Friday, October 14, 2011

The Waltham Rail Trail

The Waltham Rail "Trail" as seen from the Goodyear Blimp
Sometimes there's a pot of gold and a plucky leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.  And sometimes there's just a smelly hobo lying in an explosion of empty liquor bottles......kinda like the time I went to find the Waltham Rail Trail.

I set out this weekend to see if I could connect the Western Greenway with trails heading west.  Specifically, I was interested in finding the elusive "Weston singletrack".  I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend (i.e the internet) that they could be accessed from Waltham.

Getting Things Done.
Or Not.
I started combing the internet for tidbits on where to find this gateway and learned about the Mass Central Rail Trail.

While portions of the trail have been completed in Western and Central Mass, it wasn't clear whether the Waltham section was passable.

The most recent article I uncovered indicated that a team of Americorps volunteers were slated to work on the trails in May of 2009.   As an Americorps alum, I was proud my alma mater had a hand in improving trail biking in the area.  So I set out to find out what had been done.

A now familiar trip on the Greenway dropped me on Beaver Street near the rotary, where the map indicated that only a short on-street section was needed before arriving at the rail trail.  After a little searching I found the rail trail.

Unfortunately it was still mostly rail, with very little trail.  In fact at this point in the article I'm going to stop calling it a trail.  The rail "corridor" appears to have been recently cleared of brush, but there are still steel rails and railroad ties which make biking pretty much impossible.

One view of the section crossing Beaver Street and I decided to follow the streets along side the corridor to see if other sections had been completed.  At Lexington Street the rail line crosses near the Waltham Police station.  At that point, I decided there was a clear enough path and set out on the corridor to the west.  Although very rough, and requiring some "hike a bike"  I covered a section a couple hundred yards long.  During this section I unceremoniously roused someone sleeping in the brush, and we exchanged "What the hell are you doing here?" looks as I rumbled past.  Finally at the next road crossing the corridor again became impassible and I decided to again set out along the side streets still heading west.  After a decent climb, I found myself at the gate to Prospect Hill Park in Waltham.

I had heard of this park before, and its steep trails so I decided to see what it was all about.  Although I found very little in the way of cross country singletrack, there is more than your daily allowance of hill climbs in this little gem.  A great place to find your lungs, there are also some excellent paths to get some work in on your downhill biking.  I did a lot of hike-a-bike on the steepest trails, but found some fun exposed bedrock on the upper ridge.

So maybe my quest to find the Waltham-Weston link went unfulfilled, but I found an excellent place if I'm looking to punish myself on an afternoon ride.

And while the Waltham Rail Trail is passable in places, it is still far from being finished.  You're welcome to check it out for yourself.  Just make sure you let the locals know so they can tidy up the place for your visit.


  1. Nice write up and good job avoiding getting into a verbal exchange with the locals out in the forest! It doesn't sound like the most pleasant of bike rides so I'm glad you did it and not me.

  2. Hanging out on a brush and garbage covered railroad bed in Waltham is rock bottom: both in terms of drinking and mountain biking. Let me be an example to others.

  3. I know this is an old post, but if you head to these coordinates: 42°22'30.06"N 71°16'20.29"W, there is the old railway. If you follow the path west behind the corporate building there is a nice section that takes you all the way to Wayland. There are some nice side trails too. There's still rails but it's extremely doable. I prefer Cutler park for the nice banking through the woods.

    1. I've ridden those trails in Weston as well: