4 New Short Cycling Routes Across New England

A lone cyclist riding on the shoulder of a two-lane highway in New England.

Adventure Cycling Association is thrilled to share that the Short Routes program is set for an East Coast expansion thanks to a recent partnership with the East Coast Greenway Alliance — a nonprofit working to develop a 3,000-mile, traffic-free route from Maine to Florida that connects 450 communities across 15 states. 

The Short Routes program is a collection of 50-200-mile routes that take two to five days to ride by road bike. The two organizations have collaborated on four new short cycling routes across the East coast. Review all four here:

1. Boston to Cape Cod Loop

A road cyclist on a paved bikeway or bridge overlooking fall-colored trees near Boston, MA.
Adventure Cycling Association and East Coast Greenway Alliance Partner for Short Routes: Boston to Cape Cod

Sample the best of southern New England. From Boston, travel south to Providence, R.I., down the Narragansett Bay and east to Cape Cod, then ferry back to Boston. This route is mostly on paved trails, unpaved trails, and mostly quieter residential roads. It includes a ferry ride from Provincetown back to Boston. Suggested trip length of five days.

Day 1: Boston to Milford, MA, 44 miles

If you don’t know Boston, take some time to visit downtown and Freedom Trail sites such as the Old State House and Boston Common, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the Financial District and City Hall. It’s a very walkable city, full of history and charm. While in the North End of Boston, make sure to get a cannoli at Modern or Mike’s Pastry.

Once you start biking, enjoy the Charles River Bike Path, which hums all day with fellow cyclists, runners, walkers and rollers. You’ll head west from Boston and enter the western suburbs, including a stretch of the Mass Central Rail Trail that takes you from Weston to Wayland. From Wayland, you’ll turn south toward Framingham. 

If you are traveling between April and November, consider a short detour on residential neighborhood streets to the magical Native Plant Trust’s Garden in the Woods. This botanic garden showcases New England native plants in a beautiful natural setting. You can spend hours walking through the gardens. 

There are many lunch options to choose from in downtown Framingham, including wonderful Brazilian, Salvadoran and other small, locally owned grocery stores as well as the popular Jack’s Abbey Brewery. After Framingham, you’ll enjoy the extremely well-maintained soft-surface Upper Charles Trail/Holliston Rail trail, which is rideable on road tires.

Along the Holliston rail trail, enjoy a smorgasbord of trail-oriented businesses including a snack at the snack shop, Casey’s pub at the old train station, or coffee shop across the street just outside downtown. There’s also another trailside farmstand, built after the trail went in, Boston Honey Company that is another great option.

You’ll follow the trail to Milford, where there are multiple budget hotel options, north of downtown, and a few hotels are just off the trail. For dinner, downtown Milford includes some local restaurants and diners.

Day 2: Milford, MA, to Providence, RI, 37 miles

You’ll head south from Milford on mostly quiet, residential roads. For lunch, 1.5 miles off route, downtown Bellingham has a few dining options. (Note that roads into and within downtown Bellingham are quite busy, with heavy, high-speed traffic volumes and limited shoulder/sidewalk.)

After Bellingham, you’ll continue to a short, shaded, beautiful stretch of the soft-surface Southern New England Trunk Line Trail. Keep an eye out for great wayfinding and trail art. Note that the trail is soft surface. The transition to the roadway from the current southern end of the trail is an unimproved side trail to MA-126 before the underpass that you might wish to walk. There are no curb cuts back onto the road.

From Blackstone, Massachusetts, you’ll be riding along the Blackstone Valley, including more than 12 miles of the Blackstone River Bikeway from Woonsocket to Lincoln, Rhode Island. The area is part of the “cradle of the Industrial Revolution” — you’ll enjoy views of historic mills and factories including the historic Slater Mill in Pawtucket.

Providence is a handsome small city where the arts and new industry are thriving. Providence has also been rapidly building out on road, separated bicycle infrastructure in the last few years, with more coming soon.

