NORTH CENTRAL PATHWAY:
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: November 30, 2023
Length: North Central Pathway; Northern Section; 7 miles
North Central Pathway; Southern Section; 2.3 miles
Mount Wachusett Community College Spur; 1.9 miles
Difficulty: North Central Pathway; Northern Section; Easy. Paved, relatively flat rail trail.
North Central Pathway; Southern Section; Moderate. Partially developed, flat rail trail. Consists of different surfaces. Crushed gravel, hard packed dirt & gravel, some rough gravel sections.
Mount Wachusett Community College Spur; Easy. Paved, flat trail.
Directions: Take exit 90 off of Route 2 to Route 140 north.
To start from the Park Street parking lot in Gardner [Southern Section; West Side]; Travel 2.7 miles and turn left on Route 101. Travel 2 miles, continue straight on Park St. Parking lot will be on your right.
To start from the Green Street parking lot in Gardner [Southern Section; East Side]; Travel 4.6 miles and turn left on Green St. After 1 mile parking lot is on your right.
To start from the Route 140 parking lot in Gardner [Northern Section; Southern End]; Travel 5 miles and turn right into the small parking area.
To start from the Old Gardner Road parking lot in Winchendon [Northern Section; Central]; Travel 5 miles and turn right on Old Gardner Rd. Parking lot is on your left, trailhead is across the road.
To start from the Clark Memorial YMCA parking lot in Winchendon [Northern Section; Northern End]; Take Route 140 north to Route 12 (Spring St) and continue left (north). Pass by the Spring Street parking lot on your right just before Glenallen Street on your right where you'll find a 2nd parking lot. Continue along Route 12, cross a pond and turn right on Beech St. Follow to Summer St and travel right around the Clark Memorial YMCA to the trail head straight ahead. Parking on your left.
The North Central Pathway links the historic downtowns of Gardner and Winchendon. Route 140 is the dividing line between the Northern & Southern Sections. Future construction will build a pedestrian bridge across this busy, high speed highway. The paved, Northern Section, which is mostly complete, travels South from Winchendon to Route 140 in Gardner and follows sections of 2 old rail beds. The Southern Section continues from Route 140 South along the old rail bed, along the West Side of Crystal Lake to Gardner. However, the trail surface varies and some sections are only partially developed. Future construction will improve the old rail bed. From Gardner, another short paved section travels North, along the East Side of Crystal Lake, to Green St. In Winchendon 3 RR lines met where the Millers River flowed out of Whitney Pond into Tannery Pond. The former Baldwinville & Winchendon RR and B&M RR Worcester & Hillsboro Branch continued North into NH, while the former Ware River RR traveled Southwest.
North Central Pathway; Northern Section:
Starting from the Clark Memorial YMCA parking lot in Winchendon [Northern End]; The trailhead begins at the end of Summer Dr, to the right of the ball field. Playground located across the ball field.
Note; The 2 old rail beds continued Northwest behind the ball field and through Winchendon, continuing North into NH, however it has not been developed. From Summer Dr, you can also follow Summer St out to Central St where you'll find refreshments. There is also a nice BIKE LANE along Central St. Funds were approved in 2023 to extend the trail North through town to Jackson Ave.
Travel up Summer Dr past the old Goodspeed Machine Company building. This will bring you to the trailhead. The paved North Central Pathway heads up to the old rail beds and heads Southeast across an old RR bridge. This was a double line, thus, a second old RR bridge is along your right. This brings you to an overlook on your right of Tannery Pond, part of Millers River. To your left is Whitney Pond. The old Ware River RR merged here from the West. The North Central Pathway continues straight, East along the former RR beds, however you quickly leave the old rail bed as the trail follows the shoreline along Whitney Pond. Lots of benches overlooking the pond. The trail then bears right rejoining the old rail beds and crossing a short causeway. Pass by the Glenallen Street parking lot, where you'll find a Map Board at 0.8 miles, before crossing Glenallen St and a 2nd parking lot. Picnic tables and a bike sculpture here. Past here you'll follow the former B&M RR Worcester & Hillsboro Branch rail bed just below Route 12. Left, spot the old Baldwinville & Winchendon RR bed below. At 1.4 miles the trail bears left across a road. The former B&M RR Worcester & Hillsboro Branch rail bed continues right alongside Route 12. You now follow the old Baldwinville & Winchendon RR bed through the Millers River wetlands. You quickly cross the first of 3 bridges over Millers River. You follow a berm alongside the river and marsh and just before you cross a second bridge look left for an old RR Mileage Marker. Finally you cross your third bridge over the river before coming to N Ashburnham Rd at 3 miles.
Note; The old Baldwinville & Winchendon RR bed continued straight.
