Last Updated:     April 23, 2016

Length:               Charles River Bikeway Loop; 18.2  miles Loop

                             Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop; 13.9 mile Loop                              

                              Many various starting points and parking lots along the trail including Soldiers Field Road.

Difficulty:           Charles River Bikeway Loop; Easy. Flat, paved trail/sidewalk.

                              Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop; Easy. Flat, paved trail/sidewalk/stone-dust. Some on-road detours.


To start from the Museum of Science or North Point Park in Boston (Eastern End): Take exit 18 off of I-93 (stay left) to Route 28 north. After you exit the tunnel stay to the left under green bridge, then turn right at the traffic light on Route 28 north (Monsignor O'Brien Highway) which takes you over the Charles River Dam Road Bridge. You may park in the museum's parking garage or at North Point Park. Directly across from the parking garage is Museum Way. Head right along Museum Way, turn right on Education St which turns into Industrial Park Rd. North Point Park is along your right. Limited parking available. There is also a parking lot located left at the end of North Point Blvd. Only $6 all day parking.

To start from Watertown (Charles River/Upper Charles River connection): Take exit 127 off of I-90. Head north on Centre St which then turns into Galen St and cross over the Charles River on the Galen St (Route 16) Bridge into Watertown Square. Turn left down Main St and then left down Cross St. Turn right onto Pleasant St and look sharply to your left for the Charles River Reservation sign and parking lot.

To start from Waltham (Upper Charles River); Take exit 127 off of I-90. Head north on Centre St which then turns into Galen St and cross over the Charles River on the Route 16 bridge into Watertown Square. Turn left down Main St and then left down Cross St. Turn right onto Pleasant St and follow it as it turns into River St. Keep an eye out to your left for the Shaws Supermarket plaza. Go around the right side of Shaws to the far corner where a pedestrian bridge takes you over the river to the trail.

To start from Newton (Western End); From Route 30 (Commonwealth Ave) on the west side of I-95, head north on River Rd. Take your first right onto Norumbega Rd and travel underneath the highway. Take a right and this will bring you to a parking lot next to the Charles River. This is the northern terminus of the Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop.

The CHARLES RIVER RESERVATION is a linear park stretching from Boston Harbor up the river for 20 miles. The lower half of the reservation, from downtown Boston to the Watertown Dam, is the Charles River Basin, which includes the Esplanade on the Boston side. The Upper Charles River section of the Reservation begins at Watertown Square and meanders to Riverdale Park in West Roxbury.

The Charles River Bikeway is part of the EAST COAST GREENWAY , a planned biking & hiking route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. When complete it will traverse 15 states with a mostly off-road path.

The Charles River Bikeway, also known as the Paul Dudley White Bike Path, extends from North Point Park in Cambridge and Nashua Street Park in Boston, along both sides of the river up to Watertown Square. From Watertown Square up to Newton the trail continues as the Upper Charles River Bikeway. However, only portions of the trail run on both sides of the river, thus, there are some on-road detours required to make a complete loop. Some portions of these bikeways are not separated from the roadways and classified as sidewalk, but for the most part, the paths are wide, smooth and traffic free. You can ride along either side of the river (Boston-southern side/Waterford & Cambridge-northern side) from Watertown to Boston, with numerous bridge crossings along the route. There are also numerous pedestrian bridges (bike friendly) that let you cross over Storrow Drive into Boston, with one that brings you right to the Boston Common Gardens. I mention the numerous bridges that cross the Charles River, to help you orientate yourself as you travel the trail. I also note the numerous other bike paths you can access from this trail. 

Other completed paths along the Upper Charles River Reservation include the Charles River Path in Wellesley & Newton: See; Wellesley Trails , along with a short section in Needham: See; Cutler Park Reservation . This section is also part of the BLUE HERON TRAIL .

