Summer Bucket List: Ditch Your Car and Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail Instead

Welcome to’s Summer Bucket List series, brought to you by the good folks at Cape Cod Calling. