Location: Bruce Freeman Rail Trail – Lowell-Westford, MA Date: August 31, 2014
Distance: 13.82 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 171 feet
Our Bicycling Time: 2 hours 4 minutes round trip
Biking is quickly creeping up on hiking as one of our favorite family activities! Recently we were bicycling the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which begins in my hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, and travels through the neighboring towns of Chelmsford and Westford. Formerly the Lowell-Framingham line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, the trail has been paved over for use by walkers, runners, and non-motorized vehicles. Though the current length of the trail is 6.8 miles, but there is work underway to extend it to Framingham for a total length of 25 miles, as well as connect to the Central Massachusetts Rail Trail. I am excited for that to happen, because I would love to do a multi-day trip from Eastern MA to Northampton!
For our ride, we parked behind the Stop & Shop in Chelmsford (299 Chelmsford St), one of the few designated parking areas for the trail. Addie rode her trailer bike, attached to my bike, while the twins
cruised napped in the Thule trailer attached to Kendra’s bike.
The trail itself is gorgeous – most of the ride is under an archway of trees. We didn’t spy a lot of wildlife, but we did come the closest we ever have to a Blue Heron. As we were crossing over a small bridge, it flew up from the ground just six feet away. It was mesmerizing to watch it rise up and down, like a balloon caught in the wind.
In Chelmsford there was a girl giving away free lemonade to riders. She had a tip jar to collect money to donate to the local animal shelter. We stopped and chatted with her and her dad for a bit – they were both so friendly and sweet.
A bit of a stark contrast to the many folks on the trail. One thing I’ve noticed since visiting the South with Kendra – Northerners are not very friendly to strangers. I said hello and good morning to everyone we passed, and less than a handful even acknowledged me with a nod, let alone a response. C’mon northerners! A little friendliness goes a long way toward making this world better for everyone!
As we came close the to the current end point of the trail, we passed over Evans Way – I had to stop and take a picture for my little guy.
We turned around and headed back once we reached the end of the trail, stopping at Heart’s Pond in Chelmsford for swimming and a picnic. While parking our gear, we met another family with boy/girl twins just three weeks younger than Kate and Evan! The four little ones played together in the picnic area while we all ate lunch – sharing food and utensils with our new friends.
Meanwhile, Addie had spotted the pond and wanted to go swimming, so I took her to the water’s edge. We hadn’t brought swimsuits, but she had her Keen sandals on, and I knew we had a change of clothes for the babies, so I let her wade into the swimming area. As is Addie’s nature, she immediately ditched me on the shore and went straight for a family swimming with their baby son and joined in on their fun. Thankfully they thought she was adorable and she spent about 20 minutes swimming and playing with them. She definitely did not get her unabashed social nature from me, but it’s one of her characteristics I love the most. She truly is interested in people and is totally comfortable introducing herself and interacting with others.
It was hard to leave, but eventually we packed everyone back up for the ride back to the car. On the way we checked out some of the cool rail trail art.
When we finished, we celebrated with frozen yogurt. It was a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon outdoors!
Although most of the ride is on the rail trail, there are two crossing in Chelmsford (about 1 and 1.5 miles from the parking area) that require you to go off trail and over busy roads and intersections. The first time through, we found it stressful only because it wasn’t clear where the trail picked back up on the other side. In the future, we will probably park in the Chelmsford Center Artwalk in Chelmsford right after the second major crossing.
- Old Town Hall, 1A North Rd. (Rt. 4), Chelmsford
- Chelmsford Center Artwalk, Cushing Place, Chelmsford
- Municipal lot behind Sovereign Bank, 5 Billerica Rd (Rt. 129)
- Chelmsford Byam School (off school hours), 25 Maple Rd, Chelmsford
- Town Land at Heart/Baptist Pond,, 2 Pond St., Chelmsford