Charles River Bikeway Loop:

Starting from the Charles River Dam Road Bridge (Route 28) in front of the Museum of Science parking garage; You may travel either East (Boston Side) or West (Cambridge Side) along Route 28 to reach the Charles River Bikeway as it travels south along both sides of the river. 

Note; The Charles River Bikeway also extends North along the Charles River to connect into the Boston Harborwalk; Charlestown section at Paul Revere Park. This is where the Charles River enters the Inner Boston Harbor at the Charles River Dam & Locks. Directly across from the parking garage is Museum Way. Use the cross-light to reach a bike-lane along Museum Lane. You'll pick up a paved stripped bike trail on your right at Education Lane which brings you alongside North Point Park, a very scenic park overlooking the Charles River and downtown Boston with winding paths. The paved bike trail travels alongside Education St to a cull-de-sac at the end of N Point Blvd.

Note; From the cull-de-sac at the end of North Point Blvd you can also follow the Mass Central Rail Trail northwest along North Point Blvd via a BIKE LANE and across Education St where you'll pick up a paved trail. Soon a paved walking path (no bikes allowed) splits right and the bike trail heads left along N Point Blvd. This is all part of Cambridge Crossing. You come to East St after 0.3 miles where the trail currently ends. Future plans call for the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge to continue along the MBTA's Green Line Extension, currently under construction as of  2021, where it will connect to the Somerville Community Path at Lowell St. For more information check out; CAMBRIDGE CROSSING .

Continue past the playground and splash park and you'll come to an intersection after 0.4 miles.

Note; A paved path to your left brings you out and across Education St. 

Continue straight to a long arching bridge. Down below to your right is a short bridge in North Point Park which ends just before the RR tracks. This is where the BOSTON DUCK TOURS amphibious landing vehicles enter and exit the Charles River. Future plans call for connecting that bridge to a walkway alongside the Draw Bridge and across the river to Nashua Street Park, but as of 2021, no construction has occurred. Continue along the arched North Bank Bridge which travels over the RR tracks and underneath the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge to Paul Revere Park and the Boston Harborwalk; Charlestown after 0.5 miles. To your right is a promenade overlooking the Charles River. See; Boston Harborwalk; Charlestown .  

Note; A paved path to your left with whimsical colored street lamps takes you 0.2 miles up to Route 99.

From the Museum of Science parking garage heading East; Head East along the Charles River Dam Bridge following the BIKE LANE past the MUSEUM OF SCIENCE on your right and the Trolley Bridge to your left (carries the “Green Line” of the Boston Subway system, which does not allow bikes on this line). Cross over the Drawbridge to Boston and come to the intersection of Nashua St on your left and Storrow Drive on your right.

Note; The Charles River Bikeway also extends North from here along the Charles River. Turn left and cross over to the paved trail alongside Nashua St. The trail splits as it passes through Nashua Street Park. Paved along the road and hard packed gravel along the river. Across the river you can see North Point Park. The two trails then merge onto a boardwalk terrace overlooking the river, head past Therapy Dock and bring you to a cement catwalk that runs alongside the railroad tracks and out to the Drawbridge. Only a ¼ mile. Future plans call for connecting to a walkway alongside the Draw Bridge and across the river to North Point Park, but as of 2021, no construction has occurred.

Continuing from the intersection of Nashua St and Storrow Drive, turn right, past the Police Station and travel Southwest. After passing by some tennis courts and a playground you’ll come to a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Storrow Drive to the west end of Boston. Straight follows alongside Storrow Drive, however, for a more scenic route turn right and this will take you alongside the Southern Side of the Charles River. This section of the trail is mostly tree-lined and contains numerous small parks, playgrounds, informational sign boards and maps. You travel beneath the Longfellow Bridge (Cambridge St) after 0.7 miles and pass by a pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive to Charles St. After passing the Community Boathouse and UC Boathouse, you enter the area known as the Esplanade at 1 mile. This includes the Hatch Shell (musical performances), a sailing center, restrooms and snack bars. On your right is the first of five bridges that cross over a small lagoon to a long causeway that runs along the river and to your left is the Arthur Fieldler pedestrian bridge that takes you over Storrow Drive to Beacon St and the Boston Common Gardens. You’ll pass by two more pedestrian bridges over Storrow Drive before you come to the Harvard Bridge (Mass Ave) at 2.1 miles.

