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Cape Cod’s briny seaports, sandy beaches, delectable seafood and diverse landscape of salt marshes, pine forests, and cranberry bogs can all be experienced from the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. Completely paved and mostly flat, the trail is a popular destination for families and recreational bicyclists.
The trail follows 19th-century rail lines that carried vacationers to the once remote peninsula from Boston and New York City. Between South Dennis and Orleans, the trail follows the Cape Cod Central Railroad completed in 1865. The Old Colony Railroad bought the line in 1872, then extended it from Orleans to Provincetown, past the trail’s current endpoint in Wellfleet. Passenger service ceased in 1937, and freight hung on until the mid-1960s. By 1978, the trail was in place, and vacationers once again hit the corridor, but this time on foot, inline skates, and bicycles.
In fall 2017, a long-awaited extension will open in Yarmouth, where the western end of the rail-trail will meet a local bike trail at Peter Homer Memorial Park. (Long-range plans call for extending the trail farther westward to Barnstable.) Crossing Station Avenue on a pedestrian bridge, the trail will roll through woods for 2.5 miles to a 160-foot bridge (scheduled for opening in mid to late 2018; signs will be posted at the trailhead regarding the bridge status) over tidal Bass River, and then another pedestrian bridge over MA 134 to the current trailhead in South Dennis.
From the trailhead in South Dennis, the first 3 miles of the trail offer ample opportunities to picnic, indulge in ice cream, or detour to other trails and towns. The Cape Cod Rail Trail meets the Old Colony Rail Trail at a landscaped bicycle rotary with a picnic area and information kiosks in Harwich. That alternative trail heads east for 7 miles through the Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary and ends in Chatham.
Heading north from the rotary on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, you’ll soon be sailing past kettle ponds formed when glaciers melted, leaving behind pockets of freshwater enjoyed as swimming holes today. Quaint general stores provide refreshments that can be consumed on site or at trailside picnic tables. Near Mile 14 you’ll reach Nickerson State Park, which offers swimming pools, picnic areas, walking and biking trails, restrooms, and camping throughout its 1,900 acres. The 8-mile forested trail here makes for a shady, cool ride.
The trail joins a small road for a short distance 1.5 miles past Nickerson, crosses a bridge, and enters the bustling tourist town of Orleans. Boasting a variety of restaurants and specialty stores, this former whaling seaport is a good place to stop for lunch, shop, or visit historical sites. About 3.5 miles past Orleans you’ll see signs to the Cape Cod National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center located about a half mile off the trail.
The remaining miles offer public campgrounds and coastal overlooks. At trail’s end, Wellfleet occupies a narrow strip of the cape, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay. A mile trip east on Lecount Hollow Road from the trailhead is rewarded with large dunes and a sandy ocean beach. Locally grown oysters are available in many restaurants and honored in October’s Wellfleet Oyster Fest.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is in the mid-Cape area in southeastern Massachusetts. Free parking is available at several locations, including the trailhead on State Route 134 in South Dennis and the trailhead on LeCount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet. To reach the South Dennis trailhead, take US 6 to Exit 9 and head south on SR 134, past Patriots Square Plaza and Cumberland Farms. The trailhead parking area is on the left about 0.5 mile south of the exit.
Easy to find Dennis trailhead - Under construction closed.
Well paved - Tree roots causing lots of bumps.
Mostly shady - What's wrong with shade on a hot day.
I look forward to visiting again.
I biked the Cape Cod Rail trail today. No facilities I the trail or on the Chatham. Be careful on the Chatham end as the trail shares local roads and isn't marked on the road. Also crossing some streets yo have to go over a curb. Overall I liked the trail, but there are better trails on Cape Cod
I biked this trail 3 times in one week doing the entire 44 mile out and back. This trail is good for bicyclists of all experience. There are a number of starting point the two main being at Wellfleet and S. Dennis where there is ample parking.
At about the mid-point is Nickerson State Park where there are restrooms and water available.