Book a hotel near downtown or check out Airbnb’s downtown or on the East Side. Take a walk or ride through downtown and the striking campuses of Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University on the East Side. There are so many great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and bakeries in Providence that it’s hard to choose from.

Still, we’ve tried to list some of our favorites on the map, including suggestions from Providence-based Martina Haggerty at People for Bikes. For some other classics, Molly recommends Geoff’s, which has been serving superlative sandwiches, just as they claim, for decades. Sip a happy hour cold drink at the Hot Club on the Providence River. Great dining options abound. For a splurge and classic Providence dining experience, try Al Forno for grilled pizza and other artisan Italian dishes.

Day 3: Providence, RI, to New Bedford, MA, 51 miles

Enjoy the beautifully scenic (but popular, so possibly crowded) East Bay Bike Path from India Point Park in Providence to Warren along the Narragansett Bay. A few coffee shops and other amenities are located on or a block from the trail if needed. It’s a little sad to turn off the path in Warren to head east, so cheer yourself up at the turn with a classic Rhode Island treat: Del’s Frozen Lemonade, 65 Child Street in Warren.

You’ll cross a nicely protected bike-ped bridge over the Taunton River into Fall River. For lunch on the way into town, you could picnic at one of the parks along the river and take advantage of air-conditioned bathrooms at the history center near the anchored battleships.

If you like pierogi, ride downtown and try Patti’s Pierogis for lunch. Outside Fall River, you ride along quiet, small roads that take you into the historic whaling city of New Bedford. You can learn more about the history of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. Make sure to pause and take in the views on the Hurricane Barriers in New Bedford.

No Problemo offers quick, casual tacos and burritos for lunch or dinner. Book a room at New Bedford Harbor Hotel and walk to Moby Dick Brewing Co. for dinner, cold brews, and a touch of whaling history.

Day 4: New Bedford to Brewster, MA, 69 miles

Enjoy a stretch of greenway in Fairhaven, just across the bridge from New Bedford, before hitting the shoulders of slightly busy roads. Further north, the Cape Cod Canal bike path offers 7 miles of delightful trail before you walk your bike over the Sagamore Bridge and onto the Cape. Charming town centers such as Sandwich offer places to, well, order sandwiches.

Enjoy coastal views riding out of town before hitting the scenic Cape Cod Rail Trail just out of South Dennis. The flat, 25-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail winds from South Yarmouth to South Wellfleet. The 6 Cape Cod towns along the rail trail offer many shops, restaurants, and vacation rentals and accommodations. Consider a longer day of mileage to camp at Nickerson State Park in Brewster and enjoy the sandy bottomed pond for swimming and a DCR Campground right on the trail. Note that the campground’s general store sells ice cream bars and popsicles.

Day 5: Brewster to Provincetown, MA, 35 miles

From Brewster, the Cape Cod Rail Trail continues to Orleans (through the beautiful Rock Harbor area) and on through a salt marsh to the Cape Cod National Seashore Center in Eastham and Le Count Hollow in Wellfleet. Stop at the Chocolate Cafe for breakfast in North Eastham. Or enjoy a taste of France at PB Boulangerie in South Welfleet.

Just before Provincetown, stop at Jam’s/the Truro General Store in Truro for a sandwich for lunch and a picnic in the park across the street. Then, enjoy a gorgeous coastal road to Provincetown. Before you can wheel your bike onto the ferry ride back to Boston, take time to enjoy the shops, restaurants, and crowds in Provincetown. See more information on the ferries.

If you have extra time, ride on the trail to Race Point Beach and stop for a swim. And if you just don’t want to leave, consider a few nights camping at the Trustees’ Dunes’ Edge Campground. (Note they have a two-night minimum stay.)

Know Before You Go

There are two ferry options between Provincetown and Boston. They land at different piers in Boston. Ferry schedules are seasonal. 

More information: provincetown-ma.gov/751/Ferries; Cape Cod is a popular tourist and vacation destination. Accommodations are often fully booked during the summer.

