The Best Bike Paths on the East Coast Greenway

August 11, 2015
Paul Loftland/PHLCVBIn Philadelphia, the East Coast Greenway bike path runs along the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk.

The ambitious effort to create the East Coast Greenway (ECG)—an uninterrupted network of bike paths, some preexisting and some newly constructed, from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla.—began in 1991. Today, the off-road portion is nearly one-third complete, with designated roads connecting the dots. These eight segments highlight the best of the ECG in AMC’s region, from urban bike paths to rural rail-trails.

South Portland, Maine
The Eastern Trail will eventually connect South Portland with Portsmouth, N.H., via 65 miles of bike path. About a third of the project is now complete, including a dedicated bridge in Biddeford that crosses over the Maine Turnpike and the Eastern Trail’s northernmost section, in South Portland. To ride the latter stretch, begin at Bug Light, which overlooks Portland Harbor at the mouth of the Fore River, and pedal west. The trail skirts the river and, after a brief on-road connection, continues on to the Wainwright Athletic Complex.
DISTANCE: 10.8 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast (AMC Books); East Coast Greenway

Peabody, Mass.
This multitown project is another example of a trail in progress. Several segments are complete, while others are still in the planning and construction phases. To explore one of the finished trail sections, start at the trailhead behind the North Shore Mall in Peabody and head north. The trail takes you through Danvers, Wenham, and Topsfield before joining the roadway. Once completed, this route will connect the Massachusetts–New Hampshire border to Peabody.
DISTANCE: 7.8 miles round trip

Everett, Mass.
The Northern Strand Trail is the product of a 22-year-long community effort to connect Boston’s northern suburbs with the beaches of the North Shore. From the southern terminus on the Mystic River in Everett, ride north through Malden and Saugus. The route then swings east toward the coast. About 60 percent of the trail is finished, so some road riding is required over the final miles to the seashore. From the northern end, cyclists can easily access beaches in Lynn or Revere or continue on to Nahant.
DISTANCE: 18 miles round trip

Cranston, R.I.
Rhode Island’s longest bike path, which connects Cranston to Coventry, gets its name from the railway line that once ran along this corridor. Now cyclists can enjoy a traffic-free route through residential and commercial areas, forest, and along and across the Pawtuxet River. The northern terminus is located on Garfield Street in Cranston, while the southern terminus is on Log Bridge Road in Coventry. Once additional work is complete, the path will continue west to the Connecticut border, covering 24 miles in all.
DISTANCE: 38 miles round trip

Farmington, Conn.
One of New England’s lengthiest rail-trails follows the historic route of a 19th-century canal through central Connecticut. To explore the longest completed section of the ECG in Connecticut, start in Farmington off of Red Oak Hill Road—also the start of the 18-mile Farmington River Trail—and head north. Once another 10 miles in Massachusetts and 15 miles in Connecticut are finished, the full 80-mile route will stretch from New Haven, Conn., to Northampton, Mass.
DISTANCE: 42.8 miles round trip

Jersey City, N.J.
Only the southern end of this trail is a designated section of the ECG, but cyclists can start there and head north along the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge for a scenic 21-mile round trip. This urban ride passes through Hoboken, Weehawken, and Guttenberg, where some road riding is required between segments. Views of the Manhattan skyline are unparalleled, and cyclists can create a loop by crossing the George Washington Bridge and heading south on the 12.4-mile Hudson River Greenway. This portion of the ECG connects back to the Hudson River Walkway via ferry.
DISTANCE: 21 miles round trip

Philadelphia, Pa.
The lack of available land in Philadelphia for an extension of the Schuylkill River Trail didn’t thwart engineers. They simply designed an elevated path over the river. The resulting 2,000-foot-long Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, which opened in 2014, features several access points and connects much of the city to bike routes upriver. To make a loop, follow the boardwalk north to the Schuylkill River Trail. Cross the river at the East Falls Bridge and follow MLK Drive (closed to cars on weekends) back to the city. For a longer ride, continue north along the river to Valley Forge National Historical Park, 22.4 miles one way.
DISTANCE: 10.4 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia (AMC Books);

Wilmington, Del.
This 10-mile trail connects the shore of the Delaware River to the east and downtown Wilmington to the west. Long stretches run alongside the Brandywine River and pass through Bellevue State Park and Alapocas Run State Park. Keep an eye out for historic estates and museums. The trail provides an unusually remote cycling experience for an urban path and is popular with recreational riders and commuters alike.
DISTANCE: 20 miles round trip

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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.