The trail is a nature lovers delight with its many changes of woodland, marshland, etc.
My first time on this bike trail. I usually ride the Cape Cod Canal path but wanted to try this one. I started at Dennis and went as far as Orleans, so I only rode about half the trail. I went on a Monday in August, here is my experience... parking at trail head in Dennis is ok , about half full and a pretty big lot. easy to go to off Rt 6. My first impression was this is a busy trail with a lot of families. though it is summer time and Cape Cod so have to expect a lot of people who want to enjoy a bike path. The path overall in good condition. The first 4 or 5 miles of the path had a fair amount of road crossings, some small and a few major roads, and no cross lights, but just signs and the cars almost always stopped for cyclists per the law etc... I do not like road crossings though you have to expect them on most paths. terrain is mostly fairly flat through forest areas with a few marshes, and a few cranberry bogs, also went by several large and very pretty lakes. So I have to say it was a scenic path which was nice.. I did see a large cycle shop not far from the beginning of the path.. I went by a general store but did not go in but did see a lot of people who had stopped there.. maybe I will try it next time.. after I went about 5 miles and got into Brewster the path seemed to be less crowded and more fun... it went by Nickerson State Park... at the 12 mile marker or so I ended up in Orleans and the path just sort of turned into a regular street with signs marking the trail and pointing to down town Orleans, this is where I turned around and went back as I do not ride on roads, and I had only planned on doing half the trail that day.. but I did not see mention of this in the guide book that this trail turned into a street..I assume it turns back into a bike trail after Orleans center. There was a pretty neat bike rotary I should mention along the way with an option of taking a bike trail to Chatham or continuing on to Wellfleet, I took the Wellfleet path as I have said.. there were a lot of people taking a rest stop at this place... I haven't seen a bike path rotary before... so I rode about 25 miles I guess and it took me most of the morning as I did stop for a lunch break on the way back around 1 pm...I will not mention the name of this place, it was not the general store though that I mentioned earlier... I will only say there is a sign on the bike path for this place with a little side path going to this little food stand which I think is in Dennis. the sign says things like .. hamburgs, shakes, soda etc.. so I sounded ok to me.. I took the little path and the place was not far down this path and situated on a side road..so cars are also pulling in there..they have picnic table and outdoor places to sit since it is not a sit down place,,its just one of those to go joints.. well I normally get a hot dog in place like this as its hard to mess up a hot dog.. but today I wanted a hamburger,though at 7 dollars that seemed a bit much but maybe it would be a great one at that price... I got one.. was only so so..nothing to write home about... my tab with a medium drink was around 9 plus dollars so next time I get a hot dog or better yet I try the general store... now for the riding experience,, I ride a folding bike so I do not go fast as the bike is sort of slow but it is fun to ride. going fast on this busy trail would not be a good idea though I did see several cyclist go by me going pretty fast .. on several occasions I had to almost stop as a youngster coming the other way was veering into my side of the path... you really have to watch out for the kids, there were a lot of families with kids,, there were a lot of regular cyclists also.. a lot of them did give the audible passing signal which I appreciate. the parents seem to do a pretty good job though with the kids, I did see a few bikes with the kiddy cart being pulled behind it.. so this is my impression of the first half of the trail.. a nice trail.. though I probably will go back in the off season....its hard to get into any kind of cycling groove on this path with all the crossings and folks etc... thanks for reading this review....
I recommend that you take a side trip on the Nauset Bike Trail. It adds about 5 miles to the trip. In Eastham, there are signs directing you off the trail. You reach the Salt Pond Visitors Center and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The trail to Coast Guard Beach weaves through forest terrain. There is a former Coast Guard station, which happened to be open the day we were there. (It's open only 2 days per year). We were there for International Marconi Day. The radio operators were sending Morse Code messages in an attempt to reach different countries. Also, the beach was nice to walk on. It was definitely the highlight of the trail.