See the Boston to Cape Cod cycling map and route details.

2. Portland to Brunswick, Maine, Coastal

A female road cyclist riding on an empty Portland, Maine road with fall trees on both sides of her.
Portland to Brunswick Maine Coastal Ride: East Coast Greenway Alliance

Start in Portland picking up treats at Standard Baking to take along for snack. Head north out of Portland along the Eastern Promenade enjoying views of Casco Bay. As you pedal over the bridge to Falmouth, make sure to pause to see the sculpture of the osprey nest. From Falmouth, you’ll be pedaling through residential neighborhoods along the waterfront. Rt. 88 has a decent shoulder for most of the route, and traffic volume off peak is fairly quiet.

Part 1: Portland to Yarmouth

In Yarmouth, pause to visit the Beth Condon Memorial Butterfly Garden in the summer months to celebrate Beth’s life. Since Beth’s tragic death cycling, the town of Yarmouth has been working tirelessly to complete the greenway and its protected shared-use path network to allow safer travel for people on foot and bike.

In downtown Yarmouth, the library has bathrooms, shade, water, Wi-Fi, and some quiet spots to sit outside. Lunch options include the Rosemont Market and Bakery right downtown and an ice cream option at the Honeycone north of downtown.

Part 2: Yarmouth to Freeport

In Freeport, explore the LL Bean flagship and many other retail and outlet shops. If you’d prefer quieter, residential roads, you can turn onto US Bike Route 1 rather than staying on Route 1 into downtown Freeport, and the two routes reconnect north of downtown. If you turn off onto US Bike Route 1, make sure to stop for wood fired bagels or a snack or sandwich at South Freeport Market. If you stay on Route 1 on the ECG to head into Freeport, before heading to downtown, stop at Maine Beer Company for great wood fired pizza.

Freeport’s Amtrak station is in the heart of the shopping district. In Freeport, there are multiple hotels along Route 1 and downtown. Two excellent coastal campgrounds are the town-owned Winslow Park and the nonprofit-owned Wolfe’s Neck Farm. Both coastal properties are worth a visit for the views of the water, even if you don’t camp there. Both campgrounds book up months in advance and require multiple night stays some times of the year, so plan accordingly. Wolfe’s Neck Farm’s walk-in section of the campground and the quiet cove are great for those traveling without a car.

Part 3: Freeport to Brunswick

From Freeport, prepare for hills! Enjoy the climbs up and down along residential and rural roads between Freeport and Brunswick. Consider a visit to Pettengill Farm if you’d like to see an historic salt marsh farm property that is now in conservation. On the way to or from Brunswick, if you’d like a longer route on more coastal roads, consider taking Flying Point Road instead of Pleasant Hill Road. Or if you are doing an out-and-back, take one each way.

In Brunswick, consider a visit to the world-class Arctic Museum or Bowdoin Museum of Art as you pass Bowdoin College on your way into town. If you are interested in civil war history, consider a visit to the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum. Check hours in advance because they are quite limited. The Harriet Beecher Stowe house, where Beecher wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is also a block from Main Street. It’s closed to the public, but you can get a great view from outside the building.

There are tons of great dining options in Brunswick including Zao Ze Cafe, Gelato Fiasco, and for a fancy dinner out, there’s the recently opened Tao Yuan.

Brunswick has multiple hotels right downtown, very close to the downtown Amtrak station, and a number on Route 1 and at Cook’s Corner. If you continue on toward hotels or camping past Cook’s Corner, stay off of rt. 24 and enjoy the perimeter trail around the former Naval Air Force base.

Wild Oats Bakery on the former base is worth a visit for pastries, sandwiches, and salad. For coastal camping in Brunswick, consider Thomas Point Beach, which offers a reduced rate for cyclists.

Distances: Portland to Freeport (19 miles); Portland to Brunswick (29 miles); Portland to Brunswick to Portland round trip (58 miles).

