This time of year, Cape Codders trade beach towels for sneakers to trek or bike around foliage-lined trails, scenic hills and quiet ocean paths. Here are the best routes for bikers who want easy rides along paved paths, or more challenging mountain bike trails within forested conservation areas.
Once the path of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railway, the Shining Sea Bikeway is a flat path that makes for an easy ride with family and friends. The entire 10.7 miles of trail is paved and provides scenic views of Cape Cod from North Falmouth to Woods Hole. Zip across changing scenery including coastal beaches, tree-lined forest, crimson cranberry bogs and bird sanctuaries. Early morning bikers will catch the sunrise over Falmouth, while those that bike later in the day should plan to linger for a while, exploring Woods Hole's waterfront eateries, eclectic shops and small aquarium.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 22-mile paved route that stretches from Dennis to Wellfleet. It's a leisurely and scenic ride along the former rail line, winding through Nickerson State Park and the Cape Cod National Seashore. Be sure to stop and take pictures along the way as it's one of the best ways to see Cape Cod in fall. From cranberry bogs and lighthouses to tree-lined lakes and golden salt marshes, there are plenty of visual landmarks that make the journey equally appealing for nature lovers and cyclists alike. For an even more scenic journey, veer off the trail in Eastham or Wellfleet, where the bike path crosses Route 6 leading to Ocean Beach. Don’t miss the Rail Trail’s latest trail extension to Yarmouth, which includes an overpass over the town’s Station Avenue.
The Nauset Marsh Trail is a short but picturesque ride around salt ponds and over bridges connecting marshes of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham. At just 1.3 miles, it's an easy loop for a weekday morning ride, or the perfect lazy weekend outdoor adventure. Trail extensions lead to the Doane picnic areas, as well as Coast Guard Beach. Given the sheltered location, it's protected from more extreme winds and cool fall temperatures in fall and early winter.
Head to the tip of the Cape for a hilly ride through sand dunes, beech forest, freshwater ponds and coastal paths along the Province Lands Trail. The 5.5 mile loop start at the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown and rounds around colorful cranberry bogs, waist-high grasses and trees that hit peak foliage in October, painting the landscape intense shades of reds and oranges. Fall is the best time to tackle this trail, as the lower sun intensity and cooler temperatures make for a much more comfortable ride.
The Cape Cod Canal Bike Trail is one of the iconic routes cycling routes on the Cape. It runs parallel to the Cape Cod Canal on both sides between the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, and offers stunning views of the canal, the picturesque Railroad Bridge, and sunsets that linger over the sea. At more than 8 miles of flat, paved conditions, it's ideal for cyclists of all levels, including families with children. It's also close to commercial areas, restaurants and spots to enjoy a picnic lunch.
Mountain Bike Trails
Head to Nickerson State Park in Brewster for foliage canopies covering more than 25 miles of hilly, singletrack trails. Cycle through the park and more remote areas, including the Training Loop and Highway Trail, boasting steep ascents and natural obstacles. The trail is full of pine and fir forests alongside ponds and thick brush. For those that want to make a weekend of it, there are seven campgrounds, five lakes and plenty of picnic areas.
Named for the level of difficulty, and the occasional teardrop shed while shredding, the Trail of Tears in West Barnstable is a favorite spot for intense mountain biking. The Mid-Cape path offers 21 miles of adventure for bikers of all levels, though the more difficult paths with steep twists are the most coveted. The landscape flows through conservation land with continuous hills and rocks nestled. Along the way you'll find trees ranging from American Beech and Red Oak to Sassafras and White Pine. In autumn, you'll be rewarded with intense foliage colors.
The Mashpee Woodlands on the Upper Cape is only a few miles from the center of town, but feels like a faraway nature retreat. The four-mile bike trail is located under heavy tree canopies which mask city sounds, and instead offer bird serenades and the sound of wind in the tree tops. The singletrack trail twists through the forest and along scenic Mashpee River, and offers small hills and occasional rocky paths deep within the woods. As a note, the parking area is semi-hidden at the end of a dirt road. Look for the sign Quinaquisset Ave.
What are you waiting for? Get out your bikes and start pedaling! For more information on biking around Cape Cod, click here.