Great this time of year. Few people and still great fall color
The wife and I really enjoyed this trail. Rented bikes at Barbara's Bike shop in Dennis, which is about 200' from the trail head and did about 16 miles round trip. A well maintained, smooth, paved trail. We'll definitely do this trail again!
This trail is a must-see if you are visiting Cape Cod. It's a fantastic trail for those that are looking to give bicycling a try. It got me back on a bike after many years, and I've become an avid biker as a result.
The terrain is as flat as one could as for, with the slightly hillier section at the northern end. Road crossings are always a tension between bikers and cars, although cars are generally very alert and willing to stop. There are a couple of road crossings that should be marked better for motorists, so just be careful. This is especially true since a lot of tourists are not used to driving these roads and are not aware of where the crossings are.
The pavement is in overall good shape, but there are some potholes and tree root heaves along the way. They are generally well marked, but every now and then you can be in for a surprise.
If there is a complaint about this trail it's the crowds - but that's just a fact of life for pretty much anything on Cape Cod. Be aware, however, that even in the off-season, the trail can be very busy on the weekends. Parking can be very scarce, especially at the trailhead in Dennis Port, so be sure to have a backup plan if a lot is full.
Cape Cod should be immensely proud of this trail. We have spent a lot of our hard earned tourist dollars in Cape Cod solely because of this trail. And we will keep doing so as long as it is maintained. This trail is that much of a gem.
I have done this trail for 7-8 years now me and a friend travel from Nj up to capecod every year to ride the trail
I did the CCRT while on vacation over Labor day 2010. Pristine asphalt, many dangerous/blind road crossings, gradual grades. Definitely one of the best trails for inline skating I have ever been on. the road crossings are only dangerous if you don't take care. Slow (at a minimum) and look both ways.
I did 10 miles out and back (20 total) from Dennis to Brewster the first day.
I did 12 miles out and back (24 total) from Dennis to Chatham the second day.
Approximately 1/2 mile near Chatham is Share The Road and *very* rough. Otherwise, very enjoyable.
I bike the Cape Cod trail atleast once every Summer.
I don't have anything to say as the previous reviewers have described the trail already.
I start to bike the trail from Dennis in the mornings so I will reach Wellfleet before noon.
I rest in the beach , eat food nearby as the shops are accessible and bike back to Dennis.
Than the other trails that I have biked, I see a lot of bikers on this trail.. I bike Cape Cod and Chatham trail on the same day which adds about 64-65 miles on to my bike.
If you are near CapeCod and you bike, then it is worth biking Cape Cod trail
I'm rating this trail 4 stars rather than 5 only because I was expecting more "Cape Cod" scenery, otherwise it is a great trail; paved the entire length, well marked, etc. It is what a rail-trial should be. We did see cranberry bogs and the such, but also lots of trees as is typical of rail-trails in the east.
This is certainly one of the busiest trails we've ridden on, comparable to the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia or the Manhattan greenways in NYC. As mentioned in another review the cars always tend to stop at the trail crossings, as regular trail riders elsewhere this was very strange to us and can lead to a dangerous situation of compliancy for novice riders.
Parking at the end point trail heads in Wellfleet & Dennis was a premium, both lots were filled early (before 10AM) on a Wednesday morning in late July, so plan accordingly.
All-in-all this is an excellent and well developed trail that provides cape vacationers a fantastic off beach activity.
My husband and I were looking for something to do with our children ages 6 and 10 and I have to agree with the last review! Which is also the reason we decided to travel 4 1/2 hours to the Cape ;) - This rail trail was great! It has shops along the way, plenty of places to stop and pee if needed, even places to swim, very family friendly!! Only once did we come to a cross way where a car did not stop. Otherwise we found that the car were very patient as we crossed the street even when at times having to walk across. We spent 3 days staying at a hotel in Dennis (if you are looking for a place to sleep with a pool that will not break the bank, I recommend the Travel Lodge on Main St! It's family owned, quiet, and clean. The owners are very friendly and you can tell they love the kids - having special rooms for them too (decore geared towards the kids)). It's also not too far away from the trail, cute shops, and good food. We really had a great time!! They even have a bike rental place if you do not want to bring your own bikes right off the parking area for the trail, which makes it easy for renting. I really recommend this trail!! It's nicely paved so if you roller blade you'll enjoy it too! Happy Trails!!!