Know Before You Go

The Amtrak Downeaster requires bicycle reservations. They also require that you remove your front wheel to load your bike on the train; Greater Portland Metro BREEZ bus with bike racks services this corridor with regular bus service gpmetro.org/155/Metro-BREEZ; In peak season in July and August, campgrounds and hotels fill up well in advance, so plan ahead. In particular, coastal campgrounds book up months in advance and require multiple night stays some times of year, so plan accordingly.

See the Portland, Maine to Brunswick cycling map and route details.

3. Portland, Maine, to Newburyport, Massachusetts

Portland, Maine, to Newburyport, Massachusetts Ride

With a two-day cycling tour from Portland, ME, to Newburyport, MA, explore a section of the Maine and New Hampshire coasts, East Coast Greenway, US Bike Route 1, and Adventure Cycling’s Atlantic Coast route. 

The ride is relatively flat, offering a comfortable cycling experience. As you traverse the route, you’ll encounter stunning landscapes, including beautiful stretches on the Eastern Trail south of Portland. 

The New Hampshire route, a highlight of the journey, offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean — it’s one of the few stretches of the East Coast Greenway that truly hugs the ocean coastline. You can even enhance your experience by riding the Amtrak Downeaster and Massachusetts Commuter Rail to connect from Portland to Boston and Newburyport to Boston.

Day 1: About 45 miles

Eat a hearty breakfast in downtown Portland at Standard Baking and enjoy the beautiful Eastern Promenade before heading south on the Eastern Trail, following signs for East Coast Greenway/Eastern Trail/US Bike Route 1. Stop for lunch in Saco or Biddeford. In Wells, you’ll get off the East Coast Greenway and follow Sanford Avenue towards the coast to downtown Wells. Find overnight accommodations and dinner options here.

Day 2: Roughly 60 miles

Head west on Sanford Avenue to the Greenway and follow signs to the New Hampshire line. You’ll be mostly on quiet residential and country roads. Cross the Memorial Bridge into Portsmouth, NH, with many lunch options. Follow the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway (entirely off-road on the trail in the next 10ish years) to the Massachusetts state line. Continue into Newburyport. You can take an MBTA commuter train from Newburyport; bikes are permitted on off-peak trains.

Know Before You Go

Bikes are allowed on some MBTA commuter trains off-peak. Check the schedule for more details. Amtrak requires bike reservations on the Downeaster.

See the Portland, ME, to Newburyport, MA cycling map and route details.

4. Border to Boston

A male and female cyclist ride next to each other on a paved bike trail with a wood post fence on one side and trees in the background.
New Hampshire to Boston Ride: East Coast Greenway Alliance

Explore trails from Boston to the New Hampshire border with rides from 17-75 miles. Options include combining rides with commuter rail for longer or shorter trips that are mostly flat and mostly on trail. Hotel and Airbnb accommodations exist in Newburyport, Salem, Boston, and other communities along the route.

Boston to Newburyport (by train) and Newburyport to Boston (by bike), 67 miles

Board the train in Boston at the North Station Commuter Rail station with your bike. Bicycles are allowed on the train on weekends and during off-peak hours during the week (check mbta.com for the latest schedules, including a bike graphic showing when bikes are permitted). 

Once off the train at Newburyport, follow the East Coast Greenway signs south through Groveland, Georgetown, Boxford to Topsfield. 

At the intersection of Washington Street and Parsonage Street, get onto the Topsfield Linear Common. This trail heads south across the Ipswich River Bridge, into Wenham, and onto the Danvers Rail Trail. At the end of the rail trail at the busy intersection of Lowell Street and Bourbon Street, enter the Jewish Cemetery on the right. 

Once on Peabody Street, take a left onto the Independence Greenway to the North Shore Mall. Follow the East Coast Greenway signs on-road through Peabody into Salem and Leslie’s Retreat Park. 

