Sand dunes, salty air, seafood shacks, and fun in the sun are some of the first things that come to mind when thinking of old Cape Cod. For others, it’s the miles and miles of paved bicycle trails that beckon them to the seashore. The Cape in many ways is a cycling mecca. Despite busy roads and snarled summer traffic, there are still lots of fun and safe places to ride. Some on-road opportunities exist, while most are dedicated bike trails or bike lanes.
First and foremost is the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved former railroad right-of-way and the longest continuous section of bike path on the Cape. There are a number of bicycle shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants along the way. The CCRT starts in Dennis and connects at a roundabout with the Old Colony Rail Trail in Harwich Center, which heads roughly 7 miles into Chatham. You can either continue up the main Cape Cod Rail Trail or head out to Chatham. The main trail offers views of cranberry bogs, fresh water ponds, and marshland-- all the makings for a peaceful and picturesque ride as you head through at least six quintessential Cape Cod villages before reaching the South Wellfleet terminus.
Somewhat shorter, though equally enjoyable paved trails dot the Cape Cod landscape. Among them are the Shining Sea Bikeway from Falmouth to Woods Hole, the Province Lands loop through the dunes of Provincetown, and a few other municipal bikeways that make riding around a little safer and easier. Riding on the road is possible, but not something that’s recommended during the peak season between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
If you are a road biker and want to ride the roads to get some extra mileage, call a local bike shop or chamber of commerce first and get advice (and hopefully a map) on where to ride that’s safe. Otherwise it’s best to stick to the bike trails. Since they can get just as crowded as the beach, if you don’t want interruptions and obstacles you may want to consider riding early (before 8 a.m.) or late (past 5 p.m.) for the most congestion-free experience.
Looking for an almost traffic-free experience for yourself and the kids? You might want to try Nickerson State Park off of Route 6A in Brewster. Eight miles of paved trail wind throughout the pine, fir and oak trees with views of the ponds, lakes, and bogs along the way. It’s a fantastic trail network with the only road crossings being the access road for the park, however you should be aware that it is hillier than other trails and a bit curvy, so the littlest of cyclists might be better suited to the flat-as-a -pancake Cape Cod Rail Trail, which connects with the Nickerson Trail near the park’s main entrance.
Where to park and ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail:
·The trailhead at Route 134 in South Dennis
·Headwaters Drive in Harwich
·Route 137 in Brewster
·Nickerson State Park in Brewster
·Cape Cod National Seashore Salt Pond Visitors Center
·National Seashore at Marconi Area
·The trailhead at LeCount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet
Matt Van Gelder has worked in bike shops every summer since middle school. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Financial Services from Bryant University, he decided it was time to open his own shop, Dennis Cycle Center on the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis, and combining his finance skills with his bike shop experience.