MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL:
WARE RIVER VALLEY BRANCH
WARE-HARDWICK-NEW BRAINTREE, MASSACHUSETTS
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: October 16, 2022
Length: Ware Southern Section; 1.4 miles
Ware Northern Section; 2.7 miles
Gilbertville Section; 0.4 miles
Hardwick-New Braintree section; 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Ware Southern Section; Easy. Flat, hard packed crushed gravel rail trail.
Ware Northern Section; Easy. Flat, stone-dust rail trail.
Ware-Hardwick Section; Easy. Flat, stone-dust rail trail.
Hardwick-New Braintree section; Easy. Flat, stone-dust rail trail.
Starting from the Walmart/Lowe's parking lot in Ware (Southern Section); From the junction of Routes 32 & 9 in Ware head south on Route 32 for 2.5 miles. Turn left into the shopping plaza, then turn left again. You will come alongside a black fence on your left. When you reach a gate this is where you access the trailhead. Sign board located here. The parking lot is located on your right.
Starting from the Church Street parking lot in Ware (Northern Section); From the junction of Routes 32 & 9 in Ware head north on Route 32 for 3 miles and turn right on Church St. Cross the Ware River and the parking lot will be on your right.
Starting from the Ware/Hardwick Covered Bridge in Gilbertville (Northern Section); From the junction of Routes 32 & 9 in Ware head north on Route 32 for 4.7 miles. Turn left on Bridge St and come to the Ware/Hardwick Covered Bridge. Cross the bridge. Trail starts on your right.
Starting from West Road parking lot in New Braintree; From the junction of Routes 32A &32 in Gilbertville head north on Route 32. Turn right on Hardwick Rd (across from Barre Rd as I saw no street sign) just before the town of Wheelwright. Take your next right on West Rd. The trailhead is on your right. You can park to your left in front of the Historical marker.
The Mass Central Rail Trail is a planned 104 mile trail from Northampton Massachusetts to Boston. It will follow the old Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR that ran between the two cities. The railroad split into two after the1938 hurricane shattered the line. The trail today exists in many unconnected sections and with differing surfaces. Starting from Northampton heading east the sections that are complete include the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck & Williamsburg Branch , Mass Central Rail Trail: Belchertown , Mass Central Rail Trail; Ware-Hardwick- New Braintree , Mass Central Rail Trail; Barre-Clinton , Mass Central Rail Trail; Wayland-Weston & Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge . For more information check out; MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL & EAST COAST GREENWAY .
In Northampton the Mass Central Rail Trail is a "Spoke" for 3 Trails.
In Cambridge at Alewife T- Station, a stop on the commuter rail line into Boston is a Hub for 5 Trails (plus interconnecting Trails).
Heading West the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge (also known as the Fitchburg Cutoff) will eventually extend to Northampton.
Heading East the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge (also known as the Red Line Linear Path which becomes the Somerville Community Path) will eventually bring you to North Point Park in Cambridge (where you may connect to the Boston Harborwalk; Charlestown and Charles River Bikeway ).
Heading Northwest the Minuteman Bikeway brings you to Bedford (where you may connect to the Bedford Narrow Gauge Spur and future Reformatory Branch Rail Trail.
Ware Southern Section:
From the Walmart/Lowe's parking lot; Pass through the black gate and follow the wide, crushed gravel trail up to the old rail bed. Here the Mass Central Rail Trail heads north through the open woods. Cross a bridge over a stream before a cross-walk over Longview/Westbrook Ave at 0.3 miles. Next a cross-walk takes you over Malboeuf Rd at 0.7 miles followed by another bridge over Flat Brook. Another cross-walk over Mountainview Dr at 1.1 miles where the trail returns to hard packed dirt & grass surface. This brings you to a sand pit where you'll pick up the crushed gravel Robbins Rd at 1.4 miles.
Ware Northern Section:
Starting from the Church Street parking lot; The Mass Central Rail Trail crosses Church St here. Map Board.
