LOWELL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK; CANALWALK:

MERRIMACK RIVER TRAIL; LOWELL SECTIONS:

LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:      June 17, 2017

Length:                Lowell NHP; Canalwalk Loop [Includes; Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk & South Shore]; 7.3 mile Loop

                              Lowell NHP; Canalwalk Inner Loop; 1.6 mile Loop

                              Northern Canal Walkway; 1.7 miles

                              Merrimack River Trail: Vandenberg Esplanade; 1 mile

                              Merrimack River Trail: Northeast Shore; 1.7 miles

Difficulty:            Easy. Mostly flat, paved, stone, brick & boardwalk trails.

Directions:

From I-495 take exit 35C to the Lowell Connector. Take exit 5B to Thorndike St and continue along Dutton St. Turn right into the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot across from Broadway St.

Lowell National Historical Park encompasses the historical buildings, canals and history of Lowell during the rise of the Industrial Revolution. A great way to take in all this history is via the Canalwalk, a path that traverses Lowell alongside its many intersecting canals. I utilize this route along with several alternative trails to encompass more of the city and canals. I've included connections to the Lowell Riverwalk (also known as the Yankee Division Walkway), the Northern Canal Walkway and sections of the regional Merrimack River Trail (which also includes the Riverwalk). I've created a Loop route which includes all these trails with options to divert to two more sections of the Merrimack River Trail along the opposite side of the river and the Northern Canal Walkway. Starting from the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot you'll have the opportunity to bike them all. For more information check out; LOWELL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK .

LOWELL NHP; CANALWALK:

Starting from the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot; The Lowell NHP Canalwalk crosses the entrance to the parking lot. 

Note; The Visitor Center may be accessed from the northern end of the parking lot. Restrooms are available along with maps. Blue Canalwalk signs are located along the trail to help guide you through the city. 

Start your tour by traveling left (South) along the paved path from the Broadway St entrance off Dutton St. The trail travels alongside the Merrimack Canal bringing you to Point Park and an overlook of the Swamp Locks, where the Merrimac & Pawtucket Canals meet. Informational signboards are located all along the route. Take a right along an old RR bridge across the canal and travel next to the Trolley tracks. 

Note; A Trolley Tour through the Park is available. See; TOURS

The Trail then crosses another old RR bridge where the Pawtucket, Western, Merrimack & Hamilton Canals all meet before turning east alongside the Hamilton Canal. Come to Canal St at 0.3 miles. Head left across the canal where a short loop trail (packed gravel) left takes you back along the canal to the opposite side of the Swamp Locks. Head right along Canal St and back across the canal. Head left alongside Jackson St past the converted Appleton & Hamilton Mills. The trail briefly follows a sidewalk out to Central St at 0.9 miles. Cross over Central St and head left on-road (side-walk available) until you reach the Pawtucket Canal. Turn right to rejoin the trail as it travels east down a ramp and alongside the Lower Locks. Next you come to a promenade overlooking the Concord River. Head left across a covered bridge to another promenade next to Middlesex Community College. A map board is located here. Across the river is the Concord River Greenway. Continue straight between the college and river out to E Merrimack St.

Note; To access the Concord River Greenway head right alongside E Merrimack St and cross the river. Turn right down Davidson St, then right to the trailhead.

Head left along E Merrimack St and you'll come to the Eastern Canal

Note; Left returns you to the Lower Locks.

Head right along the brick pathway to an old RR bridge across the canal. Head right between the canal on your right and the Jack Kerouac Commemorative Park to your left. Across the canal are the Massachusetts Mills. The canal & trail turns left bringing you to Bridge St. Caution; No Cross-walk. Here you'll need to detour left through the park, then right to a cross-walk over Bridge St. Continue alongside the Eastern Canal and Trolley tracks. After 1.3 miles you'll come to the entrance for the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Across the street is Boarding House Park.

Note; The Canalwalk continues straight alongside the Eastern Canal. See; Canalwalk; Inner Loop below.

Head right along the cobblestone entrance through the Boott Cotton Mills courtyard. Continue straight across the RR tracks then through an open arch out to the Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk at 1.5 miles. Travel west between the mill and the river, crossing over the Eastern Canal Wasteway (where the canal empties into the Merrimack River) and passing by a promenade overlooking the river before coming to an intersection at 1.9 miles. 

Note; Left takes you up along the Western Canal Wasteway, where the canal empties into the Merrimack River. Here you'll find a park with picnic tables behind the Tsongas Center & Arena

You pass by the site of the old Merrimack Mill where you'll find three wooden covered water tunnels? Cross over the Western Canal Wasteway before passing by a grassy expanse between the Lawrence Mills. The trail then passes by a large brick smokestack before heading between the river and mill and traveling underneath the iron Ouelette Bridge. This brings you to an intersection at 2.2 miles.