Note; There is a pedestrian ramp that will take you up on the bridge where you may either cross over the Charles River or cross over Storrow Drive to access the Emerald Necklace Greenway . Starting from the Charles River, the Emerald Necklace is a series of interconnecting parks and parkways created by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1891 that pass from Boston through Brookline to Jamaica Plain. The Greenway is comprised of the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, and their connecting parkways (Fenway, Riverway, Jamaicaway and Arborway. You may also access the Southwest Corridor Greenway . Future plans call for creating a connecting trail through Charlesgate Park directly to the Emerald Necklace Greenway, but as of 2021 it is still in the planning stage. See; CHARLESGATE ALLIANCE .

Continuing along the trail, you pass by a couple more pedestrian bridges and the BU Sailing Pavilion before you encounter the BU Bridge at 3 ¼ miles. A boardwalk takes you around the bridge's abutment, as well as under a railroad trestle. The trail now travels between the river and alongside Soldiers Field Rd and is neither scenic nor shaded. You pass by the River Street Bridge at 4 ¼ miles (caution; crosswalk only) and then another ¼ miles brings you to the Western Ave Bridge. The trail improves a bit, but this side of the river is a lot noisier with car traffic. The John Weeks pedestrian bridge at 4 ¾ miles takes you both over the river to Harvard University and over Soldiers Field Road to more of Harvard University. Next comes the Larz Anderson Bridge and then the Eliot Bridge at 5.7 miles. Note; when you approach this bridge, you must turn right, down a paved trail to pass underneath the bridge. Straight takes you over the bridge to the other side of the river. Soldiers Field, which contains all the athletic fields and stadiums for Harvard University, is across the road on your left. You come to the first of several parking lots at 5.9 miles that are located off of Soldiers Field Road and part of the Charles River Reservation. There are numerous trails through this park, but I kept to the right alongside the river. This takes you over a boardwalk next to the river and past a community garden, playground and splash pool. The trails merge as you pass by Northeastern's Boathouse, wind through some fields and finally come to the Western Ave/Arsenal Street Bridge at 7 miles. Another mile brings you to the North Beacon Street Bridge where the trail is constricted between the river and Nonantum Rd. After passing a community boathouse, the Daly Skating Rink and the Newton Yacht Club the river starts to narrow until you reach the Galen Street Bridge (Route 16) in Watertown at 9.6 miles.

This is the halfway point of the Charles River Bikeway Loop Trail:

If you wish to continue up the Charles River to Newton See; Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop Below for directions.

Cross the Galen Street Bridge (Route 16) to Watertown Square and bear right to a promenade that overlooks the river and a wooden platform along the river. 

Note; You can access the Watertown Branch Rail Trail from here via a short on-road detour. Use the cross-light over Charles River Rd to N Beacon St and head right along the BIKE LANE. The road splits, stay straight to a cross-light, then head left over to Arsenal St and continue right on-road until you pick up the paved Watertown Branch Rail Trail after 0.3 miles across the road at Irving St.

The Charles River Bikeway travels East along the Northern Side of the Charles River. The paved trail follows alongside Charles River Rd, while a small pedestrian only trail follows alongside the river. The two trails combine occasionally along the way. Be sure to check out Watertown Riverfront Park along this section as it contains a Sensory Trail, river overlooks, playground and sports courts. You'll pass by the Watertown Yacht Club, where the trail turns right down North Beacon St. When you reach the North Beacon Street Bridge after 11.1 miles, use the crosswalk and the trail now follows alongside Greenough Blvd. There is a small parking lot located here. After 12 miles you pass by the Arsenal Street/Western Ave Bridge and another 0.5 miles affords you a nice view of the river as the bike path separates from the roadside. You travel underneath the Eliot Bridge in Cambridge at 13.6 miles and pass by one of the numerous boat houses you will encounter along the trail. At this point the trail parallels Memorial Drive and can be a bit rough in spots from tree roots.

