Are you visiting Cape Cod? One fun way to explore this beautiful part of Massachusetts is by bike. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 25-mile hiking, running, and bike trail. The trail stretches through six Cape Cod towns. Guests can choose to travel part or all of the rail trail, as there are parking lots and entrances throughout the trail. Before you decide to go, check out our guide to the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
As you travel through the frustratingly narrow roads into Cape Cod in the summer, you are bound to see many cars and SUVs with bike racks. Biking is a popular summer activity on the Cape – with good reason. The salty, breezy air is perfect for outdoor activities, and the scenery is beautiful throughout Cape Cod.
Biking on Cape Cod is not, however, limited to those who visit with their own equipment. There are lots of different bike shops located across the Cape where guests can rent bikes for the duration of their Cape Cod vacation.
While the Cape Cod Rail Trail isn’t the only bike trail on the Cape, it’s definitely the most popular. If you enjoy outdoor activities, I’d definitely recommend planning to spend some time on the trail. You may want to look at the forecast for your vacation and choose a day that is a bit cooler for your adventure.
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Guide To Cape Cod Rail Trail: See the Beauty of Cape Cod
The Cape Cod Rail Trail was developed on the former location of the Cape Cod Central Railroad and Old Colony Railroad tracks. In recent years, it was expanded into South Yarmouth, MA. In the opposite direction from the trail, there’s a connection that goes over Station Avenue to Peter Homer Park in South Yarmouth. There are also plans for an eastern expansion into Barnstable.
This is a relatively flat trail with a paved path, so it’s great for bikers, hikers, and runners of all ages. Of course, as you travel along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, you’ll be able to see some beautiful scenery including cranberry bogs, ponds, quaint towns, greenery, and more. You can take things at your own pace. While you’ll see some serious bikers on the trail, there are also many holiday bikers who aren’t as experienced.
Location of the Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail goes from the Yarmouth Trailhead in South Yarmouth all the way past the Cape Cod National Seashore to the Wellfleet Trailhead. There are numerous entrances and parking areas, and you can always turn around when you’ve traveled enough. There’s no need to travel the entire distance if you don’t want to.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail goes through six different Cape Cod towns:
The area around Nickerson State Park in Brewster is especially beautiful, but there are lots of great things to see in the area. There are additional bike trails on Cape Cod, some of which are connected and/or accessible to the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
You can also take a separate bike trail from Harwich to Chatham. Trail maps of the Cape Cod Rail Trail and nearby trails are available online and at some of the parking areas. It’s always a good idea to make a plan before you go, especially when traveling with kids.
Parking at the Cape Cod Rail Trail
Parking is available across the 25 miles of the trail, regardless of where you want to start/finish. Free parking areas include the following:
- South Wellfleet Trailhead (LeCount Hollow Road)
- National Seashore at Marconi Historic Site
- Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham (which is 1/2 mile from the Locust Road intersection with the trail)
- Rock Harbor Road, Orleans
- Orleans Center
- Rt 137 Brewster
- Headwaters Drive Harwich
- Rt 134 South Dennis
- Station Ave South Yarmouth (the trail’s end on the eastern side)
Guests can also park at Nickerson State Park, but admission/parking is charged from Memorial Day through Halloween (a lower fee for Massachusetts residents). Unless you plan to use the State Park for other things, it’s easy to find another place to park for free along the trail.
Tips For Biking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail
If you are biking the rail trail, be sure to wear appropriate clothing, put on sunscreen, and check the weather before leaving. Travelers using their own bikes should check them before heading out to make sure everything is operating correctly and that the tires are appropriately inflated.
The Cape Cod sun can get very hot, especially in the summer, so you’ll want to bring along plenty of water to stay hydrated. Snacks are also a great idea. Don’t forget to stop if you get tired.
Trail Etiquette and Rules on the Cape Cod Rail Trail
- Alcohol and littering are not permitted on the rail trail. All trash is carry in, carry out
- The trail has a 15 MPH speed limit
- Hours are from dawn to dusk
- Riders/walkers/runners must stay to the right unless they are passing. When passing, give an audible signal.
- For bikers, helmets are recommended and required for those under the age of 16
Bike Rentals on Cape Cod
If you are staying at a resort on Cape Cod, inquire with the concierge to see if bikes are available from the hotel for borrowing or renting. Otherwise, there are lots of options to rent bikes.
If you’d like to try an electronic bike, Pegodo has a location adjacent to the parking lot in South Yarmouth. You can reserve a bike online to ensure availability.
The Bike Zone of Cape Cod has a variety of different rentals available. These include kids’ bikes, tandem bikes, e-bikes, and trailer bikes. There are several locations on Cape Cod, including Yarmouth, Sandwich, Hyannis, and North Falmouth. The Yarmouth location is the most convenient to the rail trail.
Dennis Cycle Center has two locations – one in Dennis and one in Brewster. Reservations can be made for multi-day rentals. They offer many options, including hybrid and comfort bikes, kids’ bikes, and e-bikes.
Idle Times Bike Shop has three different locations – Eastham, Orleans, and Wellfleet. This shop offers free drop off and pick up for reservations over 24 hours. The three locations are near the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Where To Stay
If you want to do some biking on your family vacation, you’ll have lots of lodging options, including vacation home rentals, luxury Cape Cod resorts, motels, and hotels. For a family vacation, the town of Yarmouth is a nice location because it’s near some fun family activities like mini golf, the Cape Cod Inflatable Park, and the Whydah Pirate Museum.
You can find lodging options on this map (which is centered around the Yarmouth Station Street Parking Lot):
Frequently Asked Questions
I’d recommend starting in South Yarmouth. There are some pretty sites you’ll pass as you head west on the path. You don’t have to do a round trip on the whole trail – choose how much you want to do and turn around halfway.
There are numerous bike rental companies on Cape Cod. If the company you are renting from offers reservations, it’s a good idea to make them in advance to ensure availability.
Nickerson State Park does charge, but there are lots of other free parking lots available.
No, this paved path isn’t too challenging, with minor grades.