by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

Do you remember when you learned to ride a bicycle? For many, it’s an important childhood milestone. Those wobbly sprints up and down the drive with an adult steadying the bike… that simultaneously thrilling and terrifying moment when you realize they’ve let go… the exhilaration of riding off on your own.

If you have a child in your life, you may have recently relived such experiences — perhaps from the perspective of the teacher this time, not the student. For some, biking with kids is as simple as pedaling up the road, as some neighborhoods are relatively safe for such activities. But if that’s not your situation, we’re here to offer some alternatives. With paved and no automobile traffic, the parks listed below are ideal settings for taking bike rides with children.

Also check out “365 Nature Places to Know,” our Explore South Shore program for 2024. Every morning we feature one of the region’s best nature places on Facebook and Instagram. Every Monday it’s a family-friendly spot! Not on social media? We’ve listed all the locations on our website as well!

Forge Pond Park, Hanover

This 40-acre athletic complex is surrounded by woodland trails. But it also offers a wide, paved, 1-mile path around its perimeter, ideal for walking, wheelchair use, and bicycling — especially for young families. If you feel like exploring while you’re there, check out the French’s Stream Trail, which leads to the confluence of French’s Stream and the Drinkwater River, both tributaries to the Indian Head and part of the North River watershed. Located at 245 King Street with several on-site parking areas.

Bare Cove Park, Hingham

There’s lots of space to explore within this 484-acre park on the Back River, including 5 miles of paved and woodland trails, along with open fields, marshes and gorgeous views. Large parking lots at the end of Bare Cove Drive and at 226 Beal Street.

Wompatuck State Park, Hingham and Cohasset

This 3,500-acre state park features 12 miles of paved bike paths, as well as extensive off-road trails. The Doane Street and Leavitt Street entrances, along with the Main Entrance, are best if you’re planning to ride on pavement. Mountain bikers can enjoy one of the longest sections of switch-backed singletrack in the state. Download the detailed trail map to plan your route. The park is situated in two different watersheds. Accord Brook, part of the Weir River watershed, flows through one side, and the Aaron River, part of the Gulf River watershed, flows through the other. On-site parking at all 3 entrances.

Whitney Spur Rail Trail, Cohasset

Another way to explore Wompatuck on two wheels is via the Whitney Spur Rail Trail, which extends for 1.5 miles from the Cohasset MBTA station into the heart of the park. While this trail isn’t paved – instead, it’s well-graded crushed stone – it’s still suitable for most young cyclists. This too is situated within two watersheds. The lower portion of the trail drains to Hingham Bay via a stream called Turkey Hill Run, while the upper portion drains to the Aaron River. Designated free parking at the Cohasset MBTA station, 110 Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A).

Hanover Rail Trail

Hanover Branch Rail Trail

Established in 2023, this wide, paved, shady trail follows the former railroad bed eastward for about a half mile so far, with more to come. Cushing Brook flows alongside the trail, and the Drinkwater River passes under it at the old railroad bridge. Want to go further? The Hanover Branch connects directly with the Rockland Rail Trail, which extends westward for 3 more miles, from the Hanover-Rockland town line to North Abington. Parking lot at 1409 Hanover Street.

Myles Standish State Park, Plymouth and Carver

Myles Standish State Forest is large — more than 12,400 acres. It contains many rare species and habitats, such as pine barrens, frost pockets, and coastal plain kettle ponds. The park is situated within two different watersheds – the Wankinco River and the Agawam River, which flow together in Carver to form the Wareham River. Check out the park’s 15 miles of paves bike paths, and 13 miles of forest trails. Some are quite hilly, so if your family is up for a workout, this is the spot for you! Several on-site parking lots.

Rockland Rail Trail

Rockland Rail Trail

The paved, 3.5-mile Rockland Rail Trail extends from West Hanover, through Rockland, to North Abington, and passes over French’s Stream, a headwater to the North River. Ideal for walking and bicycling, it offers numerous access points. Look for the parking lot at 638 Market Street, with additional parking and access at the Hanover Branch Rail Trail, 1409 Hanover Street (Route 139), Hanover.

Pond Meadow Park, Braintree and Weymouth

The 320-acre Pond Meadow Park straddles the Braintree/Weymouth town line. A good spot for new cyclists, it features a 2-mile paved trail around a pond, plus additional woodland paths. Along the way, look for Smelt Brook, a headwater stream for Fore River watershed. On-site parking lot at 470 Liberty Street in Braintree. Additional entrance, with parking, on Summer Street in Weymouth.

Great Esker Park and Osprey Overlook Park, Weymouth

Weymouth’s Great Esker Park features a forest-covered ridge and an expansive salt marsh along the Back River, with beautiful views. There are over 6 miles of paved trails along the top of the ridge, extending from Bridge Street to Osprey Overlook Park. Theoretically, this route is stroller and wheelchair friendly, but portions are hilly and steep. Large parking area at the end of Elva Road, plus limited on-site parking on Bridge Street and Puritan Road. Additional access and parking via Osprey Overlook Park on Wharf Street.

North Plymouth Rail Trail

Also known as the Seaside Rail Trail and the Grace Trail, this 1.2-mile all-access trail connects Nelson Memorial Park to the Cordage Park commercial area. Extending along the shoreline, it offers spectacular salt marsh and ocean views. Suitable for biking with young children, it is relatively flat and consists alternately of pavement, concrete, and crushed stone. Parking is available at various spots, including Nelson Memorial Park, Cordage Park, and the Holmes Reservation.

Norwell Pathway

A 3.5-mile network of paved trails, sidewalks and boardwalks, the Norwell Pathway is a fun way to explore Norwell with children. The trail extends through the watersheds of Third Herring Brook, Margaret’s Brook, and Second Herring Brook, all of which drain to the North River. Park at Gaffield Park, Norwell Community Gardens, Norwell Middle School, or Norwell High School.

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit You will also find 27+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2024 Challenge, visit