The Charles River bridge loops are a collection of river-side paved running paths and sidewalked bridges between Boston and Watertown popular among runners, walkers, and cyclists. Running paths pass through scenic parks like the Esplanade, Magazine Beach and Christian Herter Park, and offer loop distances from 1-17 miles with almost anything in between. Exercise stations along the way allow for upper-body workouts on pull-up bars, and numerous benches offer rest opportunities with views of the river.
What Makes It Great
Runners love the Charles River because of its scenic views and wide range of loop options. Because the running paths are right along the river shore, there are no buildings or cars to get in the way of great views of the Boston skyline. In the river itself you can watch sailing regattas between the Longfellow and BU bridges, crew teams paddling up all the way to Watertown, and occasional pleasure boaters.
No matter what distance you want to run you have plenty of options on the Charles. Take a quick 2.8-mile jog on a Harvard Bridge – Longfellow Bridge loop, or a 7-mile loop from the River Street Bridge to the Museum of Science. Change your mind mid-way through the run? No problem! Just cut across on a closer bridge or hang on until the next farther one. Better yet, many loops allow you to completely avoid road crossings by using pedestrian over- or under-passes.
Don’t like pounding your legs on asphalt or concrete? The Charles is the place to go. Dirt and grass paths parallel nearly every mile of asphalt running path for a workout that’s softer on the legs. Several stretches upriver even pass through small forests that make you forget you’re still close to the big city.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners of all abilities and anyone looking for a scenic outdoor workout will love the Charles. Locals training for the Boston Marathon or any other road race will find every distance option they need to meet their daily mileage goals. Casual runners can choose whichever loop they feel like that day. Want urban scenery and sailboats? Stick down river on a Longfellow-BU Bridge loop. Want to duck into the woods and escape from the cars and buildings? Head upriver on an Eliot-Arsenal St Bridge loop. Just have a lunch break in town and want to get in a quick workout? Run around the Longfellow Bridge to Museum of Science.
The loops downriver closer to Boston can get crowded on a warm summer weekend, but if you’re looking for some solitude just head upriver. Generally the farther upriver you go the fewer other runners you’ll bump in to. And in the winter you’ll hardly see anyone, even on the Esplanade! Just watch out for icy sections as the running paths generally don’t get plowed from snow until after the roads are clear.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are many potential public parking locations along the river in and near Boston. Some options include Magazine Beach, Christian Herter Park, the Harvard Square parking garage in Cambridge, or along Memorial Drive also in Cambridge. In general parking is pretty difficult near Boston and you can save yourself a lot of time searching for spots if you can instead take the T into town. The Kendall Square and Charles MGH stops on the Red Line are great locations to access the down-river bridge loops between the Harvard Bridge and Museum of Science. For upriver locations try the BU stops along the Green Line (BU West, Central, or East).