The Cape Cod Rail Trail Quick Guide
The Cape Cod rail trail is the longest and most well known of bike trails on Cape Cod, and it’s a great way of touring this area of Cape Cod.
Following the right-of-way path of the Old Colony Railroad it’s primarily flat and well-paved, making it a fun and easy ride for everybody.
The Cape Cod rail trail is 22 miles in length and starts at Route 134 in South Dennis and ends at LeCount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet.
But just so you know…
There’s a ton of wonderful detours and stops inbetween.
Let’s take a closer look at the Cape Cod rail trail together and follow along with this map…
Where to start the Cape Cod Rail Trail?
Plenty of parking is available at the Cape Cod rail trail heads in Dennis or Wellfleet depending on which end of the bike path you want to start at.
I nearly always begin at Dennis when it’s a day trip for the family, because we love to stop at Laurino’s restaurant in Brewster for lunch. We just love the atmosphere there… and the pizza!
A quiet ride through Nickerson State Park...
The bike trail between South Dennis and Nickerson State Park will take you through many well-marked auto crossings.
Nickerson State Park in Brewster is the mid-way point in the ride. The section through the park is quiet and far from traffic. At times you’ll feel like you’re traveling through people’s back yards. But the section is a joy if you’re riding with family.
The next section of the Cape Cod rail trail will take you through the scenic town of Orleans – now did I mention I lived here once? Well I did and it’s worth a stop for a snack and some browsing… plenty of speciality shops to pick up something different as a momento of the Cape.
And I don’t mean lobster floats or plastic sea captains…
Onto the Salt Pond Visitor Center...
After Orleans, this Cape Cod bike trail takes you through marshlands and kettle ponds towards the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham.
Now for a side trip try the Nauset Marsh trail (see below), which will take you out to National Seashore beaches.
Whether you take the Nauset trail or not, detour and visit the Salt Pond Center (due to reopen in 2005). Here you’ll learn a lot about how the Cape was formed, and the history of the area.
Finish up at the Marconi and LeCount Hollow beaches...
If you stay on the Cape Cod rail trail then you’ll follow the path out to the Marconi area.
Here you can view the remains of the famous Italian inventor’s Wellfleet station, and gaze out over the bluff towards Europe.
The storms have claimed some of the buildings. But standing in the area you’ll see why Marconi chose this location, with a high and direct view of Europe, for some of his transatlantic wireless experiments.
Complete the Cape Cod rail trail by biking the short hop to LeCount Hollow road. The return trip will make a tour of about 44 miles.
If you do the whole round trip!
You don't have to do the whole thing at once...
But that’s the great thing about the Cape Cod rail trail… you don’t have to do the whole thing in one day. You can start it at any of the free parking spots identified on the map, and make it a 10-mile or 20-mile or 30-mile loop.
But whatever you decide to do, I guarantee it’ll be fun and something you’ll remember for a long time, and want to do again, and again.
Here's some other Cape Cod bike trails...
In addition to the Cape Cod rail trail, the Cape has many other splendid bike paths just waiting for you to kit-up, and get peddling.
Here’s a brief look at a few:
- The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway runs for 7-8 miles between the Bourne and Sagamore bridges.This ride is for everyone, including young children. It’s about as flat and smooth as you’ll get on the Cape. And you get gorgeous views of the canal as well.
- At the other end of the Cape is the Province Lands bike trail. This bike path is a bit more challenging as the area is undulating. But you also get those downhills to compensate in the 51/4 mile loop.Watch out for walkers and joggers who also love this trail. You can pick the trail up at the Province Lands Visitor Center.
- A secondary bike path from the Cape Cod Rail Trail is the Nauset Marsh Trail. Take the detour at Locust street to the Salt Pond Visitor Center and pick up the bike trail there.A trip of 1.5 miles, the path will take you into National Seashore Park and along a route teeming with wild life and marsh vegetation. And as it’s a salt marsh area if you’re a bird watcher then you’re in for a real treat.