Free-Range Running: Bedford’s Top Three Running Trails

Dan Brosgol's images of the Landlocked Forest
Dan Brosgol’s images of the Landlocked Forest

By Dan Brosgol

Editor’s note: Columnist Dan Brosgol offers his thoughts on the best trails for Bedford runners, with links to information about each trail.

Third Place: The Narrow Gauge Rail Trail

The Narrow Gauge Rail Trail runs on an abandoned railway, 3.3 miles due north from Loomis Street to Technology Park Drive in Billerica. The first 0.3 miles are paved, but the rest is a very comfortable path that crosses Great Road, Springs Road, Pine Hill Road, Sweetwater Lane, and Springs Road in Billerica, before ending at an office park near Route 3. It’s a very popular route for walkers and runners, especially at lunch time, and although it’s a little straight and boring, it is relatively enjoyable. There is a perceptible gain of elevation on the way up to Billerica (140 feet) that makes the return leg to Loomis a little easier.

Highlights:  Fawn Lake and the baby geese in early June, chickens that occasionally stray across the path near the Billerica Line, the side trail you can take that ends at Wildwood Drive, and seeing the Lane School kids outside at recess on the way by.

Watch out for: The section near the VA is frequently wet and muddy from the wetlands.

Second Place: The Reformatory Branch Trail

The Reformatory Branch Trail  extends the Minuteman Bike Path out to Concord Center and the Old North Bridge. From the end of the Minuteman out to the gate at Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge is almost exactly 5K, and all the way out to Monument Street makes it about 4 miles one-way. My usual route goes out to Great Meadows, and then loops back around the wetland via the Dike Trail and Edge Trail before heading back towards Route 62 and Bedford. For a nice variation on the boring stretch on Railroad Avenue, instead take the trail that begins just before Elm Brook on South Road, about 100 feet south of the traffic light, which connects to the main trail just below Winchester Avenue and the path to the Middle School fields.

Highlights: Carp and muskrats in early spring at Great Meadows and the farm between Great Meadows and Monument Street

Watch out for:  Thick mud in spring, and after substantial rainfall, downed trees blocking the path, and the fact that it seems to be more tick-y than other trails.

First Place: The Landlocked Forest (and it’s not even close)

The Burlington Landlocked Forest is a gift that keeps on giving. Running northwest to southeast along Route 3, the Landlocked Forest has 13 miles of trails in its 270 acres. My usual route has me heading out towards Burlington on Route 62, and then banging a right onto the trailhead at Wilson Dam. The trail along the side of Route 3 winds its way through a picturesque woodland and after two miles soars to a panoramic overlook above the Route 3/Route 128 interchange, then turns right and runs under the power lines. The trail continues  over the crest of the hill and down towards Turning Mill Road in Lexington, where there’s a lovely detour onto the Paint Mine Trail before ending at the Estabrook Elementary school. Numerous side trails can spit you out onto Grove Street in Lexington, Reeves Road in Bedford, or any number of other options, so explore away. You could spend hours getting lost in there.

Highlights: Wild turkeys, gorgeous streams, countless boardwalks, interesting terrain, and rock cairns.

Watch out for:  Mountain bikers. They love the Landlocked Forest, so on any nice day make sure to keep your head up.


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Sergei
Sergei
8 years ago

I completely agree about the Landlocked Forest – it is a fun “playground” for a trail runner or mountain biker and just a great place for anyone to visit. Wilson Mill area looks great after the renovations few years ago.

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