Note; You may access the Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore by turning left up to Aiken St. Turn left again and follow the pedestrian path across the Ouelette Bridge to the VFW Highway. Turn right and cross Aiken St to reach an access path down to the trail after 0.3 miles. See; Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore below

Continuing right the trail travels around the backside of LeLacheur Stadium and past UMass Lowell; North Campus. This brings you up to a 09-11 Memorial overlooking the discharge canal for a hydroelectric plant and Pawtucket Falls. The trail heads out to Pawtucket St where you'll find a brick cross-walk. 

Note; To access the Northern Canal and Northern Canal Walkway (Bikes not allowed; See Below) use the crosswalk and head right to a paved path on your left which leads down to the Northern Canal at 2.5 miles. If you continue following my route we will loop back to this canal.

Head right on-road (sidewalk available) up Pawtucket St to a bridge across the Northern Canal. Continue along Pawtucket St (narrow shoulder/sidewalk available) to School St. Turn right along School St and you'll come to the Northern Canal at 3 miles. On your right is where the Northern Canal Walkway (Bikes not allowed; See Below) emerges. A cross-light here takes you over School St to the Northern Canal Gatehouse

Note; A white gate leads down to an overlook of the Pawtucket Dam & Falls, as well as, a walkway around a lock and the gatehouse. To your left is the 1847 Gatekeepers House

Note; You may access the Merrimack River Trail: Vandenberg Esplanade along the north side of the river by following the pedestrian path across the river to Route 113. Turn left and follow the narrow sidewalk along Route 113 south and you'll come to the Vandenberg Esplanade after 0.7 miles. See; Merrimack River Trail: Vandenberg Esplanade below.

From the Northern Canal Gatehouse; Travel left (southeast) along the pedestrian path back to Pawtucket St. Turn right along the paved path & sidewalk and travel down Pawtucket St crossing the mouth of the Pawtucket Canal at 3.3 miles. Across the street is Francis Gate Park

Note; We will loop back to this spot from the Francis Gate Park

Just past a small marina will be two granite posts and the paved Merrimack River Trail; South Shore at 3.3 miles. Picnic tables located here. The trail travels alongside the river passing by the Pawtucket Street parking lot. The trail then briefly utilizes the sidewalk along Pawtucket St before returning along the rivers edge. You reach the current end of the trail after 3.9 miles. Follow the paved trail as it loops back along the road. Take your second right out to Pawtucket St to a cross-light over Pawtucket St. Travel on-road up Broadway St (Bike Lane) passing by the UMass South Campus. Cross Wilder St (Bike Sharrows). When you reach the Pawtucket Canal at 4.5 miles don't cross it. Instead turn left along a stone-dust path and travel through Francis Gate Park. This brings you to the 1852 Lock & Guardhouse. Very scenic. Porto-Potty located here. After checking out the lock continue through the well shaded park along the paved trail and canal. Exit the park at Pawtucket St at 4.8 miles and head right on-road (narrow paved path available) back along Pawtucket St. When you cross University Ave/Merrimack St you pick up a Bike Lane, however, you'll need to cross over Pawtucket St here and continue right to cross over the Pawtucket Street Bridge.

Note; If you wish to bypass the Canalwalk along the Northern Canal you may elect to follow the Father Morissette Blvd Bike Lane which travels along the southern side of the Northern Canal to the Western Canal.

After crossing over the Pawtucket Street Bridge you'll need to cross back over the road and follow the paved path down to the Northern Canal at 5.5 miles. 

Heading east (left) along the Northern Canal the paved Canalwalk passes by the large brick Wannalancit Mill (formerly the Suffolk Mills) which also house the Suffolk Mill Turbine Exhibit. Next comes the Tremont Gatehouse & Powerhouse at 5.8 miles. This is where the Northern Canal enters the Western Canal. Cross over the canal and you'll come to the Suffolk Mill Trolley Stop. Turn left and follow the narrow paved path north along the Western Canal Wasteway to Hall St. You'll need to turn left and cross the canal to pick up the trail as it continues north alongside the canal to Perkins St. Again, turn right and cross back over the canal along a pedestrian bridge. This will bring you to the side of the Tsongas Center/Arena (west entrance).

Note; Left takes you down to a park overlooking the Merrimack River and access to the Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk.

