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Marblehead & Salem Rail Trails, MA


• 3-star trails
• 5.7 miles each way
• Easy difficulty | Easy elevation
• Marblehead - Salem, MA | NE Massachusetts
• Driving Directions: See on map


Marblehead Lighthouse views start a half mile away from the rail trail.

There are plenty of reasons to visit and explore the coastal Massachusetts towns of Salem and Marblehead, whether you're attracted by Salem Witch Museum, investigating the neighborhoods' maritime and wartime significance or just coming to enjoy the beaches among the great seaside views.

The three trails that were once former railroad routes running through this area are unlikely to be your main reason to stop by, but cyclists in particular will find them valuable as a backbone for their explorations. Our map shows the six miles of safe mixed-use rail path between Salem and Marblehead, coupled with some additional protected cycleways to help you navigate the area safely.

Awarding these trails with a three-star review feels a little miserly, but this is due to the few moments of interest and scenery directly along the routes. When combined with the wealth of surrounding points of interest however, we highly recommend this area for a visit or as part of a cycling tour.

Asphalt, Hardpack, Road, Bike Lane, Other, Live Rail, Historic.

Marblehead & Salem Rail Trails 3★
5.1 mi each way, Easy, Elevation nominal.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails
Trailspotting Map as GPX Download

Over five miles of trail link the town centers of Salem, Marblehead and the residential neighborhood of Clifton. The Salem Bike Path is a glass-smooth asphalt trail beginning just South of the downtown, initially sandwiched between MBTA commuter rail tracks and a busy Canal Street and passing under several huge advertising billboards. Eventually the trail branches off towards Marblehead through urban landscape, past Salem State University and on towards the salt marshes of Harbor Glade where the asphalt receeds and the hardpack natural surface of the Marblehead Rail Trail begins.

Marblehead Rail Trail leaves the urban environment behind and winds through Wyman Woods, past Hawthorn Pond, heading for a former rail junction which splits off North to Marblehead and South towards Swampscott. We encountered some shallow mud from drainage issues near Wyman Woods but it didn't slow us down. If you continue heading into Marblehead the trail gives way to a road and parking lot after only quarter of a mile. From here Lady's Cove and the seafront is only 0.4 miles away, but you will need to navigate a maze of often narrow roads that you'll have to share with motor traffic.


The start of the fully paved Salem Bike Path by Harbor Glade.

Continuing South on the hardpack trail through residential neighborhoods in the direction of Clifton and Swampscott, you'll likely find many people enjoying a stroll or out dog walking. Towards the South end of the trail expect to encounter several road crossings, though thankfully the busiest of these has manually activated pedestrian crosswalk lights and we found motorists to be very considerate of trail users. Terminating at Bradlee Avenue, the last 1,200 feet of the trail is technically Swampscott Rail Trail - possibly the shortest rail trail in existance until they're able to develop a 1.6 mile continuation of the trail into Swampscott. Just half a mile from this trail terminus are the long stretches of sand and coastline at Phillip's and Preston Beaches.

Parking opportunities are few along this trail. We utilized free street parking on Bradlee Avenue at the South end of the trail and we also marked on our map paid parking spaces by the Salem State University which is midway along the route. Next time we do this trail, we'll probably find free street parking in a Salem neighborhood and bike towards Marblehead - avoiding all the extra driving it takes to get to the South end of the trail. We also marked out several BLUEbike bikeshare lots in Salem, including one very close to the Salem MBTA railroad station.


Art overlooking the short Collins Cove Rail Trail.

Collins Cove Rail Trail 3★
0.6 mi each way, Easy, Elevation nominal.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails
Trailspotting Map as GPX Download

To us a rail trail is any accessible path along a now-defunct railroad route, which for sure qualifies this former railroad spur North of downtown Salem that used to run to Salem Harbor. Though less than half a mile in length the route runs past the picturesque Collins Cove, and thanks to Salem's push towards a bike-friendly city the trail has several connecting routes. The protected Fort Avenue bike lane that we've highlighted on our map leads up to Salem Neck and the picturesque Juniper Cove. We've highlighted a parking area on the rail trail that is on City of Salem property. If this doesn't work out, then there's a ton of parking spots up on Salem Neck.

Trail Conditions: Salem Bike Path is 1.7 mi of smooth asphalt. Marblehead Trail is 3.4 miles of hardpack natural surface, with brief muddy patches. Collins Cove is 0.6 miles of smooth asphalt. All of these trails are flat.


Typical Marblehead trail surface | Brief boarwalk to Ware Pond.


Juniper Cove on Salem Neck, accessible by protected Fort Ave bike lane.

Tangents:
• Public Map at AllTrails: Marblehead
• TrailLink Map: Marblehead
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

East Coast Greenway
The Salem Bike Path and Marblehead Rail Trail are part of the East Coast Greenway; a walking and biking route route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.

NH Rail Trails Map
We've published New Hampshire’s first complete rail trail map, including links and details for all rideable trails.
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