Note; This next 2.5 mile section to the BU Bridge is set to be upgraded. Design in 2021.

Note; If you ride this trail in the summer, a portion of Memorial Drive is closed to traffic and open to bikes and pedestrians. DCR closes Memorial Drive in Cambridge between Western Ave and Mount Auburn St.  The closure is in effect from 11:00am to 7:00pm starting the last Sunday of April until the 2nd Sunday of November.

Memorial Drive is lined on both sides with Plane trees and passes by the brick buildings of Harvard University, as well as the 1906 Harvard Boat House. On your left will be JFK Park just before the Lars Anderson Bridge at 14.2 miles and soon you’ll past the John Weeks Bridge, a pedestrian/bike only bridge across the Charles River. When you reach the Western Ave Bridge at 14.8 miles the road closure ends. Pass by the Cambridge Street/River Street Bridge before passing by Magazine Beach and coming to the BU Bridge at 15.7 miles. Just past the BU Boathouse will be one of the best skyline views of Boston and Beacon Hill. Wide paved trail along this section. You next encounter the Harvard Bridge (Mass Ave) at 16.8 miles.

Note; If you'd like to take a tour of MIT and then loop back to the Harvard Bridge turn left and follow the bike lane along Mass Ave. Turn left down Amherst St then right up a ramp to the Kresge Oval. Here you can check out the Kresge Auditorium and Chapel. Straight ahead is the Stratton Student Center where you can get a bite to eat and freshen up. Head right (east) back out to Mass Ave and turn left. When you reach Vassar St turn right and follow the bike lane (I wish all bike lanes were this nice) to the wildly designed Stata Center on your right. Continue along Vassar St to Main St and turn right, then right again down Ames St. Follow out to Memorial Drive and head right. Soon you'll pass the beautiful granite buildings surrounding the Killian-Lowell & Du Pont Courts. Be sure to explore the courts and the domed Maclaurin building. Continue up Memorial Drive and rejoin the trail at the Harvard Bridge.

Continuing along the trail you come to the Longfellow Bridge (Cambridge St) where the trail follows Memorial Drive out over the river and then underneath the bridge. Check out the subway cars as they cross over the bridge. After passing beneath the bridge you then cross an iron drawbridge to Cambridge Pkwy. From here you have a great view of the Museum of Science, the Bunker Hill Monument and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

Note; A nice side trip to the Broad Canalwalk from here. Head left across both lanes of Memorial Drive (cross-lights) to Broad Canal. Here a boardwalk takes you along the canal out to Broad Canal Way where you'll find Canoe & kayak rentals. A cement path then takes you back along the opposite side of the canal back to Memorial Dr. Return to the Charles River Bikeway after a 0.4 mile Loop.

The trail now follows alongside Cambridge Parkway and the river and brings you to Canal Park at the intersection of Cambridge Parkway and Commercial Ave, where the trail then heads over Commercial Ave Bridge.

Note; A nice side trip is a stone dust trail that can be reached by traveling alongside the river and underneath this bridge. The trail then loops around a small inlet, surrounded by beautiful buildings and shops and returns you to the other side of the Commercial Ave Bridge. Only a 1/4 mile loop.

Follow Commercial Ave out to Route 28 (Monsignor O'Brien Highway) in Cambridge and turn right on the Charles River Dam Bridge. This brings you back to the Museum of Science's parking garage after an 18.2 mile Loop.

Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop:

Starting from the Galen Street Bridge (Route 16) in Watertown; Heading West along the Southern Side of the Charles River, cross over Galen St. There will be two granite pillars inscribed “Charles River Reservation”. Head past these posts along a double-wide sidewalk. Bear right along a hard packed dirt trail and over the Laundry Brook Confluence via an iron bridge. This brings you to a map board under a canopy of trees. Benches overlook the Watertown Dam on the Charles River and a footbridge crosses the Charles River as well. There are a total of 20 dams along the Charles River, which starts from Hopkinton, MA, as well as Fish Ladders. The trail heads up to California St, where it’s paved and then back along the river. A ½ mile takes you past the first of many platforms overlooking the river. Also, keep an eye out for the many etched rocks along the trail containing pictures of insects, trees…You pass by Forte Memorial Park on your left and travel along a boardwalk before returning to California St. Continue right along the sidewalk, crossing Bridge Street at 1.2 miles. Come to the granite pillars and turn right along the stone-dust trail. It brings you down along the riverbank and utilizes several boardwalks throughout. At 1.7 miles, you'll need to cross over the river to the Northern Side via the Blue Heron Bridge, a 140 foot pedestrian suspension bridge with promenades on both ends. [A gap exists here along the Southern Side of the river] Straight would have brought you out to Albemarle Rd access. Continuing West along the Northern Side of the Charles River you'll pass by more river overlooks and cross more boardwalks. You then come to the Farwell Street Bridge in Waltham [A gap exists here along the Northern Side of the river] and again cross over the river to the Southern Side of the Charles River. Continuing West the trail is now paved again. At 2.6 miles you come to a 4-way intersection. Left is just an access trail to Calvary St. Right takes you over the Bleachery Footbridge which is alongside an old railroad trestle. After crossing, left is an access trail to River St and right brings you to a promenade overlooking Bleachery Dam. There is also a parking lot located here off River St in the Shaws Supermarket parking lot. Continuing west from the 4-way intersection, travel underneath the old railroad trestle and you'll soon be passing by more river overlooks. Next you'll pass by the Newton Street Bridge before crossing the Elm Street Bridge. The trail continues alongside the river, across which you'll spot the cantilevered boardwalk in front of the Charles River Museum of Industry. You’ll come to a footbridge over the river at 3.3 miles.

Note; The footbridge takes you over to Landry Park and the CHARLES RIVER MUSEUM of INDUSTRY . You can also check it out on the return trip when the trail loops back along the Southern Side of the river.

Continue past the parking garage and the trail leads up to the Moody Street Bridge. A Dam is along your right and downtown Waltham is along your left. Use the crosswalk (Caution no cross-light) to cross over this busy street. This brings you to Cronin’s Landing, a brick lined trail along the river with benches and a wooden dock. When you reach Crescent St, turn right for a 0.6 mile on-road detour. The sidewalk here is narrow. When you reach the Prospect Street Bridge, use the cross walk over Prospect St. Head right to pick up the paved trail  as it travels behind the old Waltham Watch Factory building and alongside the river. The trail turns to hard packed dirt at 4.2 miles. Pass through a parking lot for the Woerd Ave boat launch and out to Woerd Ave. Thus begins another on-road detour. Travel right along Woerd Ave and you’ll cross over a bridge. This will take you through a residential area. Woerd Rd now turns into Forest Grove Rd as you cross over a causeway with the river on your right and Purgatory Cove on your left. This brings you to Forest Grove Park in Newton and the end of the road at 5 miles. Head past the green gate and rejoin the trail which starts off as gravel and then turns to stone-dust. Several paths intersect with the trail; just keep with the stone-dust. Bear right at an intersection and this will bring you to Auburndale Park, which has playgrounds, ball fields, picnic areas and restrooms. After you pass by the William Connolly Recreation Center, turn right and cross over a stone bridge. Turn left along the River Walk Trail. When you come to an intersection, bear right, keeping the ball fields on your left. This will bring you to Islington Rd and Commonwealth Ave at 5.7 miles. Head right on-road (wide shoulder) along Commonwealth Ave (sidewalk available). This takes you past the Norumbega Conservation Area and the CHARLES RIVER CANOE & KAYAK . Cross over the Commonwealth Ave Bridge and you’ll come to a set of stairs on your right at 6.3 miles. These lead to a parking lot along the river and Norumbega Rd in Weston.  