Turn right following the paved path out to Hall St and cross. Turn left then right along the paved path that travels along a parking lot. This will return you to Father Morrisette Blvd. You'll need to head right to return to the Western Canal, however, there is no cross-light available so you'll need to utilize the cross-light here, then travel right (west) via a sidewalk back to the Western Canal after 6.4 miles. Head left along the eastern side the Western Canal via a paved/brick pathway. When you come to Merrimack St switch to the western side of the canal. Cross Market St and continue along Suffolk St which takes you past the brick lined Ecumenical Plaza. Cross Jefferson St where a ramp leads down to a path alongside the canal (If biking continue straight along the sidewalk as the lower path ends at a stairway). Cross Broadway St where the paved trail is now separated from Suffolk St. Come to Dutton St at 7.1 miles. This is where the Western Canal joins the Pawtucket, Merrimack & Hamilton Canals. You'll need to head left along a sidewalk as their is no cross-walk here. When you reach Broadway St turn right across Dutton St returning to the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot after a 7.3 mile loop.

LOWELL NHP; CANALWALK; INNER LOOP:

Starting from the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot; The Lowell NHP Canalwalk crosses the entrance to the parking lot. 

Note; The Visitor Center may be accessed from the northern end of the parking lot. Restrooms are available along with maps. Blue Canalwalk signs are located along the trail to help guide you through the city. 

Start your tour by traveling right (North) along the paved path from the Broadway St entrance off Dutton St. The trail travels alongside the Merrimack Canal bringing you to Market St. Head right to a cross-walk that brings you through a small park. Head back out to the canal past the National Streetcar Museum. Cross the canal, which is now covered over by brick and head right past the old B&M Switcher Locomotive out to Merrimack St. Cross Merrimack St to the 1848 Moody Street Feeder Gatehouse, then cross back over the canal. This brings you to a wide trail alongside the canal through Lucy Larcom Park. Pass by Lowell High School out to and across Father Morissette Blvd. The canal turns right, then left where it enters the Merrimack Waste Weir out to the Merrimack River. Cross over the Trolley tracks continuing east alongside the Eastern Canal. Pass by the Working People Exhibit and Boarding House Park on your right before coming to the entrance for the Boott Cotton Mills Museum after 0.5 miles.

Note; Left takes you through the Mills to the Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk.

Continue out to Bridge St, then head right to pick up a cross-walk that will take you over to Kerouac Park. Head through the park where you’ll pick up the trail along the Eastern Canal again. Head left, then left again across an old RR bridge across the canal. Cross Merrimack St continuing straight along the brick lined trail past Middlesex Community College. This brings you to a small park overlooking the Lower Locks after 0.8 miles.  Head right over the canal via a bridge.

Note; If walking you may head left out to Central St (stairs). Cross Central St and continue alongside the Pawtucket Canal (stairs). The trail then turns right through the Merrimack-Middle Street Historic District out to Market St. Head left and you'll come to the Lowell NHP Visitor Center on your left. You can then pass through the Visitor Center to return to the parking lot for a 1.2 mile Loop.

If biking you'll need to continue straight through a brick arch out to Prescott St. Follow the sidewalk left out to Central St. Head left along Central St to Jackson St. Head right along a sidewalk until you pass by the converted Appleton & Hamilton Mills where you'll pick up the Canalwalk trail along the Hamilton Canal. Head right on Canal St where a short loop trail (packed gravel) left takes you to an overlook where the Pawtucket, Western, Merrimack & Hamilton Canals all meet. Continue right to the Swamp Locks, then left across the Pawtucket Canal to Point Park. Finally head right alongside the Merrimack Canal returning to the entrance for the Lowell NHP Visitor Center parking lot after a 1.6 mile Loop.

NORTHERN CANAL WALKWAY:

Finished in 1847, the Northern Canal runs along the Merrimack River separated by a 36 foot high granite wall later named the "Great River Wall." The Northern Canal Walkway (which includes the Great River Wall) provides breathtaking views of the Merrimack River, the canal and the surrounding areas. However, access to the Northern Canal Walkway is only available when the flow rate in the Merrimack River is under 3500 cubic feet per second.

Note; The causeway section of the Northern Canal is open from May 15-October 15. Bikes not allowed.

Starting from the Northern Canal just below Pawtucket Street; Pass through the gate where a boardwalk takes you underneath the Pawtucket St Bridge. Cross over the Power Canal that feeds the Hydroelectric Plant to your right. 

Next travel along a causeway that runs between the canal and the Merrimack River. Note how dry the riverbed is here as most of the water is diverted for the canals upstream. Shocks would be nice for this next short section (less then 0.1 miles) where the trail surface consists of granite blocks before returning to cement. Another short granite block section jars your senses before you enter a narrow island trail at 0.3 miles that consists of stone-dust. This brings you to a ramp that leads up to Mammoth Rd/School St bridge. A cross-light to your left will take you across the road to the Northern Canal Gatehouse after 1.7 miles. A white gate leads down to an overlook of the Pawtucket Dam & Falls, as well as, a walkway around a lock and the gatehouse. To your left is the 1847 Gatekeepers House

Note; You may access the Merrimack River Trail: Vandenberg Esplanade along the north side of the river by following the pedestrian path across the river to Route 113. Turn left and follow the narrow sidewalk along Route 113 south and you'll come to the Vandenberg Esplanade after 0.7 miles. See; Merrimack River Trail: Vandenberg Esplanade below.