Heading North; The stone-dust Mass Central Rail Trail travels along a wooded corridor between farm fields before entering the woods. Come alongside the Ware River at 0.5 miles. At 1.3 miles the trail bypasses a wet section of the old rail bed. Spot the old brick mill across the river, past which the trail currently ends after 1.6 miles. As of October 2022, a short 0.1 mile gap remains to the next section, however, you are unable to access it from here. It appears the old rail bed has been eroded by the river.
Heading South; The crushed gravel Mass Central Rail Trail travels through open fields with informational boards along the route. After 0.2 miles you'll pass by a stone-dust Loop Trail on your left which leads to a picnic table overlooking the Ware River. Pass by a large solar farm on your right before entering the woods and a Pine forest. After 1.1 miles you'll come to the Ware River. This is part of Grenville Park, although, you can't access the main park area from here. The old rail bed continues south across the river, however, as of October 2022 a bridge will need to be built.
Starting from the Ware/Hardwick Covered Bridge in Ware; The Ware/Hardwick Covered Bridge was built in 1886 and extensively rebuilt in 1986–1987. It crosses over the Ware River and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a single-span lattice truss and is 137 feet long. The bridge notably survived a major flooding event in the 1930s, when the textile mills in Gilbertville were destroyed. On the eastern side of the bridge spot the cement footings along the south side of Bridge St. I believe this are the remains of an old RR siding that would have connected to the old brick mill next to the river. Looking south it appears the old rail bed has eroded. Not sure how they plan on connecting to the finished Ware Northern Section (See Above) which is only about 0.1 miles south. The stone-dust Mass Central Rail Trail travels north above the Ware River along the old rail bed (formally Spring St). Pass by an old brick mill on your right before emerging onto North St. A small Veterans Memorial is on your right. Cross North St and pass by the old Gilbertville Train Station. This brings you to Main St (Route 32) after 0.4 miles. The old rail bed continues across Main St and is known as the Gilbertville Fitness Trail. This section is slated for construction in 2022/23 and will take you along the river then back out to Lower Rd (Route 32).
Note; Also, across Main St, to your right is New Furnace Landing. Here you'll find a canoe launch and a gazebo overlooking the Ware River. Also, what I believe is an old Power Canal remnant, is located here. Probably powered one of the old brick mills. The informational sign was missing.
Hardwick-New Braintree Section:
Starting from the West Road parking area in New Braintree; The site of the old New Braintree Train Station was just across West Rd. A large stone historical marker has been erected next to the road along with a Map Board. Informational signs along the trail.
Heading Northwest; Cross Hardwick Rd. The stone-dust Mass Central Rail Trail follows a berm past a marsh and enters the woods. Pass by an old white RR Whistle Marker on your left. Cross an old RR trestle bridge over the Ware River at 0.4 miles. Picnic table located here. Pass by the River Loop Trail entrance on your right at 0.7 miles.
Note; The River Loop Trail is mostly a hiking trail. However, you can get to the Ware River where you'll find a picnic table via a wide hard packed dirt and grass trail. Enter the woods and come to a dirt/grass road. Turn left, then immediately right and follow the trail to the river overlook after 0.1 miles.
The trail currently ends at Maple St after 0.9 miles. Old RR tracks still embedded in the road.
Heading Southeast; Cross West Rd. The Mass Central Rail Trail starts out with a stone-dust surface as you travel through a Pine tree forest. After traveling along a short berm you cross the Ware River via an old RR Trestle bridge at 0.7 miles and enter Hardwick. Picnic table located here. The trail surface turns to hard packed dirt & cinder. You cross over a second bridge and travel within view of an active RR line to your right. After crossing over a third bridge at 1.3 miles you'll pass by an old RR rail holder and RR Mileage marker reading N36/B68 (Northampton 36 miles/Boston 68 miles) as you enter a cut. The trail then ends after 1.8 miles at Creamery Rd in Hardwick.
CLICK HERE FOR EAST QUABBIN LAND TRUST MAP
CLICK HERE FOR MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL MAP
CLICK HERE FOR OLD MASS CENTRAL RR MAP
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