Idyllic Trail Through the Charles River Reservation

When most people ride on the Charles River trail, they keep to the popular loop around Boston and Cambridge. However, the trail goes on (and on and on), through beautiful reservation lands along the narrowing Charles River all the way to West Newton, Waltham and Weston.

The last time I mentioned this route, a couple of people asked me for more information, since most Charles River Trail maps indicate that it ends in Watertown. The best online maps I have found are these:
. from Boston to Watertown (the popular loop)
. from Watertown to West Newton
. from West Newton to Weston
These show you the side-streets you need to look for in your neighborhood in order to get to the trail (everything represented in green has the trail going through it).

Once you pass the point in Watertown where the popular route ends, the trail continues across the street. The entrance is narrow and easy to miss, so watch for the sign above.

There are a few instances where the trail interrupts, in which case the connector route is marked on the sidewalk with these "Blue Heron tracks".

An actual heron on the trail.

Here are some photos to give you an idea what this lesser-known part of the trail looks like. It is narrower and more "woodsy" than the popular Charles River loop. Fewer people, too.

The river is quite narrow here, and most of the bridges across it are pedestrian. They are beautiful and fun to cross, offering views of lily pads and miniature waterfalls.

There are several unpaved stretches, and many long stretches of boardwalk over marshland, with built-in observation decks. We had no problems cycling through the unpaved stretches on the Pashleys, and we saw roadbikes riding through them as well.

Another wooden bridge, and the entrance to Landry Park in Waltham.

This is home to the Charles River Museum of Industry. We have not gotten beyond this point yet, but as the map here indicates, the trail continues in the same manner towards Weston.

Altogether, it looks like the Charles River Trail might be 15 miles or so each way. If you are looking to get from West Newton to the center of Boston like MamaVee, I am guessing that this is maybe a 10 mile trip? If you are local and do this regularly, I welcome your thoughts about this trail and its use as a commuter route.


  1. Pretty trail, it reminds me a little of some of the trails and bike paths where I live here in Santa Cruz, CA. I also see heron!

  2. This is beautiful! A heron (!!).

    I got my princess sovereign last month (the smallest size) and I am over the moon about her. We rode all around Martha's Vineyard with our 1 year old on the back of my husband's bike. It was bliss. When we came back to Brooklyn, I took a spin through our industrial neighborhood and felt surprisingly ok -- I think you are right about the princesses feeling more like small cars. And I am generally pretty wimpy. It's been too hot for me to take my son with me so I've been aching for some riding time.

    I saw another Pashley family on the bike path out to Coney island (and interestingly learned that this is the oldest bike path in the country 1894!) this weekend -- one white sonnet for the lady and a roadster for the gent. They looked fabulous and I was totally nerding out giving them crazy thumbs up to the Pashley.

    Am loving your blog. It's a pleasure.

  3. What lovely scenery. You live around a beautiful area:)

  4. Riding Pretty-- The link you posted does not work for some reason, but I think you meant this one in case people want to visit. I love that post, and I am so envious of your loop frame Raleigh! The lady Tourists are so hard to find!

    Kristen-- I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying your Pashley. Post photos! Martha's Vinyard is a wonderful place for bicycles. Another cycling wonderland is Block Island, especially nice because there are so few cars there.

    Fiona -- Thanks! The funny this is that we would have never discovered it, if it weren't for the bicycles.

  5. Filigree, thanks so much for correcting my broken link for the heron . That photo actually has a heron in the background framed by my bicycle frame. That is why I wanted to share it with your readers so badly!

    Ah yes, my vintage Raleigh has been a good alternative to buying a new bicycle, so far anyway.

  6. Hi Filigree!! How gorgeous! I love the river view and the Pashleys! oh so very elegant :D

    lovely to hear about Kristen loving her Pashley too :D (but I can't get to her blog, I wanna see photos!!!! I have become a nerd too when I see other Pashleys, smiling like an idiot at complete strangers!!) it's nice to read all Pashley riders are happy and delighted with their cycle friend :)

    I am using my bike so often now! I even went to a photography lecture yesterday evening after work and came home at 11pm and with the lovely dynamo and the rear light I felt safe and visible by all! Fantastic :D

    PS - I am working on a Pashley review btw ;) but honestly it will sound like an echo to yours ;) lol!

  7. Thanks for the links to the maps! I don't know why i never went further than the Watertown bridge! I've been wanting to go on longer trips and now you've given me two... thanks!

  8. Thank you! I have talked briefly to ppl who do commute that way regularily. I think there is some issue near langly or something in newton corner that breaks it up. A short street with cars half on sidewalk half on street? I've heard complaints on the pavement on nonantum rd. But someday I wanna try. I read your post outloud to B and maybe we'll do it as a fam. I met a MD today who commutes to MGH and I bet he goes that way.

    We are in wellfleet now. No rail trail yet- it's hot as hell and the kids would revolt. Plus we are water focused here. But I rode it years ago and hope to hop on this week. Although the xtra is slow slowslow.

  9. MamaVee -- there are two spots (both in W Newton) where the trail interrupts and you have to cycle for a short time on the sidewalk before rejoining the trail. These connector routes are marked with the blue heron footprints, so it is clear where to go; just follow the tracks. If you are looking to go all the way to Boston center, it is not a short trip. Still, I think it is worth it! Consider doing it one stretch at a time, going further and further with each trip.

    Mark -- Glad this is helpful!

    Lorenza -- I am looking forward to your review!

  10. Looks like a lovely place to ride! Shaded paths are so nice in summer.


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