MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL:
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated:July 22, 2018
Length: Mass Central Rail Trail: Norwottuck Branch; 10.8 miles
UMass Bikeway Commuter Trail (Swift Way); 2.1 miles. [Loop; 3.5 miles]
Difficulty: Easy. Flat, paved rail trail.
To start from the Spoke
(King Street; Routes 5 & 10) or
Northbound: Take exit 19 and continue straight off the ramp across Route 9 onto Damon Rd. On your right is Elwell State Park (Central). Note; This parking lot fills up quickly during the summer months and weekends. To start from King Street (Western End); Continuing along Damon Rd, you travel under I-91 and come to Routes 5 & 10 (King St) at the light. Turn left on King St and follow until you come to the Kingsgate Plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch near where it crosses King St. You need to head left across King St to reach the Spoke.
Southbound: Take exit 20 to Routes 5 & 10 (N King St) south. To start from King Street; Continue straight on King St and follow until you come to the Kingsgate Plaza on your right. As you turn right into the plaza look left to spot a spur trail. This trail runs through the parking lot and connects to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch near where it crosses King St. You need to head left across King St to reach the Spoke.
To start from
Wright Road (Eastern End); Take Route
9 for about 6.5 miles from
You can rent bikes in Amherst. See; VALLEY BIKE SHARE for locations.
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 Branch, Mass Central Rail Trail: Belchertown , Mass Central Rail Trail; Ware-Hardwick- New Braintree , Mass Central Rail Trail; Barre-Sterling , Mass Central Rail Trail; Wayland-Weston & Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge . Locally, some sections of the trail are known by another name. For example along the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge section in Cambridge the trail is referred to as the Fitchburg Cutoff, while in Somerville it is referred to as the Somerville Community Path. For more information check out; MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL , EAST COAST GREENWAY & NORTHAMPTON TRAILS .
The Mass Central Rail Trail also connects to other trails. In Northampton 3 trails converge at the "Spoke". The Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch crosses King St and heads northwest past Look Park, through Leeds Village towards Williamsburg. The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch travels underneath the active rail line heading east along the former Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR Line that connected Northampton to Boston. The Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North travels south along the former New Haven & Northampton Railroad through downtown Northampton to East Hampton where it intersects the Manhan Rail Trail, then continues along the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail South to the Southampton town line. In Cambridge another "Spoke" of trails all radiate out from Alewife T Station; The Minuteman Bikeway which travels northwest to Bedford, Alewife Brook Greenway which travels east to the Mystic River and Fresh Pond Loop Trail which travels south to Fresh Pond.
Starting from the
Note; Straight takes you out and across King St to the Kingsgate Plaza, where you can also access the Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch.
through the tunnel where you'll enter
a wooded residential corridor. Cross Bates St before traveling underneath I-91
where a cross-light takes you over Damon Rd to Elwell State Park
after 0.7 miles. A map board is located
here, along with a "Bike Station" and Porto-Potty. The trail crosses over
on an old railroad trestle that spans close a third of a mile. As you cross the
bridge, you will see
Note; The UMass Bikeway Commuter Trail/Swift Way is a spur trail to the UMass Amherst campus where you may also loop back to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch through Amherst Center (quaint shops & restaurants) and only bypass 0.2 miles of the trail. See below.
Just past the UMass Bikeway Commuter Trail
you will spot a line of boulders on the right, leading to a small field with
picnic tables. Continuing along the trail, it finally crests and starts a more downward grade.
You then travel underneath Route 116 at the 6 mile mark and come to the
former Amherst Railroad Station, which now houses a lumber yard.
If you go north up Route 116, you can check out
At 7.7 miles you cross two bridges over the Fort
River and East St. The trail is fairly level again. You pass through
several conservation areas and swamps including the Brickyard Conservation
Swamp. You reach the
parking lot after about 9.3 miles. Map board located here. You can see the active rail line to
your left as it now begins to parallel the trail. This is the New England
Central Railroad, which runs from New London, Connecticut
to the Canadian border and passes through
UMass Bikeway Commuter Trail/Swift Way Loop:
From the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch; This paved spur trail travels down to Route 9 where a cross-light will get you over this busy road. The trail then travels alongside University Drive (commercial). You'll pass by the HAMPSHIRE BICYCLE EXCHANGE before crossing Amity St and passing the South Gate to UMASS; Amherst at 0.8 miles. The Warren McGuire Alumni Stadium is along your left. After passing the Southwest Residence Halls the trail bears right and brings you to Mass Ave after 1.6 miles. The trail then heads up a slight hill alongside Mass Ave, passing by the Visitor Center, before ending after 2.1 miles at N Pleasant St. To continue the loop back to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch turn right and follow the bike-lane along N Pleasant St. Turn right along E Pleasant St and follow the bike-lane through downtown Amherst Center. Lots of shops and restaurants. After passing through the center of town you'll head downhill past Amherst College. Just past Hitchcock Rd on your right you'll pick up a paved path that will bring you down to the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch after 3.5 miles. If you head left (west) you'll return to the start of the Swift Way after 0.2 miles.
CLICK HERE FOR REGIONAL AREA MAP
CLICK HERE FOR MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL MAP
CLICK HERE FOR OLD MASS CENTRAL RR MAP
BEFORE YOU SET OUT BE SURE TO READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER
BIKE IT OR HIKE IT