Travel Guide: Rails to Trails to Ice Cream

A wall covered in small chalkboards displaying roughly 60 ice cream flavors.
The menu of flavors at So Many Reasons to be Cheerful near the West Concord Commuter Rail station, next to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Not that you need a reason to treat yourself, but July is National Ice Cream Month, and this Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. Here are two trails each with two different options for ice cream pit stops – try some new flavors or stick with the tried and true. Either way, explore parts of the region and have a treat as we wrap up another summer week.

Before you head out, here are some things to pack:

  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses and sunblock
  • ID & money

All right, let’s go!


 

The Northern Strand/Bike to the Sea Trail

Last summer, our editor wrote up a handy Travel Guide: Riding the New Northern Strand Trail, a nearly 9-mile paved path that meanders through a mix of urban and natural landscapes like city centers and the Saugus marshes in the cities of Everett, Malden, and Lynn, and the town of Saugus.

A sepia-toned historic map of the Saugus Branch railroad line in Lynn, Malden, and East Boston.
Map of the Saugus Branch extending from Lynn to Everett. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The trail follows the path of the Saugus Branch Railroad, which carried passengers for nearly a century, until 1958. At its peak in the 1890s, the railroad ran with a frequency of 36 trips a day.

This summer you can ride the trail yourself and check out the newly constructed sections as you make your way to one or both of the ice cream options along the way.

From Everett, you can hop on the trail at Rivergreen Park. If you’d like to use a Bluebike, there is a station just a few meters up the trail.

In Malden, pull off the trail at Main Street and turn left on Centre Street. You’ll see Jay’s Ice Cream on your left side.

Your next pit stop is in the town of Saugus, “the site of the first integrated iron works in North America.” Hop off the trail at Laurel Street, ride through a couple of neighborhood blocks, then take a left turn on Lincoln Avenue where you’ll see Banana Splitz about four blocks north.

With a belly full of ice cream you can keep going towards Lynn, where you can end the day enjoying the city’s many beautiful murals or the nearby beaches.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

This trail and ice cream option is quite fun as well, and if you’re starting from Boston, it involves taking the commuter rail, which always feels like an adventure (this is said with love).

Grab a $10 Commuter Rail pass and take the Fitchburg Line train from North Station to West Concord. West Concord is a flag stop, so be sure to let the person checking tickets where you’re going; otherwise, they might roll right past your destination.

You’ll find the trail is just steps away from the Commuter Rail platform – no way to miss it. If you worked up an appetite during the 40ish-minute train ride, you can have your ice cream before starting the trail, because why not? Reasons to be Cheerful is about two blocks away on Commonwealth Avenue, a cute street in West Concord filled with various eateries and shops. 

If you need a bike, just a few more steps down from the trail head there is a Concord Bike Share station, where you can rent a bike for $1.30 for every 30 minutes. Just download the Movatic app.

A row of six gray-and-blue bikeshare bikes parked in the grass next to a bike trail.
A Concord Bike Share dock in West Concord near the commuter rail station.

Shortly after kicking things off, you’ll reach Route 2, where the bridge connecting Concord and Acton is technically still under construction, but folks have been riding it already. If you’re on a road bike you may want to walk your bike across the gravel section. Besides that, you should be good to go!

About a third of the way towards Lowell, you’ll ride past Nara Park, a lovely body of water surrounded by tall trees and filled with water lillies.

About 3 miles away from your next ice cream stop is Heart Pond, a good spot to take a break. Lean your bike against the wooden fence and rehydrate as you take in the view of the lake and small beach tucked to the side.

A view of a pond with a small beach and forests on the opposite shore
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail runs right past Heart Pond and its beach in Chelmsford.

Keep pedaling into the town of Chemlsford, and you’ll find an opening right off the trail that leads straight to Little Z’s. Heads up: the serving sizes are quite large, so beware!

A southern expansion of the BFRT into Sudbury is expected to go under construction soon, and the City of Framingham and the Town of Sudbury recently won grants to design the rest of the trail into downtown Framingham, so one day soon, this trail should connect you to even more cute ice cream spots and beautiful landscapes.

The StreetsblogMASS team hopes you enjoyed this! If you know of any hidden gems along trails, let us know in the comments. We’d love to feature the great amenities we have in our region accessible without a car.

 

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