While the trail is listed as 22 miles, if you add the Chattam spur it is closer to 26 (one way). My wife wanted to do 50 miles for her 50th birthday this month. We didn't have our own bikes because we didn't drive from our home in NY, we flew from New Mexico where I am on a temporary assignment. We rented some comfort/cruiser bikes from Barbara's Bike Shop on route 134, just south of the trail head parking lot. Jamis Boss models in excellent condition and they were great (may have to abandon the old mountain bike for one of these, but that is another story).
The trail is in better condition than ever, we have ridden it in the past. Several sections have been freshly resurfaced. In September, after "the season", some of the trail side services are closed, but there are still plenty of eat, drink, stretch, & pee places. You can't get lost or "off trail". You will see everything from quiet woods, to cranberry bogs, to quaint New England towns.
I disagree with one of the other reveiwers. YES you should always be cautious at road crossings, but my wife and I both thought that they must strictly enforce the "Stop for bicyclist" rule because EVERYONE stops to let you cross.
As we were leaving Barb's with our rented bikes, a Dad was waiting to rent his bikes and he was asking if the trail would be OK for his 7 year old. They had never ridden the CCRT before and I told him he was in for a treat. I gave him a few pointers. They did 20 miles (including a swim and long lunch) in the same time my wife & I did 50. He was loading up when we returned, remembered me and thanked me my for my input. They said they had the best time ever and would be returning often.
If you ride a bike and are anywhere near Cape Cod, DO NOT MISS THIS TRAIL!
Our favorite rail trail ever!
It is well worth the effort to ride the Cape Cod Trail. It is a smooth ride and the trail is in excellent shape. We rode the trail on Aug. 4 and it was very busy with a number of families. We parked at the West Dennis trailhead off Rt 134. This trailhead is one of the best marked trailheads we have experienced and was very easy to find. The one negative is that this trail crosses numerous streets and you must be very careful because some of the cars do not stop for cyclists.
The trail is in great condition, I have gone from Dennis to Wellfleet last weekend and the trail is nice and smooth, you could roller blade on it but I biked, I have also gone from Dennis to Chatman last year and it is just as nice. It great to have such a nice trail to ride on, and the cars on the road always stop when you want to cross.
This trail from the very begining is rough for rollerblading. We had to stop and go back because the pavement is very bumpy and not confrmed to smooth pavement.
"From the East Coast Greenway Alliance e-newsletter...
On June 17, 2006, Phase 1 from Dennis-Brewster was complete and opened to the public!
Phase 2 from Roland C. Nickerson State Park, Brewster to LeCount Hollow Road, South Wellfleet will close on September 18, 2006 and re-open in mid-June 2007.
Several locations within Phase 2 will be very hazardous and completely impassable during construction as we replace culvert pipes and undergo extensive work at the Eastham Tunnel. We appreciate your cooperation as we move forward with the final restoration through Fall 2006 to Spring 2007."
"Very good trail, paving is almost new. The path closed from Brewster (about 12 miles into the trail) for renovation. Very empty and lightly use mid-week in December. Nice little spur from the rotary to Harwich Village (I didn't go all the way to Chatham). "
"Rode from Dennis on Rt.134 to end with a side trip to Marconi Station. Lots of people riding for a week day. The first half to nickerson is done and nice. They are scheduled to do the next half starting Sept. 15th. We took the flex bus back from Farrell's market to E. harwick stop and shop. You could transfer to H2O Breeze to return to rt.134 if you want, but we rode down Rt.137 to the Chatham Rail trail to return. The bus ride was only $1 and you can fit 2 bikes first come first serve for no extra charge. They run about every half hour on the major route. Had a really nice ride. "
"this trail is entirely paved and largely shaded, passing several bike shops, swimable ponds, and eating places, while being generally rural in nature. side trips to the east can take you to the neaby atlantic ocean. orleans and a state park are near the middle of the trail. a great ride!"
