Nashua River Rail Trail

Monday was a lovely day, so Tom and I took the opportunity to ride the Nashua River Rail Trail.  The Nashua River Rail Trail runs for 11 miles in Massachusetts, crosses the state border into New Hampshire, and continues for another 1.5 miles.  The trail runs across the bed of the former Hollis Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad.  The trail is administered, through most of its length, by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The start of the trail in Ayer
The very full parking lot in Ayer
The trail heads north into the woods
Groton School Pond
Downtown Pepperell
One of the places the road passes over the trail
Lots of wildflowers along the trail
The state border with New Hampshire
The end of the trail in Dunstable

The Nashua River Rail Trail is paved asphalt along all of its length which makes it easy to ride.  There were some bumps and potholes, probably from the harsh winter, so it does need a little maintenance.  Although it is called the Nashua River Rail Trail, we only saw the Nashua River in Pepperell.  Maybe it should be named the Nashua River Valley Rail Trail.

We started riding in Ayers, the southern terminus of the Nashua River Rail Trail.  Our first challenge was finding a parking spot.  The trail shares a parking lot with the commuter rail station in Ayers and the parking lot was completely full.  We finally decided to park in an unmarked lot across the street.

While I would not call this area rural, the Nashua River Rail Trail runs through protected wetlands and by the J. Harry Rich State Forest, so it quickly leaves the cities behind.  There was only one major road crossing on the entire trail.  The other roads have overpasses and it was nice to go whizzing by without having to stop.

We passed by the edge of Groton but rode through downtown Pepperell, the smallest town on the trail.  There is a 7-11 right by the trail in Pepperell which makes for a nice refreshment stop.  We saw a few houses in Dunstable but not much of the town.

In New Hampshire the Nashua River Rail Trail is administered by a group which includes three private companies and the Division of Public Works.  We were particularly impressed that Prestige Homes was one of the developers.  We think a multi-use trail adds to the value of homes in a neighborhood and were pleased that a homebuilding company agreed.

The Nashua River Rail Trail is used all during the year.  We are told that it is especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn and that it is used a lot in the winter as a cross-country skiing trail.  The trail was busy on Monday, with moms out walking children in strollers, families riding together, joggers, in-line skaters, and plenty of people just enjoying the beautiful day.  Because it is such a mixed group for use, people aren’t always as aware as they should be, and we had a hard time getting by a few groups.

The Nashua River Rail Trail travels along a varied landscape and offers numerous scenic overlooks and opportunities to see wildlife. Groton School Pond is an especially lovely place to stop to see the beaver lodges and watch the turtles in the sun.  The trail is well worth a visit, allowing tourists (us) to see a part of Massachusetts that is often overlooked.