Note; More sections of the Charles River Path are located in Wellesley & Newton: See; Wellesley Trails and Needham: See; Cutler Park Reservation . Plans call for continuing the trail south via the proposed RIVERSIDE GREENWAY . See; Map Below.

This is the halfway point for the Upper Charles River Bikeway Loop:

You now head back towards Watertown along the northern side of the Charles River.

Note;  [A gap exists here along the Northern Side of the river] A 3 mile on-road section begins here if you wish to Loop back along the Northern Side of the Charles River.

If your biking and don’t want to carry your bike down these steep stairs, turn right up the I-95 on-ramp (use caution as there is not much of a shoulder) to a road leading off on your right. This will bring you down to Norumbega Rd. Head left along this low traffic road for another on-road detour. This winding road travels East along the Northern Side of the Charles River with its inlets and takes you past the odd stone Norumbega Tower at 7.2 miles. See; NORUMBEGA TOWER for the odd story behind it. When you come to River Rd, you need to turn right along the sidewalk. 

Note; You can take a quick detour by heading straight across the road and up Gate House Lane to check out the earthen dam and spillway for Stony Brook Reservoir. Part of the Cambridge Water Works

Continuing right along River Rd, you cross a bridge and the road turns into South St (sidewalk available) as you return to Waltham. Cross the RR tracks where you'll pick up a narrow paved trail. Travel through Brandeis University and after 9 miles turn right on Highland St, then right on Prospect St. Just before the Prospect Street Bridge you'll pick up the Charles River Bikeway again at about 9.2 miles. Here the paved trail travels East along the Northern Side of the Charles River and eventually alongside some railroad tracks. You come to the Moody Street Bridge at 9.9 miles. There is a crosswalk, but this is a very busy street. Once you reach the other side, the trail follows the sidewalk alongside Landry Park.

Note; A stone-dust trail travels through the park from the Dam, alongside the Fish Ladder and river to a signboard for the "Historic Landmark District" and a footbridge over the river. 

The sidewalk brings you to the bricked-lined Museum Walk and an entrance for the CHARLES RIVER MUSEUM of INDUSTRY . Just past the museum the trail continues along a cantilevered boardwalk above the river to a paved trail underneath Elm St. The trail then takes you up to the Elm Street Bridge. [A gap exists here along the Northern Side of the river] You'll need to cross this bridge to return to the paved trail on your left at 10.3 miles. This is a retrace along the Southern Side of the Charles River Heading East that you rode on your trip upstream. Retrace this route all the way to the Farewell Street Bridge, where you'll have to cross over this bridge and retrace the Northern Side of the Charles River in Watertown back to the Blue Heron Bridge. [A gap exists here along the Northern Side of the river] Again, cross back over the river and retrace the Southern Side of the Charles River back to Bridge Street at 12.3 miles. Use the cross-light and then turn left over the bridge to reach a parallel section of trail along the Northern Side of the Charles River. This section is paved and includes some boardwalks, as well as, platforms overlooking the river. You'll pass by the MDC's "Dealtry" swimming pool and Charles River Reservation parking lot in Watertown. A pedestrian bridge crosses over the river here. When you come to a white building at 13.3 miles, the trail splits. Left is an access trail out to Pleasant St. Turn right and you'll come to a platform overlooking the Watertown Dam. Continue along the boardwalk between the river and building, which turns back to pavement and you'll come to Watertown Square after a 13.9 mile Loop. See; Charles River Bikeway Loop above.