With winter coming to a quick end in New England, many of us are eyeing the bikes packed away in the garage. When the air warms and the spring peepers prepare to emerge from the mud, it’s time to dig out the bikes, grease up the chains, pump up the tires, and head out for some spring rides!
The usual best place to start biking with your kids is right in the driveway or in your own neighborhood. Once you have the home turf down, New England is full of excellent bike paths that are perfect for families with young kids. Here are a few of our family’s favorites.
Pierre Lallement Bicycle Path to Arnold Arboretum | Boston, Mass.
This classic Boston ride is humming with commuters on weekdays, but on weekends it can be a great family outing. The 4.7-mile urban bike path has plenty of places to eat along the way, along with a couple of great playgrounds—notably the new Lorber Family Playground in Jackson Square. Installed in 2013, the playground features swings, zip lines, and the epic “Wall Holla,” a psychedelic hollow wall with tunnels and rock climbing features. If you follow the path all the way to the end, you’ll come to Harvard University’s tranquil Arnold Arboretum, which now allows bike riding on its paved paths. Note: To get into the Arboretum, you’ll need to cross a couple streets, so this is best done with kids who can navigate traffic safely.
Norwottuck Branch Rail Trail | Pioneer Valley, Mass.
This beautiful 8-mile trail (one way) connects Northampton with its neighboring communities of Hadley and Amherst. Particularly fun is crossing the 8-section trestle bridge over the Connecticut River. The Lawrence Swamp at the far end is a treasure-trove of wildlife. The trail was newly reconstructed and repaved in 2015, leaving the surface smooth and safe for kids. (Check out a map.) There are plenty of snack options along the trail in Northampton; in Amherst, you can follow a bike route into downtown for an ice cream stop.
Cotton Valley Rail Trail | Wolfeboro, N.H.
You might think of Wolfeboro as a lake town best appreciated by boat, but a growing number of bike paths are making this a cycling destination. One quintessential summer hat trick: Get ice cream downtown then ride along the Bridge Falls Path/Cotton Valley Rail Trail, followed by a swim at beautiful Albee Beach on the shores of Lake Wentworth. A particular highlight of this trail is biking across two causeways that cut straight across Crescent Lake and Lake Wentworth.
Franconia Notch Trail | Franconia Notch State Park, N.H.
One of our family favorites, this trail has some elevation gain to it, but it’s worth the great views and the chance to ride through one New England’s most scenic mountain notches. There’s lots to see along the way, with stops at the Basin, a series of falls and pools carved by glaciers through pure New Hampshire granite; the Old Man memorial; and the Flume, a steep-walled gorge with precariously thrilling walkways. Bring food and water as this path is relatively remote. With Lafayette Place Campground at the halfway point, the trail makes for a great weekend camping trip by bike.
Island Line Trail | Burlington, Vt.
Like Cotton Valley in Wolfeboro, this bike path follows an old railroad bed on a causeway that crosses a lake. This time, however, the lake is bigger and the causeway is higher, making for an exhilarating ride on the open water. In summer months, there’s even a bike ferry that connects two sections of causeway. The trail starts in downtown Burlington; passes several ice cream shops, sandy beaches, and leafy neighborhoods; and eventually brings to the shore of Lake Champlain—a gem of a ride.
Back Cove and Sundays on the Boulevard | Portland, Me.
Portland’s well known bike paths around the Back Cove and Eastern Promenade are a great family destination any time. But on Sundays from May through September, the city closes car access to the adjacent Baxter Boulevard, leaving it free for bikers, roller bladers, wagon pullers, and more. (Check out a map.) Restaurants dot Portland’s dining-centric scene, with something to please everyone—even the pickiest little foodies.