5 minute read

Biking the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail


“I’d love to ride my bike more, but the cars scare me” is something I have heard from many people. Luckily, we are blessed to have a great place to ride, walk, run, crosscountry ski, or rollerblade without cars, right in our own backyard! The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail runs from West Concord to Lowell in a beautiful, car-free setting.

The Bruce (or BFRT, if you prefer) runs from Crosspoint Towers in Lowell to the corner of Powder Mill Road and Stone Root Road in West Concord and ties West Concord, Acton, Chelmsford, and Lowell together on a flat, car-free path for more than 15 miles. Let’s look at it by town.


Wind your way down the switchbacks from Powder Mill Road, and suddenly you are in a beautiful, wooded area that feels miles from civilization. As you head north on the path, you will go through beautiful wetlands followed by fields as you cross

Williams Road. As you approach West Concord center and cross the Assabet River, things get a little more urban. There’s a great setup with bike tools (an Eagle Scout project) by the corner of Main and Commonwealth, just before you get to the train station if you need any adjustments.

Once you cross Main and go past the station and through the lot, you will encounter beautiful woods again (except by the prison) all the way to Route 2, where you can look down at all the traffic heading to and from the rotary.

© Nathaniel Welch


The Acton section of the trail begins on the other side of Route 2 and goes behind the commercial district on The Great Road (Route 2A). As you head toward Lowell, the scenery on the left includes lily-pad-covered Ice House Pond and peaceful, green woods. You can stop and shop at the stores along the way and have lunch or a donut. Access to the road is easy and within a few hundred feet of the trail at most. Some places have even set up trail-side entrances to cater to cyclists.

Once you cross Route 2A, the trail is back in more residential areas and parallels Route 27 all the way to Chelmsford Center. One of the great opportunities along the way is Nara Park in Acton, which has a swimming beach, play areas for kids, bathrooms, and an amphitheater for outdoor concerts. Be careful riding past it, as there can be a higher number of pedestrians than in other areas. From here, you will zip along, crossing 27 again, and flirt with Carlisle for a second before you get to….


Chelmsford is the oldest section of the trail and feels it. The pavement has some corrugation (not intentionally, just from freeze/thaw cycles) and is a bit narrower than in Acton or Concord. You will also encounter more road crossings, though these are mostly low-traffic. Lots of woods surround you, but the highlight is Heart Pond, where there is a swimming beach, and you will see folks fishing quite often.

Heart Pond to Chelmsford Center is a pretty ride and includes a beautiful wildflower meadow. When you arrive in Chelmsford, you can reward yourself with a snack or lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area close by the trail. It can be fairly busy through this section, which is a bit disjointed—crossing Route 110 twice as it heads toward Lowell.

© Judy Perring


This last section is not my favorite, and I really only ride it to say I have ridden the entire trail. It is a relatively short ride from Chelmsford Center to Crosspoint Towers in Lowell and not as scenic as the rest of the trip. But you can park there to do the ride, get picked up there, or just do it to say you did the whole ride.


The path is only half completed, as it will eventually follow the entire rail line that once ran from Lowell to Framingham. The paved section in Concord will join up with the Acton to Lowell sections when the bridge over Route 2 opens sometime this fall. Then you will be able to enjoy more than 17 miles of car-free path. The path will also meet up with other trails in the future and extend into Lowell Center to the historic mill district. Phase 2D will extend from Concord to Sudbury, and then Phase 3 will go from Sudbury to Framingham, completing the vision— though the timetable for that is still open. So why not grab your bike, walking shoes, or roller blades and enjoy the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail this fall? It’s a beautiful way to spend a day.

Courtesy of Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

David Rosenbaum is a Concord resident who loves outdoor sports. His day job is Solutions Engineer for Kaltura, Inc.

For more information, visit:

• Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (maps, parking, history, etc.) brucefreemanrailtrail.org/

• Other rail trails to explore brucefreemanrailtrail.org/rail-trail-resources/rail-trail-links/

• Mass Central Rail Trail masscentralrailtrail.org/