To reach the next section requires a short 0.8 mile on-road detour. Turn right on N Ashburnham Rd (residential), then right on Route 12 (narrow shoulder) and cross back over the river. Take your first left along Old Gardner Rd (low traffic). A slight hill brings you back to the trail on your left at 3.8 miles where you'll find a Map Board. Across the road is the Old Gardner Road parking lot. This section follows the rail bed of the former B&M RR Worcester & Hillsboro Branch. Across the street you can see where the old rail bed continued. The paved trail heads into the woods crossing Teel Rd at 4 miles (last road crossing until you reach Route 140). Woodland and marsh corridor with a slight upgrade. Pass by an old granite RR Mileage Marker W32 (32 miles to Worcester) on your left at 4.5 miles. Travel through a tunnel underneath Commercial Dr at 4.8 miles. Pass by RR Mileage Marker W31 at 5.5 miles (these old RR Mileage Marker were placed every mile along the tracks). Here the trail levels out before a slight down grade. You cross into Gardner at 6 miles (BIKE STATION) and follow a causeway through a marsh. After passing by RR Mileage Marker W30 at 6.5 miles you'll come to the end of the trail after 7 miles next to Route 140 where you'll find limited parking.
Note; Caution; To reach the Southern Section you'll need to cross busy Route 140. Not recommended for kids on bikes. Construction is expected to begin in 2025 to build a bridge over Route 140 here.
North Central Pathway; Southern Section:
Starting from the Park Street parking lot in Gardner [Southern End]; Picnic tables overlook the Southern tip of Crystal Lake. Two trails begin from here. Across Park St at Monument Park you'll find a Porto-Potty.
Mount Wachusett Community College Spur:
Note; From the Park Street parking lot the short, paved Mount Wachusett Community College Spur, follows the Eastern Shore of Crystal Lake North. Travel East along Park St (narrow paved trail available) and turn left down Veterans St and the entrance to the Gardner Veteran's Skating Rink. Travel right around the rink and you'll pick up the paved Mount Wachusett Community College Spur at the back of the rink. Here the trail follows the Eastern Shore of Crystal Lake North through the woods. Pass by the Crystal Lake Water Treatment Facility. Pass by a BIKE STATION and informational signs before coming to the Green Street parking lot after 1.1 miles. Map Board. A crosswalk over Green St brings you to a paved trail which travels North alongside Green St. Check out the 2 huge wind turbines on your right. Pass by Mount Wachusett Community College and come to a road. Just ahead is a paved path that leads right to an intersection at 1.7 miles. Head right where a trail travels past a track and around sports courts for the college. The trail then travels North out to Kelton Street at 1.9 miles.
North Central Pathway; Southern Section:
The paved, North Central Pathway, begins from Park St (where the old rail bed crossed) and travels alongside the Park to the Southern tip of Crystal Lake. Here the paved trail travels along the Western Side of Crystal Lake heading North. Pass by Greenwood Memorial Pool & Spray Park and come to Crystal Lake Dr. Across this road you can still spot the old RR tracks heading into the woods along the old rail bed.
Note; As of 2023, a gap exists here North to the next section.
Detour; Travel right on-road (low traffic) along Crystal Lake Dr into Crystal Lake Cemetery where you'll find some picnic tables and benches overlooking the lake. For the more scenic route continue straight alongside the lake before the road turns inland up a short hill. Follow along the exterior of the cemetery to the Northwest corner. Follow a dirt path right towards an electrical sub-station, the left around it where you'll pick up the old rail bed at 0.7 miles.
Note; Funds were approved in 2023 to improve the next 2 mils of trail North to Route 140.
Here the hard packed dirt & grass rail trail is narrow as it follows the power lines along your right. Come alongside the Gardner Municipal Golf Course and pass by the old RR Mileage Marker W 28 (28 miles to Worcester) before crossing Park Street at 1.1 miles. Parking lot located here. Here the trail improves to a wide, crushed gravel surface, although there are short sections of large gravel where washouts occur. The trail splits at 1.3 miles, continue straight traveling above Perley Brook Reservoir. Cross a high berm above Perley Brook before a causeway takes you through a marsh and small pond at 1.8 miles. Come to another electrical sub-station where you'll find another old RR Mileage Marker (W 29). Travel around the sub-station where a gravel road takes you out to Route 140 and the end of the North Central Pathway; Southern Section at 2.3 miles.
Note; Construction is expected to begin in 2025 to build a bridge over Route 140 to connect to the North Central Pathway; Northern Section.
Note; A BIKE LANE travels East alongside Route 140 to Green St at 0.4 miles where you can Loop back South to Gardner. Travel right, on-road, along Green St (starts w/no shoulder before having a wide shoulder) up a steep hill. Come to Kelton Street on your left at 0.8 miles as you crest the hill. Follow this low traffic road East past the Mount Wachusett Community College track and you'll come to the Northern End of the Mount Wachusett Community College Spur on your right after 1 mile. See; Mount Wachusett Community College Spur Above to return to the Park Street parking lot in Gardner.
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BIKE IT OR HIKE IT