Cross the train tracks and use the sidewalk along Bridge Street to enter the Salem MBTA station property. Take the ramp on your right up to Washington Street, follow the East Coast Greenway signs to the side path along Bridge Street, and continue to the harbor and eventually onto the Salem Bike Path. 

After crossing Lafayette Street (Route 114), proceed on the stone dust Marblehead Rail Trail (surface upgrades expected soon). Bear right on the trail at the electric transfer station to continue south and onto the new but short section of the Swampscott Rail Trail for a few blocks.

Once the trail ends, take Atlantic and Puritan Avenues to Humphrey Street and into Swampscott Center. Take a left off Humphrey Street onto the Lynn Shore Promenade, cross Nahant Rd., and continue on the sidewalk into Lynn Heritage Park. Over the Lynnway on the pedestrian bridge, past North Shore Community College, continue on Market Street to North Common Street, through the roundabout to the exit for Western Ave. 

There, you will see the newly built section of the Northern Strand Community Trail that travels through Lynn, Saugus, Revere (beautiful views of Rumney Marsh), Malden, and into Everett; sections of the trail are under construction, so please carefully consult map.greenway.org for the temporary on-road detour.

At the end of the Northern Strand, follow the East Coast Greenway signs to Santilli Circle and continue on the sidewalk to use the underpass to cross Revere Beach Parkway (Route 16). Use the sidewalk to access the Gateway Park Path, continue to the Encore Casino Riverwalk, and onto Alford Street to Sullivan Square. 

Carefully follow the signs around Sullivan Square using the crosswalks to reach the other side (without going around the rotary) to get to Main Street in Charlestown. Follow the East Coast Greenway route to Paul Revere Park, cross the Charles River Locks, continue out to Causeway Street, and take a right to get back to North Station.

Know Before You Go

Bikes are allowed on some MBTA commuter trains off-peak. You can check the MBTA train schedule for more details. 

North Station has both commuter rail and the Amtrak DownEaster. Amtrak requires a reservation for the bike and the removal of the front wheel. Note that for Southbound Amtrak trains, you must go to South Station.

This route crosses the ancestral lands of the Naumkeag and Massachusetts peoples.

Recommended lunch stops include Michael’s Restaurant in Newburyport, which offers outdoor dining with a view of the Merrimac River; Bagel Bin Deli in Topsfield; Cherry Street Fish Market in Danvers, which offers seafood with outdoor seating (temporarily closed); the North Shore Mall in Peabody; numerous options along Washington Street in Salem; and Dockside Restaurant in Malden, which serves burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

See the Border to Boston Cycling map and route details

About the New Cycling Routes

“I’m pleased the opportunity to showcase some of the best of the East Coast Greenway within the Short Routes program presented itself!” said Jenn Hamelman, Director of Routes for Adventure Cycling.

“Our members have been asking for this kind of collaboration, and I think this effort will be delivered. These four routes are certain to appeal to cyclists who want to try bicycle travel, share the experience with a newer-to-cycling friend, or only have a few days to get out.”

Jenn Hamelman, Director of Routes for Adventure Cycling

“As a fellow nonprofit, the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s trip-planning resources are limited, but these itineraries are a great way for us to efficiently share recommendations for safe and scenic rides on some of the most complete stretches of the Greenway,” said Allison Burson, National Greenway Director for the Alliance. “Stay tuned for more.” 

Allison Burson, National Greenway Director for the Alliance

These short cycling routes across New England are available now for free, and more along the rest of the route (mid-Atlantic and South) are coming soon.  

Adventure Cycling Association 

Adventure Cycling’s mission is to inspire, empower, and connect people to travel by bicycle. Our organization is proud to have more than 50,000 members. With the power of the community behind us, we work to align the people, places, and infrastructure needed for meaningful bicycle travel.

East Coast Greenway Alliance 

The nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance is leading the development of an in-progress walking and biking route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. The East Coast Greenway is designed to transform the 15 states and 450 communities it connects through active and healthy lifestyles, sustainable and equitable transportation, community engagement, climate resilience, active tourism, and more. 

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