The Topsfield Linear Commons rail trail runs south from just north of Pie Brook Road in Topsfield all the way to Lowell street in Peabody. In our opinion, it’s best to avoid the Peabody part and start in Danvers where there are fewer traffic crossings (although there are several in Danvers before you get out of town) and it is def. more woodsy. We like to park at the Cherry Street Fish Market where there is a conveniently-placed porta potty (just in case), and where we enjoy lobster and crab rolls and potato chips post-ride on bright blue picnic tables facing the trail.
While the trail is not paved, it is smooth enough for a road bike; that said, hybrids, comfort bikes, and mountain bikes are even better (more comfortable).
If you happen to be on a mountain bike there are quite a few inviting side trails begging to be explored. If you do stick to the trail, there are a few road crossings, equipped with handy flashing lights activated by buttons with signs that read sensibly, “Push button to activate crossing lights.” Very convenient, that.
The trail through Danvers, after you get past the roads, winds through quiet neighborhoods and over little bridges and past playgrounds. You will not be alone: there will be folks running, walking dogs, walking babies, biking, roller blading, shuffling. In our experience, all are friendly if you smile first.
Approaching Topsfield, civilization becomes less evident, and crickets and birds and squirrels take over. Once you cross route 97, it’s even better, with wild flowers and marsh land on both sides. At one point, if you take a right going north, you will hit the Wenham canal, a meandering body of water lined with grass on both sides that extends for about two miles from the Ipswich River to the Wenham pump house. I grew up in Wenham and never knew it was there until 2 years ago.
If you’d rather park on the north side, there is a lot next to the Catholic Church in Topsfield. If you are lucky and it is a Sunday, you might catch the last stanzas in the song of the praise band (this must have been the informal service). Very stirring.
Also in Topsfield, whether you park there or ride there, be sure to visit The Bake Shop, a charming one room bakery (no bathroom, be forewarned) featuring smiling teenage girls, killer pastries and better-than-church basement-coffee (actually, a lot better). Beware the fruit tartlets (three is not enough). If The Bake Shop is closed, as it was this past Columbus Day weekend, there is a breakfast place called Daybreak Cafe and Lunch on the door of which we found a handle labelled (aptly) “Tony’s Handle,” although we could not find Tony, and besides, the line was too long.
But. You know what? We’d rather have lobster rolls anyway. It’s only 7 miles back. Maybe less.
The spirit of the Commons rail trail is expressed by a post declaring in 8 languages: “May Peace Prevail on Earth”
Amen to that ;-)