A Highly Unofficial Route on Connections to the Upper Falls Greenway

The Upper Falls Greenway is a one-mile converted rail trail that extends from Newton Highlands to Newton Upper Falls, with a spur trail connecting to Needham Street.

In the coming years, connections are likely to be made between the Greenway and other trails.  But if you don’t mind some scrambling on steep, rough trails, and walking on private property, you already can take a four-mile walk along the likely route of this trail system, which passes through three little-known Newton conservation areas and two paths along the Charles.

2019 update:  a detour is required because of a locked gate at a footbridge across the Charles.  See the map above, and the description below.

2021 updates:  work is beginning on a stairway connecting the Upper Falls Riverwalk with the Upper Falls Greenway, and planning has begun for the construction of a pedestrian trail on the old railroad bridge across the Charles.  See details below.

2022 update:  the state legislature appropriated $1.25 million to build a new pedestrian bridge across the Charles to replace the old railroad bridge.  Read more about this project.

2023 update: a trail extending north along the Charles from the Greenway to Bobby Braceland Playground is now open


View online map

Printable map

The description that follows starts from the Newton Highlands station on the MBTA Green Line, and ends at the Eliot station.  Walking from Eliot back to Newton Highlands adds another 0.7 miles. The walk can of course be done in the opposite direction.

The first half mile of the route is the least pleasant, along busy streets.  You might want to consider taking a ride-sharing vehicle to Easy Street, where the Greenway begins.  If you do that, pick up the directions here.  If you want to walk all the way, read on.

As you leave the Newton Highlands MBTA station, cross diagonally to the Southwest corner of Lincoln and Walnut Streets.
Turn left and walk south on Walnut, crossing the bridge over the train tracks.
Turn right on Centre Street.
Walk under Route 9.
Walk past the historic South Burying Ground. (info on City of Newton website)
Turn right onto Needham St.
Turn right onto Easy St.

Upper Falls Greenway

The entrance to the Upper Falls Greenway is at the end of Easy St., between the boulders.
The Greenway extends to the left (South) from this point. But if you look to the right, you’ll see a stretch of old railroad right-of-way that the MBTA has leased to National Lumber. In the future, the Greenway may be extended a bit farther in this direction.
Turn left and enter the Greenway. A welcome kiosk is just a little way down the path.
Avalon at Newton Highlands is on the other side of the fence.
Turn left onto a spur path that leads back to Needham Street. You’ll walk the rest of the Greenway near the end of the hike.
The spur was built by the developer of the Newton Nexus shopping center.
South Meadow Brook is to the right of the spur. Its culvert under Needham Street is visible as you near the street. (Read a newsletter article about Newton’s buried brooks.)
A crosswalk a few steps to the left offers a somewhat safe way to cross busy Needham Street.
Turn right and walk to the end of the building.
Turn left and walk between the building and its parking lot.
South Meadow Brook is visible to the left.
Continue to the end of the parking lot. Bear right on the grassy strip.
Walk between the building and the trees.
Continue along the edge of the woods.
Old rails show that you’re still on an old railroad right-of-way.
More railroad tracks guide your way.
Walk up a small embankment to a paved path.
At the end of the embankment, walk down a slope to Christina Street. Cross the street.
Cross a parking lot to a fence. The gate has been locked since 2019. See the detour described below.

November 2019 update:  The gate is currently locked, and a detour is needed.  Turn right on Christina street, and walk one block to Needham Street.  Cross Needham Street and continue straight ahead on the sidewalk of what is now Oak Street, as shown below.

January 2021 update from the Newton Conservation Commission:  “The City applied for and received a Fiscal Year 2020 MassTrails grant to conduct a feasibility study on the abandoned rail bridge that crosses the Charles River (between Newton and Needham) from the Barry Price Center parking lot on Christina Street. The study will help determine what work needs to be done to establish a fully accessible, bicycle-pedestrian bridge to assist commuters and provide recreational access to the DCR trails on the Needham side of the river.”  Learn more about this study on the Conservators website and on the City of Newton website.

November 2022 update:  the state legislature appropriated $1.25 million to build a new pedestrian bridge across the Charles to replace the old railroad bridge.

If the gate has been reopened, follow the route described here.  If the gate is locked, follow Christina Street to Needham Street, as described above, and pick up the route here.

Walk across the Charles on the old railroad bridge. You are entering the DCR Upper Charles River Reservation.
Turn right at the end of the bridge onto a riverside path. Watch out for poison ivy.
Turn left and walk up a small slope to a seating area.
Turn right on a paved path.
Turn right at Highland Avenue (the extension of Needham Street).
The bridge over the Charles is under construction in 2019.
November 2019 update:  If you’ve been following the detour, pick up the original route here.
At the traffic light, cross the street and continue on the sidewalk of Oak Street.

Turn left on Williams Street.

Upper Falls Riverwalk (formerly called the Charles River Pathway Conservation Area)

The conservation area begins at the end of the street.
Use your smartphone to scan the QR code to learn more about the area. (scan result)
Enter the path along the river.
The pathway ends at the base of an old railroad embankment. The Upper Falls Greenway is at the top. Plans are being developed to build a stairway up the embankment. For now, you can either scramble up the embankment, continue walking along the Charles to Bobby Braceland Playground, or walk back to Oak Street and continue to where it meets the Greenway.

Upper Falls Greenway

A few feet to your left, a viewing platform was built on part of the old bridge over the Charles. The city plans to rebuild it to meet safety codes.
Turn around and walk on the Greenway towards Oak Street.
Cross Oak Street. The Depot Coffee Shoppe, in an old train station building, is on your left.
On your right is the site of the proposed Northland development. (Turn around and look back and to your left to see this view.)
Continue straight where the spur to Needham Street goes off to the right.
At the end of a row of houses, leave the Greenway, turning left on a path up the hill.
Turn left onto Chandler Place.
Turn right onto Columbia Avenue.
Turn right onto Elliot Street.
Cross Elliot Street at the fire station.

Frank Barney Conservation Area and Martin Conservation Area

Enter Frank Barney Conservation Area.
Leave the conservation area, cross Thurston Road, and continue on Circuit Avenue.
Enter Martin Conservation Area on an unmarked path.
Exit the conservation area back onto Circuit Avenue. You’re now 0.3 miles from the Eliot Station on the Green Line, and 1 mile from your starting point in Newton Highlands.  Summon a ride-share if you’ve had enough walking.  If not, read on.
Continue on Circuit Avenue to Route 9. Turn right.
Walk up the ramp to Eliot Station.

You’re on the Inbound platform. Newton Highlands is one stop away.

If you’d rather keep walking, exit the station via the parking lot onto Lincoln Street. Newton Highlands is 0.7 miles ahead.