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Staff Pick

Cape Cod Wonders, By Bike

September-October 2020

Bike trail scene of Classic Cape Cod sand, water, and sky

Classic Cape Cod sand, water, and sky 

Photograph TrailLink user mybikeymio2, courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


Classic Cape Cod sand, water, and sky 

Photograph TrailLink user mybikeymio2, courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Before bridges built in the 1930s paved the way for car traffic and visitors choking routes to Cape Cod, the coastal retreat was reachable only by stagecoach, boat, or train. Rail lines arrived in the mid 1800s, ultimately linking passengers and freight from Boston to Provincetown. That extensive service has ended, but the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) follows portions of those scenic journeys, with plenty of spots to veer off to beaches, nature preserves, and historic villages.

The relatively flat, 25.5-mile route runs between Yarmouth and South Wellfleet. From the western end, ride 2.5 miles, partly through woods and over the Bass River Bridge, into South Dennis, and then on to charming Harwich. Stop for food and drinks, or for a walk in the William & Barbara Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary. A short pedal on the connecting Old Colony Rail Trail (which ends in Chatham) leads to the lovely Cape Cod Lavender Farm: stroll its paths or shop for fragrant herb-infused soaps and sachets. Once back on the CCRT, meander north to spectacular Nickerson State Park, in Brewster. Hike among scrub pines and kettle ponds, bike a shady eight-mile trail—or just hang out and swim at the beach. From there, Orleans offers restaurants and shops, or continue on to Eastham and explore Salt Pond Bay and Cape Cod National Seashore via the tranquil Nauset Bike Trail (about three miles out to the shore and back). Eastham is 6.5 miles from the CCRT’s end, amid many more miles of soothing sandy stretches in Wellfleet.

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