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The Old Colony Rail Trail, named after the eponymous railroad line that operated in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, offers a serene journey through quiet Cape Cod beach towns. At 8 miles, the trail is suitable for a short ride out and back, or a longer journey that meets up with the Cape Cod Rail Trail as it extends west.
You’ll want to begin your journey at the intersection of Depot Road and Hitching Post Road in Chatham, as the western endpoint in Harwich merges seamlessly with the Cape Cod Rail Trail, making it inaccessible by car. The beginning of the trail features an on-road portion, but as it travels along quiet, residential streets, even inexperienced cyclists should feel safe. Follow Hitching Post Road 0.2 mile, then turn left onto Tip Cart Drive. Cross Crowell Road in another 0.2 mile and turn right to pick up the trail. Signage points the way at this junction.
You will pass through a short wooded area, emerging to cross Stepping Stones Road in 0.4 mile, where athletic facilities of Monomoy Regional Middle School are visible from the trail. In 0.3 mile, cross Old Queen Anne Road, and continue down Wilfred Road 0.6 mile via the on-street portion of the trail. Inexperienced cyclists should again face few difficulties, as this is a quiet neighborhood street with scarcely any vehicle traffic.
In 0.7 mile, the trail continues past the end of Wilfred Road, looping around Chatham Municipal Airport before pausing at George Ryder Road. Although the shoulder of this busy road functions as an on-road bicycle lane, inexperienced cyclists may wish to first dismount and then use the sidewalk as it appears. This section offers a unique view of personal, small aircraft parked at the airport, located on the right side of the sidewalk. At the next crosswalk (appearing after Northwood Road to the left), follow the signs and cross the street to pick up the trail again. Although it crosses several streets along the way, the remaining 5.4 miles of the trail remain off-road.
This section of the trail meanders through wooded backyard areas that dampen noise of the outside world. Save for the street crossings, it is easy to enjoy a quiet morning in nature, removed from the hustle and bustle of life. In 3 miles from George Ryder Road, you will pass a half-roundabout and continue along the path, passing Brooks Park and the Harwich Town Clerk on the next block, both located on the left. After crossing Pleasant Lake Avenue—1.2 miles from the half-roundabout—the trail passes Island Pond Cemetery on the right. Signage marks a cut-through to visit the Island Pond Conservation Lands, perfect for walking and hiking. The trail ends at the next roundabout and connects with the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which continues both west and north.
To reach the Chatham endpoint from MA 28 N, head east toward Chatham until MA 28 becomes Orleans Road. About 8 miles from Orleans, turn right onto Old Harbor Road. Go 0.8 mile to the roundabout at Main St. Take the first exit onto Main St. After the gas station on the corner, take the first right possible, leading into a parking lot connected to a park complex. The trailhead is located on the other side of the park, at Depot Road toward Hitching Post Road. To reach the Chatham endpoint from MA 28 S, head east toward Chatham until MA 28 becomes Main St. About 5 miles east of Harwich port, turn left onto Depot Road. Continue 0.2 mile to Hitching Post Road. A park is located on the right and the trail is on the left.
Here, parking is available along either side of Depot Road. An additional parking lot is located on the opposite side of the park. To reach it, continue on Depot Road 0.2 mile and turn right onto Old Harbor Road. Go 0.2 mile to the roundabout at Main St. Take the first exit onto Main St. After the gas station on the corner, take the first right possible, leading into a parking lot connected to a park complex. The trailhead is located on the other side of the park, at Depot Road toward Hitching Post Road.
The terminus in Harwich is not accessible by car, as the trail joins the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The closest access point by car is a parking lot located at the intersection of Pleasant Lake Ave./MA 124 and Old Colony Road in Harwich. To reach this parking lot from US 6, take Exit 10 for MA 124 toward Harwich/Brewster. Turn right (from the east) or left (from the west) onto MA 124 S/Pleasant Lake Ave. Go about 1.5 miles to Old Colony Road. A parking lot is located across from Old Colony Road, and the trail crosses over Pleasant Lake Ave. at this point. The trail continues 0.7 mile east to the Harwich endpoint/Cape Cod Rail Trailhead and 7.2 miles west to the Chatham endpoint.
We entered this trail off the Cape Cod Rail Trail on our E-Bikes. Trail was in fine condition with interesting views along the way. The bonus was the Chatham road loop which takes you along the ocean and by the Chatham lighthouse. There's a map at the end of the Old Colony trail for this loop but we needed our trusty GPS to keep us on track.
Great trail. Level path for most part. Does get very busy with walkers and kids. Lots of stopping to cross road. Lots of paths to hop off bike and do some walking. A few picnic areas along the way also. At the trailhead there is an awesome place to grab breakfast or lunch: Hanger B Eatery. It is located at the Chatham Airport.
Be very aware that the last mile of the trail in the town of Chatham is on city streets with very heavy car and truck traffic. This is absolutely not safe for families that are traveling with little kids on bikes. Suggest parking at the airport or another place and begin the travel westward from there.
Rented bikes and rode this trail from the terminus in Chatham. What a great trail. Completely paved and well maintained. Mostly level with some slight inclines here and there. Nice leisurely ride. Going past the airport was neat because I was able to see a plane takeoff and another land on the different legs of the ride.
June 2021: Jumped on the trail at the parking lot at Rt 137 and Rt 28 in Chatham, which about the midpoint of this trail. Went west to the terminus, the junction with the CCRT, about 3.7 miles, mostly flat, very scenic and quiet. From there, I turned around and did the 8 miles to Chatham, then back ~4 miles to my car. Highlights: many well marked road crossings, and just short hops on roads. For my ride, at about the 12 mile point, returning from Chatham, there is a nice breakfast stop at the Chatham airport (Hanger B) I didn't go all the way to the Chatham terminus, since the traffic was building this Saturday morning. Kudos for the air and tool station that is situated at the midpoint, where I parked, at RT 137 and Rt 28 junction!
Trail for all levels. Fun with the family.
Great trail, mostly flat and very scenic.
We started our ride in Dennis on the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT). Once we hit the bike rotary around the 3 mile mark, we got onto the Old Colony. At this point, you can also continue on the CCRT. The scenery on this trail changes from cranberry bogs to ponds to forest in 8 short miles. There are many road crossings and some road riding. Road crossings are well marked and easy to follow. Services along the trail, like food and restrooms, are also well marked. The trail is reasonably flat with some small hills on the latter part. The trail ends near the old Chatham train depot, which is now a museum. NB: The museum doesn't open until mid-June.
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