Boxford-Georgetown-Byfield Rail Trails, MA


• 3-star trails
• 8.3 miles each way
• Easy/Medium difficulty | Easy elevation
• Boxford-Georgetown-Byfield, MA | NE Massachusetts
• Driving Directions: Marked on map


Farm on the Georgetown to Byfield Rail Trail.

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As you pass through Georgetown, a northeastern Massachusetts town, it's not immediately apparent that this place once served as a hub of railroad travel for a hundred years, with lines branching out to the north, south, and east. However, despite the last train departing for Boston in 1941, there's still plenty of hidden history if you know where to look. The former rail corridors remain undeveloped and are set to be transformed into public rail trail parks for recreational and commuting use.

Construction on the northbound sections of the rail trail towards Haverhill and Bradford has already started, with additional plans to extend south to Boxford in 2024 and east to Byfield in 2026. While this is undoubtedly exciting, today's cyclists can already explore these trails. In this article, we outline the locations and conditions of the unimproved trails leading to both Boxford and Byfield.

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

Combined Rail Trails 3★
8.3 mi each way, Medium, Gain 140 ft (110ft S-N)
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails
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Trailspotting Map: Google Earth KMZ

Boxford Rail Trail 3★
3.7 mi each way, Medium, Gain 50 ft (60 ft S-N)
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails

The rail trail heading south from Georgetown towards Boxford starts just beyond the impressive First Congregational Church on Andover Street. Though there's an additional section of town-owned rail alignment to the north, it is surrounded by private property and was waterlogged during our spring visit. We recommend skipping this short section. It's worth noting that you'll likely encounter more waterlogged areas while exploring the Boxford Rail Trail—expect puddles and some submerged sections. During our visit, the conditions were damp enough for orchids to grow directly on the trail.

A large portion of the northern section consists of an elevated single track, running behind a few commercial properties before transitioning into a more rural environment of woodlands, ponds, and wetlands. Eventually, the trail broadens, featuring twin ruts likely created by utility vehicles that occasionally access the area for power cable maintenance.


The narrower Northern section of Boxford Rail Trail.

Half a mile from the trail's end, you'll encounter a detour around a privately-owned section—ironically, the former East Boxford railroad depot, which is now a residence. Fortunately, the neighboring Kelsey Arboretum has established an alternate route through their property. Feel free to pause here and enjoy the four acres of ornamental trees and shrubs designed by early 20th-century landscape architect Harlan Kelsey.

The southern end of the trail would connect with the Topsfield and Danvers Rail Trails if not for Interstate 95 severing the former railroad route. As it stands, two miles of road biking is required to link these trails. Thankfully, these roads are relatively quiet.

Trail Conditions:
Mostly unimproved natural hardpack surface, with some rough sections and a few puddles, particularly at the North end of the trail. No noticeable gradients.


Georgetown church. | Snowdrops on the trailside.

Georgetown Rail Trail 3★
4.1 mi each way, Easy, Gain 70 ft (50 ft S-N)
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

The Georgetown Rail Trail heading East to Byfield in the direction of Newburyport has the better trail surface for sure, though there are no signs to help you locate the start of the trail that begins at the intersection of Prospect Street and Milton Way. If you're unfcomfortable parking your vehicle at this spot - which is not owned by the neighboring business - there is always the large parking lot and restroom facilities at American Legion Park which also features the popular Pentucket Pond swimming spot.

Following the trail Eastward is a breeze, provided there are still planks of wood forming a rudimentary span over the old bridge abutments at Parker River. After your first mile you will leave the last backyard behind, venturing into a mix of woodlands and large expanses of marshland, including the Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area. Several hiking trails head into the wetlands from the rail trail, though none of these are able to traverse the entire marshland.


American Legion Park in Georgetown.

Many may choose to conclude their journey on the outskirts of the village of Byfield by River Street. Beyond this point the bridge over the Little River no longer exists, so we've marked a short road biking connection on our map. Note that the short section of trail between Forest and Main Streets is overgrown - as completists we felt compelled to continune through the thorny bushes and occasional puddles. Picking up the trail again east of Church Street reveals a 0.8 mile section of straight service road that ends at Interstate 95. A trail unremarkable except for the fisher cat we saw darting across our path.

Upon their construction, these two trails are set to become part of the Border to Boston Trail and the East Coast Greenway, providing a welcome alternative to the lengthy road biking route currently recommended on their maps.

It may also be possible to extend the Georgetown Rail Trail beyond Byfield, reaching all the way to Newburyport - a prospect we are actively exploring. Stewards of the Martin Burns Wildlife Area have already confirmed that pedestrians and cyclists are not a threat to the ecosystem of their nature reserve. However, a couple of 'do not enter' signs currently hinder access and we are seeking a contact with NationalGrid in the hope they can verify whether crossing their land is allowed. Stay tuned.

Trail Conditions:
Mostly hardpack natural ground with an occasional puddle and sand patch. No discernable incline.


Wide expanses of marshland on the Georgetown Rail Trail.


Boxford trail puddle. | Cyclist on the arboretum diversion.

Tangents:
• External Links: Boxford on Traillink
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Nearby Trails:
• 0 miles away: Danvers & Topsfield RTs (4★, 11mi)
• 1 mile away: Grovetown RT
• 5 miles away: Newburyport RTs
• Show on map: All nearby rail trails

East Coast Greenway
These trails are a future section of the East Coast Greenway walking and biking route from Maine to Florida.

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