6 trails for superb summer biking around Boston

Cyclists enjoy the Muddy River Path on the Riverway.
Cyclists enjoy the Muddy River Path on the Riverway.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

“Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride,” President John F. Kennedy once said. The childlike joy and sense of freedom of pedaling a pretty path is a salve to the soul. Take a spin and experts agree you’ll also feel happier and healthier. So hit the trail on one of these favorite bike paths near Boston. If you don’t own a bike, no problem. You can pick up and return bikes at more than 300 bike sharing stations around Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Everett, and Somerville (www.bluebikes.com).

Minuteman Commuter Bikeway

Dubbed America’s Revolutionary Rail-Trail, this popular 10-mile or so path runs from the Alewife MBTA Station in Cambridge through Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. It passes several historic sites including Buckman Tavern, where Minutemen gathered on April 19, 1775, awaiting British soldiers, and the 1698 Hancock Clarke House, where Paul Revere and William Dawes went to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British troops were coming. Hop off your bike to walk the nature path around the Arlington Reservoir, and to explore the 17.5-acre Parker Meadow in Lexington with paths and boardwalks. In Bedford, consider continuing on the unpaved Reformatory Branch Trail to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge on the Concord River. www.minutemanbikeway.org

Southwest Corridor Park


Thank protesters for this 52-acre linear park and the 4.1-mile bike and pedestrian path that runs through it. It was destined to be a multi-lane expressway, before residents vehemently shot the idea down. Today, the paved rail trail passes downtown skyscrapers, neighborhoods, parks, and community gardens, linking Back Bay to the Forest Hills section of Jamaica Plain. The trail ends near the Forest Hills T station. Located about a mile from the station is Arnold Arboretum, a 281-acre Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park with a network of trails, including a leafy, picturesque 5-mile cycling loop (www.arboretum.harvard.edu). It’s another great place to bike. www.traillink.com/trail/southwest-corridor-park-(pierre-lallement-bike-path)/


Muddy River Path

Bicyclists pass the Chapel Street Bridge along the Muddy River Path.
Bicyclists pass the Chapel Street Bridge along the Muddy River Path.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The Riverway, part of the Emerald Necklace also designed by Olmsted, is a 34-acre woodsy urban oasis connecting the Fenway neighborhood to Jamaica Pond, with a scenic biking path that runs along the Muddy River. “It’s one of my favorite little paths,” says Jack Johnson, marketing and advocacy director with Boston-based Landry’s Bicycles. “It’s spectacularly beautiful, and not very crowded. It’s also one of the more bike-able sections of the Emerald Necklace.” There’s plenty of shade and river views as you pedal over historic stone bridges, and across former carriage roads and bridle paths. The Chapel Street Bridge, built in the late 1800s, and the nearby stone “round house” gazebo are highlights. www.emeraldnecklace.org/park-overview/the-riverway/

Lower Neponset River Trail

Variety is what makes this south-of-Boston cycling path a winner. Along the 5-mile Dorchester to Milton route, you’ll see beaches, salt marshes, historic industrial buildings, railroad bridges, colorful murals, and MBTA trolley cars. “It’s scenic in an urban way,” says Johnson. “Though there are times when you feel like you’re riding right alongside the beach.” Start at Pope John Paul II Park Reservation in Dorchester, riding past several parks and passing under the trolley tracks before reaching the Neponset Marshes, an expansive salt marsh estuary. Continue into Milton, passing Lower Mills Gorge, and historic buildings, including the first water-powered mill in America, and the 1765 building that housed Baker’s Chocolate, the first chocolate factory in America. www.traillink.com/trail/neponset-river-greenway


Harbor Walk

The nearly 40-mile walkway along Boston’s waterfront is lined with restaurants, parks, piers, and in-your-face water views. Rami Haddad, vice president of communications for the Charles River Wheelers, a local biking group, suggests taking the Red Line to Savin Hill station and biking back to South Station. “It’s non-stop water views and one continuous beach,” he says. You’ll skirt the shores of Savin Hill Bay, circle Columbia Point, and pedal around Fort Independence on Castle Island before heading into South Boston. “Finish the day with ice cream at Taiyaki,” Haddad recommends. www.bostonharborwalk.org

Charles River Bike Path

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this beauty in the roundup, a 22.9-mile swath along the Charles River, parallel to major roads but also bordered by parks, playgrounds, boathouses, university campuses, docks, and footbridges. The path begins at the Museum of Science and stretches to Waltham. It’s busy with walkers and joggers and strollers and skateboarders and bikers. Haddad suggests starting on the western end of the trail. “Take the train to Waltham and bicycle downriver to Cambridge. In Waltham the trail meanders in and out of the trees, crisscrossing the river.” www.traillink.com/trail/charles-river-bike-path/

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com