail Trail heads north from this point and ends at Bedford’s border with South Billarica.
If you’re planning to visit the Minuteman Bikeway and will be riding either a hybrid or mountain bike, plan to ride the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail as well and see Bedford from another point of view."
"I took this trail from where the Minuteman Bike Path ends - what a difference! The Minuteman is crowded with rollerbladers, joggers, hardcore road bikers, etc. If you have a hybrid or a mountain bike, take this trail for an easy, *uncrowded* and refreshing ride. It's a fairly wide path, and for the most part you can admire the scenery rather than having to constantly look down for potholes, roots, and rocks.
I did the trail on a weekday evening in the summer, and I saw maybe two families on bikes, a jogger, and that was it. I wished I had had more time to explore the side trails, but it was getting dark unfortunately.
A number of short, unofficial trails branch off of the path, for more difficult trail riding if you want. Fawn Lake is clearly the highlight, though: a short loop trail skirts the edge of this deserted pond, and offers some more technical mountain biking while you listen to bullfrogs. It's great!
Check out the Bedford Depot's home page for a map of it (click on the ""trial site"" link off of the Minuteman Bike Path entry in TrailLink.com)."
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