Cycling visitors to Cape Cod enjoy the dramatic landscapes, the contrasts between bay, pond and ocean and numerous bicycle paths—114 miles of paths in all, and more are planned or in progress. Picture-perfect towns, sea coasts and lighthouses are plentiful along the routes. Nickerson State Forest in Brewster offers beautiful campsites adjacent to the 22-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail. In season, Bostonians can take their bicycles onto a ferry which will place them in Provincetown, a cycler’s dream. Or, they can take their bikes for free aboard the CapeFLYER seasonal train service from Boston to Cape Cod.
Cape Cod Rail Trail (22-mile off road paved path)
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Cyclers can follow the route of the old Cape Cod Railroad through five mid- to lower-Cape towns. The western terminus is on Route 134 in Dennis and winds through Harwich, Brewster (with a detour through Nickerson State Park), Orleans (through the beautiful Rock Harbor area) and continues through a salt marsh to the Cape Cod National Seashore Center in Eastham and Le Count Hollow in Wellfleet. Several hotels, restaurants and attractions have Trail access. The Trail itself extends from the Route 134 trailhead to Le Counts Hollow Road in South Wellfleet. The name stems from the old railroad right of way it follows, which used to transport passengers and freight to Cape Cod in the early 1800s until around 1960. The route passes by many local points of interest and several lakes suitable for swimming and picnics, including Nickerson State Park in Brewster. Continuously monitored by local police bike patrols, the Cape Cod Rail Trail is a safe and enjoyable way to spend a Cape Cod summer day. Bicycle and rollerblade rentals are also available at various bike shops conveniently located right along the trail in Dennis, Brewster, Orleans and Wellfleet. Parking areas at different starting points.
Cape Cod Canal Bike Paths
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(14.2 miles paved, off-road trail; access the paths in Sagamore): These paths run along both sides of the man-made Cape Cod Canal. Featuring a wide road with minimal grades, it is ideal for beginner to casual cyclists, especially families with younger children. Following the length of the Canal roughly 7½ miles between the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges, the bikeway itself is smooth concrete, with a well-defined single yellow line painted down the center designating two-way traffic. Enjoy beautiful sea breezes and watch the neverending ship and boat traffic through the Canal. There are ample spots to stop and take in the beautiful scenery. On the off-Cape side, pedal from Buzzards Bay to Scusset Beach (about seven miles). Or, start at the Herring Run on Route 6 or at any parking lot from the Sagamore Rotary. Cape-side, pedal from Sandwich to Bourne, about 6.8 miles, or start at the U.S. Engineering Observation Station, Sandwich or from Pleasant Street, Sagamore.
Shining Sea Bikeway
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(10.7 miles of paved, off-road trails; access the Trail from various points in Falmouth): This beautiful path runs along some of the most beautiful scenery on Cape Cod, from North Falmouth village all the way to the avant garde village of Woods Hole, home to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory and many other institutions. It follows the original route of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad that used to run from Buzzards Bay, through North and West Falmouth, around Woods Hole and into Falmouth Station. The spectacular views offered from the freshly minted section of Shining Sea Bikeway are right out of the Katherine Lee Bates song "America the Beautiful," from which the path gets its name. The route avoids much of Falmouth’s notorious summer traffic by winding down along the beach, past cranberry bogs and harbors, and through marshes and the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary. This is a frequently used area in-season, so be sure to respect the rights of others, especially inline skaters and runners.
The Chatham Loop
Follow the signs in a five-mile ‘loop’ from Chatham Fish Pier or any town parking lot to see Chatham Light, boatyards and harbors.
Nauset Marsh Trail (1.6 miles)
Begins at the Salt Pond Visitors Center (Route 6) or Doane Rock Picnic area, both in Eastham, and runs to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, intersecting with the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The trail provides a panoramic vista of the Atlantic Ocean. A three mile roundtrip, this route first wanders through a large grove of cedar, pine and oak. Beyond, rolling countryside awaits along with a trailside bench to stop, rest and enjoy the scenery at. Be sure to take a detour at the second stop sign to the Doane Memorial, a monument to Deacon John Doane. Right on the marsh, this site marks where he built his home in 1644. Back on the paved path, prepare to cross a wooden bridge spanning the marsh overlooking Salt Pond. A short distance further is the old Coast Guard Station, overlooking Coast Guard Beach. The beach itself is a sprawling and beautiful site, with waves lapping the shore as far as the eye can see in either direction. Also, scope the shoreline for surfers who commonly share the water with curious harbor seals.
Head of the Meadow Trail (2 miles)
Cyclists can access this trail in Truro at Head of the Meadow Beach parking area; its runs to peaceful Head of the Meadow Beach.
Province Lands Trail (7¼ miles)
This is a challenging paved loop through the majestic dunes leading to Herring Cove and Race Point Beaches in Provincetown. This hilly loop starts from the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown. The route is 7-¼ miles long. But with the trail extensions to Herring Cove Beach, Race Point Beach and Bennet Pond, two more miles can be added to your distance. Riding the trail is a great way to tour the vast dune system in the Province Lands area, as well as its shady Beech Forest, one of the few places within the tract with extensive tree cover. There are several entry areas. This trail is certain to become a favorite for bicyclists, although the route can turn difficult due to the undulating hilly terrain it follows. The paved network traverses much of Province Lands’ 4,000 wild acres, winding through and over the dunes of Provincetown and other local sand formations. In your travels you’ll explore cranberry bogs, marshes and skirt several saltwater kettle ponds, as well. From breathtaking marshland to magnificent exposed dunes to expansive shore views, these trails feature much spectacular scenery. An added convenience is that they also offer direct access to both Race Point and Herring Cove beaches.
The casual cyclist will find a lot of beauty and enjoyment in this Outer Cape town. Aside from more than two dozen art galleries, there are winding roads through a quaint village, or a bustling Main Street. Everything is just a short bike ride from Bay to Ocean.
Cape Cod National Seashore Bike Shuttle
The Cape Cod National Seashore offers forty miles of pristine sandy beaches, marshes, ponds, and uplands that support diverse wildlife species, lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and wild cranberry bogs that can all be seen by bicylce. The Bike Shuttle provides service every 1.5 hours seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Bike trail information compiled by William DeSousa-Mauk