In September of 2017, we took a look at some “welcome back” walks that people can take to get to know the city of Boston a little better. One of the walks mentioned was the Neponset River Greenway, which at the time led walkers through quiet parts of Dorchester and Milton, including Lower Mills, a historic industrial area that has some really interesting things to check out.
Not too long before the article’s publication, a new section of the Greenway had debuted, and since it was (at the time) unexplored territory, it wasn’t covered in the piece, but now with several treks along the new part under our belts, it’s time to look at the entire walkway, including this new section, which leads to an area of the city that had traditionally been rarely seen by hikers and walkers.
Perhaps the best place to start on the Neponset River Greenway is from the Pope John Paul II Park parking lot at the end of Hallet Street in Dorchester if you’re driving, or for those looking to use public transportation, the Butler stop on the Red Line trolley, which is by the Greenway about a mile west of the Hallet Street lot, shortening the walk by a couple of miles or so (unless you decide to walk east to the park, then back west, which isn’t a bad idea because Pope John Paul Park II is pretty scenic).
From the lot, walking back onto Hallet Street (and under the Expressway) will quickly lead to the Greenway, which goes in both directions; taking it to the right eventually leads to Tenean Beach and then… nowhere, unless walking through dusty commercial and industrial areas to Morrissey Boulevard sounds like fun (it isn’t).
Going to the left is the way to go for this walk, with the trail skirting the Neponset River before the Granite Avenue intersection and marshlands to the left after the intersection; it is well worth exploring the scenic trails in these marshlands before returning to the Greenway, which goes past the massive Cedar Grove Cemetery on the right before arriving at the aforementioned Butler T stop. Between Butler and Lower Mills is a river crossing at a place called Neponset Gorge, which isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds (but is still quite nice), then you can leave the Greenway at Lower Mills if you feel like exploring the charming village area on the Dorchester side or the serene Milton Landing area on the Milton side. At this point, a side trip can be taken south on Adams Street up Milton Hill to Governor Hutchinson’s Field, which has stunning views of the Neponset River and beyond, and is a nice spot for a lunch break/picnic.
After the Adams Street Bridge, more exploring can be done just off the trail to the right where there is a booming waterfall and some old factory buildings, including one with a towering smokestack, and this section also marks the end of the “old” Greenway, which used to stop at the next intersection where Central Avenue meets Eliot Street. The new section of the walkway beyond this point has a different feel from the old section, as much of it is wooded and peaceful, paralleling Eliot Street to the south and the Neponset River to the north before veering away from the road and following the river for the most part.
About a mile west of the Central Avenue intersection where the new part begins, the Greenway approaches what initially looks like a miniature version of one of the Cape Cod Canal bridges. The Harvest River Bridge is a real beauty, with the arched bridge going over the Neponset River and into Mattapan near a playground, and it is certainly a good place to take a break and enjoy the views of the river in both directions. Now on the north side of the Neponset and staying in Mattapan for the duration, the trail initially goes through deep woods and has a surprisingly remote feel to it, and as it approaches Mattapan Square you’ll find yourself gradually going up a very long bridge over the end of the trolley line, coming down on the other side into Mattapan Square where it ends.
There has been talk of extending the Neponset River Greenway so that it might cross Blue Hill Avenue and continue into the Neponset River Reservation along the Truman Parkway, briefly traversing another piece of Milton, then into Hyde Park and Readville, at which point it could even connect to the Blue Hills Reservation, though any project like this would probably be a long way off.
Oh, and there’s also talk about the other end of the Greenway, possibly extending it from Tenean Beach to Victory Road past the gas tank then along Morrissey Boulevard, which means it could perhaps connect to a piece of the Harborwalk that goes all the way to Castle Island in South Boston. Don’t hold your breath waiting for either end of the Neponset River Greenway to be extended in the immediate future, but for now, it’s great to see a walkway along Boston’s southern border that goes into some really gorgeous areas, including some interesting parts of Boston that typically aren’t visited all that much.
Directions to Pope John Paul II Park parking lot: From Route 93S, take exit 11B (11 from Route 93N) to Granite Avenue, north over the Neponset River, an immediate right on Hilltop Street, then right on Hallet Street under the bridge into the parking lot.]