From Rails to Ice Cream Trails – StreetsblogMASS

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 stand stops – try new flavors or stick with the tried and true. Either way, explore parts of the region and enjoy as we wrap up another week of summer.

Before you go, here are some things to pack:

  • Bottle of water
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • ID and money

Okay, let’s go!

The Northern Strand/Bike to the Sea Trail

Last summer, our editor penned a handy travel guide: Riding the New Northern Strand Trail, a nearly 9-mile paved path that winds through a mix of urban and natural landscapes like downtowns and swamps of Saugus in the towns of Everett, Malden, and Lynn, and the town of Saugus.

A sepia toned historical 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 operated with a frequency of 36 trips per day.

This summer you can hike the trail yourself and check out the newly constructed sections while heading to one or both ice cream options along the way.

From Everett you can hop on the Rivergreen Park Trail. If you want to use a Bluebike, there is a station a few meters up the trail.

In Malden, exit the trail at Main Street and turn left onto Center Street. You will see Jay’s Ice Cream on your left.

Your next pit stop is in the town of Saugus, “the site of the first integrated steel plant in North America.” Get off the trail at Laurel Street, cross a few blocks, then turn left onto Lincoln Avenue where you’ll see Banana Splitz about four blocks north.

With a belly full of ice cream, you can continue to Lynn, where you can end the day enjoying the many beautiful murals in town or at the nearby beaches.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

This trail and ice cream option is also a lot of fun, and if you’re going from Boston, it involves taking the commuter train, which always sounds like an adventure (that’s said with love).

Get a $10 commuter rail pass and ride the Fitchburg Line train from North Station to West Concord. West Concord is a flag stop, so be sure to leave the person checking tickets where you’re going; otherwise, they might pass right by your destination.

You will find that the trail is only a few steps from the commuter train platform – impossible to miss. If you worked up an appetite during the 40-minute train ride, you can grab your ice cream before you start the trail, because why not? Reasons to be Cheerful is about two blocks away on Commonwealth Avenue, a cute street in West Concord full of restaurants and shops.

If you need a bike, a few more steps from the trailhead is a Concord Bike Share station, where you can rent a bike for $1.30 every 30 minutes. Simply download the Movatic app.

A row of six gray and blue self-service bicycles parked in the grass next to a cycle lane.
A Concord Bike Share dock in West Concord near the commuter rail station.

Shortly after kickoff, you’ll reach Route 2, where the bridge connecting Concord and Acton is technically still under construction, but people have already used it. If you are on a road bike you might want to walk your bike over the gravel section. On top of that, you should be good to go!

About a third of the way to Lowell, you’ll pass Nara Park, a pretty body of water surrounded by tall trees and filled with water lilies.

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

A view of a pond with a small beach and forests on the opposite bank
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 just off the trail that leads straight to Little Z’s. Warning: the portions are quite large, so beware!

A southern extension of the BFRT in Sudbury is expected to begin construction soon, and the City of Framingham and the City of Sudbury recently secured grants to design the rest of the trail in downtown Framingham, so someday soon this trail should connect you to even cuter ice cream spots and beautiful scenery.

The StreetsblogMASS team hope you enjoyed it! If you know of any hidden gems along the trails, let us know in the comments. We would love to showcase the great amenities we have in our area that are accessible without a car.


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