Middleton Rail Trails, MA

• 3 & 4-star trails
• 2.2 to 7.5 miles each way
• Easy/Hard difficulty | Easy elevation
• Middleton to Danvers, MA | NE Massachusetts
• Driving Directions: Marked on map

Trailspotting along the smooth Middleton Rail Trail.

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Middleton, Massachusetts has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. The town relied on agriculture for their livelihoods until the 19th century when railroad construction and the industrial age brought significant growth and development, marked by the establishment of shoe factories, textile mills and sawmills. Although the railroads were eventually replaced by motor cars and trucks, the cuttings and embankments of the former Boston and Maine Railroad alignment remain and have been developed by locals into a pedestrian and cycling corridor for all to enjoy.

Middleton's recent rail trail extension might now boast 2.2 miles of continuous trail, but when we visited we found that they're selling themselves short. Rail trail riders of a more adventurous disposition can today ride a distance of 7.5 miles from North Andover's boundary all the way to the Danvers Rail Trail providing that they are comfortable with a couple of bone-shaking miles and a further mile of road biking. In this review we describe what's best for all types of rail trail user.

Hardpack, Rough, Road, No Access, Parking Expand Map

Combined Rail Trails 4★
7.5 mi each way, Easy/Hard, Gain 120ft (160ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

Middleton Rail Trail 3★
3.0 mi each way, Easy, Gain 80ft (50ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

Giving off distictly rural vibes even as the trail curves through the center of Middleton, views along the trail are mostly of woodland, occasional back yards and some expanses of wetlands and fields. Crushed stone rather than asphalt is used for the trail's finished surface, the mileage is still easy going by foot, on bicycle or by stroller.

Middleton Rail Trail forges a strikingly wide path straight through town from Essex Street in the northwest, all the way to the town border in the southwest. Since the trail continues beyond and into the town of Danvers, we've incorporated an extra 0.7 miles of Danvers trail into our measurements.

You don't have to stop there either. Providing that you're comfortable enough to road bike through the mile-long interstate junction, the old railroad route can be picked up again at Spring Street and taken all the way into Danvers where it connects to the Danvers Rail Trail. MassDOT have plans for a permanent rail trail and bike lane connection by the end of the decade but this path is already easy to navigate today.

Trail Conditions
Middleton Rail Trail's surface is crushed stone over a smooth hard-packed surface. Minimal gradient. Safe road crossings.

Walking the dog along the crushed stone surface.

Essex Railway Trail 4★
2.2 mi each way, Hard, Gain 20ft (30ft E-W)
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

Gravel and mountain bikers should get a real kick out of this section of unimproved rail trail, and hikers will love it too. There are no signs, and little in the way to suggest the beginning of a fun two mile trail where it begins on the other side of Essex Street from the Middleton Rail Trail's northwest terminus. Simply duck into the trees and continue along this town-owned land through forest and ample wetlands. The first short trail section connects to a much longer and more remote section via short stretch of road biking, that's easy to spot buy only when you know what you're looking for.

The trail follows atop the old railroad embankment, built into the wetlands before environmental planning and protection were even an afterthought. The rail and timber sleepers are long gone, but trees now grow tall out of the rail earthworks and we had lots of fun riding our bikes over and among the many root systems and rocks along the trail. Occasional drainage breaks in the trail have been kindly bridged by homemade but clearly substantial wooden spans.

The Essex Railway Trail ends at Sharpners Pond Road which also marks the Middleton town boundary shared with North Andover. Though it's possible to continue along the former rail route for another 0.4 miles over a bridge to a power line corridor and beyond, this land is private property and though there were no signs visible when we checked it out, please respect all land owners' property and posted signs.

Trail Conditions
Essex Railway Trail is a rough natural surface with roots and rocks that shouldn't be a problem for gravel and mountain bikes. Most sections are elevated so there are few water issues. Minimal gradient.

One of the smoother sections along the Essex Railway Trail.

Greenleaf Open Space wetlands on the unimproved Danville connector trail.

The steam plant building of the now demolished Danvers State Hospital.

• External Links: Official
• TrailLink: Middleton RT
• Public Map at AllTrails: Middleton RT, Essex RT
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Nearby Trails:
• 2 miles away: Danvers & Topsfield RT
• Show on map: All nearby rail trails

Middleton Rail Trail Alliance
The Alliance is hard at work maintaining and developing extensions to the multi-use trail through the town. Learn how you can help.

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