"In late September the temps are perfect & there are NO people on the trail - even on a Sunday. Although it can get boring at times, side trips out to the Salt Pond Visitor Center, beaches, & lighthouses make this trail a winner. Highly recommend the short paved trail past Salt Pond out to Ocean View Dr."
"You can pick up an inexpensive guide to the Cape Cod Rail Trail and other Cape Cod Trails, what sights to see, where to eat, and especially park, etc., at http://peaceco.net/capecodbike/home.htm
"The 25-mile rail trail now has a completed Harwich-Chatham spur, which leaves the main trail at a bike rotary in Harwich and goes to the center of Chatham, another 6-7 miles. There's not much scenery on the Chatham end, but you can't beat the bike accessibility to that end of the Cape. "
"Good job! The trail was well marked, and we appreciated the white circles around holes and on bumpy sections where tree roots raised the asphalt. As members of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we were proud to be there and to spread the word to others!
Note: The ONLY spot that could use a sign pointing back to the trail is from West Street, having just crossed Route 6. (trail IV, Orleans to Nickerson Park). Otherwise, there is no way one could miss a turn! Thank you!
**NOTE FROM RAILS-TO-TRAILS CONSERVANCY** Rails-to-Trails Conservancy does not own or manage the rail-trails that are open to public use in the United States. For more information on our role helping to facilitate the development of rail-trails across the country, please see www.railtrails.org/whatwedo. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is managed by the Massachusetts Division of State Parks and Recreation via Nickerson State Park. They can be reached at 508-896-3491."
"This trail makes it possible for the determined cyclist to
get from Boston to Nantucket in one day, using the Provincetown
and Hyannis ferries.
"This is the epitome of the scenic, beautiful, family-friendly rail trail. Avoid the crowds and ride in the early hours, or the evening."
"I'm a cyclist, and I've only used this trail in summer, when it can be really crowded. If you want to zip along, please use the public roads! The trail gives a nice view of some of the interior features of the Cape, and there are places where you can get off it and enjoy yourself in woods or lakes. The overall condition of the oldest part of the trail (Dennis - Eastham) has been deteriorating - frost heaves and the like can jog you around a lot. Those riding with small children should be aware that there's a stretch in the Orleans area where you have to take a fairly busy (in summer, at least) public road. The extension up toward Wellfleet is good but not the most scenic. A new branch which heads out toward Chatham, stopping at the Chatham line as of summer 2000, is really nice (smooth, good for skating too)."
I did this trail in 1990. This was a nice trail with lots of sites along the way. The cranberry bogs right off the trail were my favorite. There were places to stop along the way for food and drink. Beware of traffic where the trail intersects roads.
"I have pedaled this rail trail on several vacations, it is wonderful...very easy flat terrain. My 8 yr old son did it with us also. We stopped along the way at the several ice cream shops and swam in a lake. "
"I have pedaled this trail many times. Easy grades and 100% paved. Starts in Dennis (exit 9). Next is Harwich: cranberry bogs, fresh water swimming at Long Pond, nice general store. Brewster: tall pine forests, bike shop, yummy sandwiches at the Box Lunch, Nickerson State Park is a nice side trip. Orleans: large salt marsh, town center with a good bike shop, shopping, good eats and drinks (check out the Land Ho Tavern), Rock Harbor is beautiful! Eastham: Side trip to First Encounter Beach. Wellfleet: Continue on trail to town center or cross rt 6 to the National Seashore, don't miss Coast Guard Beach and Marconi Beach (beautiful and strange easy hike on the White Cedar Swamp Trail off Marconi Area parking lot. Have fun, it's a great ride"
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