Had a chance yesterday to ride a new rail trail near Westford, MA called the Bruce Freeman Memorial Rail Trail. Turned out to be a really nice ride and it was a great day for it. Sunny and in the low 70's. Perfect cycling weather!
The trail will eventually have three sections which will stretch from Lowell to Framingham, and only Phase I is currently available for use. It spans 6.8 miles from Westford to Lowell. We drove to the trailhead in Westford at Carlisle/Westford Road and Acton Road (Rte 27).
When we got arrived there were only a few cars parked along Acton Road, but at days end at least 50 or so cars were parked. Which you can take to mean that this trail is quite popular.
It's a new trail and in very good condition — great asphalt and brand new wooden fencing line the trail. It's not very wide so little children on tiny bikes could pose a hazard. We were careful and made sure to observe proper trail etiquette and right-of-way so we didn't have any mishaps.
You might consider early mornings or late afternoons as the best time for crowded trails such as this.
Most of the trail passes through forested residential areas and there are lots of cross streets along the trail, all with stop signs. It's quite beautiful along the way.
It's a quick ride from Westford to Chelmsford, where you can find a burger and fries restaurant trailside. We didn't stop there or I would've made note of its name. It gave me a craving for fried clams for some reason.
In Chelmsford, you have to cross North Road (Rte 4) and then cross Chelmsford St and make your way over to where the trail continues just past the ball field. Get onto the sidewalk along the ball field and you'll find you way to the trail.
The rest of the trail on the way to Lowell is pretty similar though it gets a little more industrial as you pass under major highway overpasses for US 495 and US 3, closer to Lowell.
The Lowell trailhead is adjacent to a parking lot for the Cross Point corporation.
As is the usual case on our cycling jaunts, we had it in our minds that we wanted to head into downtown Lowell and find a cute cafe at which we'd find a good lunch.
The ride into Lowell along Route 110 was a little bit sketchy, but if you're the adventurous type, you'll be okay. The "rotary" at Thorndike St was one place to be careful at. You have the option to get up on the sidewalk there if you want.
We headed down Appleton St all the way to Central St and then along Central into the downtown area. Looking for a restaurant along Merrimack St was probably a mistake. We always seem to end up there, whether travelling by car or by bike, and while I'm sure there are some interesting restaurants and shops, I find it kind of a depressing area.
Our lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Merrimack St was decent, but the clientele left something to be desired. We didn't appreciate their loud, obnoxious chatter on topics that might be better left in the bedroom or some dance club.
Happy to be leaving, we rode on down Merrimack and turning left at Shattuck St, to our delight, found a great little cafe called the Life Alive Urban Oasis & Organic Cafe at 194 Middle St. Lesson of the day: never stop at the first place you find, no matter how hungry you are.
This place had a great setting for a nice, relaxing stop. Wide sidewalks along an art garden (Van Gogh Art Supplies — Gotta love those artists!) Great food and coffee. Very nice staff. We had some dessert and coffee and just hung out for a bit letting the unsettled feeling from the Mexican place fall away. Urban Oasis is right across the street from the New England Quilt Museum, which looked interesting, though being a Sunday, it seemed closed.
Next time we'll bypass Merrimack St and head straight to the Urban Oasis.
Getting back was no problem. Just retraced our steps on the way into Lowell. I still don't like that rotary, though, so if you can find a better way, let us know.
And that's it. Our ride back was uneventful. The only thing of note is that most of the trail toward Westford is slightly uphill. But nothing to worry about. Enjoy!
In a perfect world, it would be nice if urban rail trails, as a rule, ended up in a nice area of town — a destination where people would be drawn to for food and shopping. That's what this trail is missing, but we'll continue to make it our mission to find them and write about them so you can enjoy them too.