I first stumbled across the Cochituate Rail Trail in Framingham last year. Since then, two major bridges on the main roads have been dug, and earlier this fall the new trail extension in the Natick Center officially opened to the public.
Now it’s possible to hike a very enjoyable route from Boston to Natick that is 90% off-road, a perfect choice for a late fall hike. This article will show you how to connect the Cochituate Trail to Mass. Central Rail Trail (MCRT) and the Charles River Bike Trail, giving you the opportunity to explore Waltham, Wayland and parts of Framingham on your way. There is also a variant using the commuter train to get to the MCRT if you are looking for a trip with less kilometers.
Getting to the start of the Mass Central Rail Trail in Weston
A great way to get to the Cochituate Rail Trail is to take the Wayside section of the Mass Central Rail Trail, which opened in December 2019 and connects Weston and Wayland.
The trailhead is near the Weston-Waltham town line, approximately 10 miles from Cambridge or 13 miles from downtown Boston.
Access the MCRT-Wayside by bike
For the full bike tour, take the Charles River Bike Trail in Boston and follow it west through Watertown and Waltham to the Prospect Street Bridge, just beyond Waltham Center.
From there, travel a short deviation of about 1.5 miles to the MCRT through the streets of Waltham Town. The most direct option is to walk or go up Prospect Street to Route 117 (Main Street), then follow Main Street west to the intersection with Stow Street / Spencer Street, which will be on your left just before crossing Main Street. on I-95.
Follow Spencer Street all the way to the end and you’ll find a secret, unmarked bridge overpass on I-95 that leads you directly to the MCRT.
Prospect and Main Street have heavy traffic, but there are quieter alternatives. For example, you can bypass most of Route 117 using the quieter maze of residential streets just south of it.
Or, just north of the 117, you can ride west on an abandoned railroad track that ends in a very brief paved cycle path near Hillside Road.
This railroad bed will ultimately be a formal part of the MCRT, connecting to the planned Belmont Community Trail to the east. As of this fall, the Town of Waltham was working on construction drawings for a project that will transform a 2.7 mile section of this railroad into a paved, shared-use trail. For now, driving on these tracks is a bumpy option, and wider tires are recommended.
Access to MCRT-Wayside by commuter train
Your second option to get there is to take the Fitchburg line to the Kendal Green stop, then cycle about 5 minutes south along Church Street in Weston to take the MCRT about a quarter of the way. along the way.
For those venturing to the Cambridge / Somerville area, you can take the Fitchburg line from Porter Square, so there is no need to walk to Boston.
Go up on the Mass. Central Rail Trail through Weston
Enjoy this newly paved (as of 2019) 5 mile section of the MCRT, which follows a power line trail through natural scenery. The traffic isn’t as heavy as the Minuteman, so you’ll have plenty of room to breathe.
The trail goes through the entire town of Weston to the center of Wayland, at which point the trail drops to a dirt surface for the last short connection to an open-air mall.
Connection to Cochituate Rail Trail
By road :
From the west end of the MCRT, there are several ways to make the 4 to 5 mile connection between Wayland Center and Saxonville (the northern terminus of the Cochituate Rail Trail).
Your easiest option is to cross Boston Post Road and through the parking lot of Russell’s Garden Center, then take the very quiet and scenic Pelham Island Road (which is very relaxed: you might see people walking on the causeway).
Pass by a scenic lake and the entrance to a nature park, and you’ll eventually reach Landham Rd., Which turns into Elm Street when you cross the line to Framingham. It is a busier road, but a tolerable sidewalk is available.
The road from Pelham Island Road to Saxonville, where the Cochituate Rail Trail begins, is 2.3 miles away.
Connection by Trails:
If you want to get creative in making that connection, explore the region’s rich network of trails. Check out the OpenStreetMap cycle map for the most detailed overview of your options. In particular, the Weston and Hultman Aqueduct trails are worth seeing.
One caveat: Most of these trails aren’t paved or upgraded, so you might want to bring a bike with thicker tires and be prepared to encounter mud if it has been raining recently.
Saxonville and the Cochituate Railway
Saxonville doesn’t have much to do, but it’s a good place to take a break. Discover the picturesque old mill and dam in the center of town and have lunch at Green Leaf or have a coffee at Saxonville Mills Cafe.
From Saxonville, take the Cochituate Rail Trail on the east side of Elm Street across the Sudbury River.
Once on the Cochituate Rail Trail, navigation is smooth towards Natick. The Framingham section of this trail has been around for a while, but everything from Route 30 South opened this year.
Enjoy the bridges that transport you over Highways 30 and 9, the shores of Lake Cochituate, and the short Wonderbread Spur trail that leads to the Natick Mall.
At Natick Center, the final stretch of the trail is still under construction while the MBTA is building a brand new station. Eventually, the city plans to have a direct connection between the trail and public transit.
For now, it’s only a few blocks away on relatively quiet downtown streets, where you can catch a Worcester Line train to Boston South Station.
During the week, Juliana Cherston is a PhD candidate in Science and Engineering at MIT Media Lab. She says: “A crucial aspect of my job is to cultivate comfort at the frontier of knowledge. An experiment can be stubborn for months, and it’s not clear if there’s just a bad cable somewhere or if the whole premise is bad. How can I practice joy, play and wonder in these times, even when the deadlines and expectations are stacked? Exploration by bike is essentially a physical arena to practice the same psychological process that I strive to develop in the lab. Isolated on routes that sometimes challenge modern maps, there is a freedom and a game that emerge in the face of the unknown. It is an intensity of sensory experience rooted in the culture of self-confidence, an antidote to anxiety whether in the lab or on the road. Read more of his explorations on Medium or on his personal website.