Note; To continue along the Lowell NHP Canalwalk, See Above.

MERRIMACK RIVER TRAIL; LOWELL RIVERWALK:

Starting from the Boott Cotton Mills Museum; Cross over the Eastern Canal to the mill's courtyard and continue straight across the RR tracks through the open arch to a ramp that brings you down to the paved trail along the Merrimack River. Travel west between the mill and the river, crossing over the Eastern Canal Wasteway (where the canal empties into the Merrimack River) and passing by a promenade overlooking the river before coming to an intersection. 

Note; Left takes you up along the Western Canal Wasteway, where the canal empties into the Merrimack River. Here you'll find a park with picnic tables behind the Tsongas Center & Arena

You pass by the site of the old Merrimack Mill where you'll find three wooden covered water tunnels? Cross over the Western Canal Wasteway at 0.5 miles before passing by a grassy expanse between the Lawrence Mills. The trail then passes by a large brick smokestack before heading between the river and mill and traveling underneath the iron Ouelette Bridge. This brings you to an intersection at 0.8 miles.

Note; You may access the Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore by turning left up to Aiken St. Turn left again and follow the pedestrian path across the Ouelette Bridge to the VFW Highway. Turn right and cross Aiken St to reach an access path down to the trail after 0.3 miles. See; Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore below

Continuing right the trail travels around the backside of LeLacheur Stadium and past UMass Lowell; North Campus. This brings you up to a 09-11 Memorial overlooking the discharge canal for a hydroelectric plant and Pawtucket Falls. The trail heads out to Pawtucket St where you'll find a brick cross-walk at 1.1 miles.

Note; To access the Northern Canal and Northern Canal Walkway (Bikes not allowed; See Below) use the crosswalk and head right to a paved path on your left which leads down to the Northern Canal at 1.2 miles. If you continue following my route we will loop back to this canal.

MERRIMACK RIVER TRAIL; NORTHEAST SHORE:

Starting from the Ouelette Bridge; Currently there are no dedicated parking areas to access this trail from the north side of the river, so you can either park on the south side of the river and cross over the Ouelette Bridge or access this trail from the Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk (south side of river) and also cross the river to access this trail. See; Merrimack River Trail; Lowell Riverwalk above

Heading right (Northwest); The paved Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore travels alongside the river with unobstructed views. If you look past the bend in the river you'll see the Power Canal flowing from the Hydroelectric Plant and Pawtucket Falls to the right of that. The trail ends after 0.3 miles just before a river crossing.

Heading left (Southeast); The open paved Merrimack River Trail; Northeast Shore travels alongside the river with mostly unobstructed views. Good views of the Lawrence Mills, Tsongas Arena and Boott Cotton Mills across the river where the  Lowell Riverwalk runs. Travel underneath the Bridge Street bridge where you'll find an access path up to the bridge. Travel underneath the Hunts Falls Bridge (Route 38) where the trail is more isolated. The trail then veers left up to the VFW Highway (Route 110) where it currently ends after 0.7 miles.

MERRIMACK RIVER TRAIL; VANDENBERG ESPLANADE:

Starting from the Northern Entrance along Route 113; The paved trail begins off the Route 113 sidewalk next to a parking lot reserved for Park employees.  

Note; Heading north along the Route 113 sidewalk will bring you to the Mammoth Rd/School St bridge, which you use to access the Lowell NHP Canalwalk. See above.

Follow the paved trail left to where it travels south (right) alongside the Merrimack River. You'll pass by an open-air stage followed by a boat launch before passing by the Northern Route 113 parking lot. Continue alongside the river and you'll pass by the Lowell UMass Boathouse after 0.7 miles. Pass by the Southern Route 113 parking lot, travel underneath the Rourke Bridge and back out to Route 113 after 1.4 miles. The trail currently ends here.

HH

CLICK HERE FOR LOWELL NHP CANALWALK MAP

CLICK HERE FOR LOWELL NHP CANALWALK MAP

CLICK HERE FOR ROUTE MAP

CLICK HERE FOR MERRIMACK RIVER TRAIL MAP

 

BEFORE YOU SET OUT BE SURE TO READ THE

WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER

 

BIKE IT OR HIKE IT

HOME PAGE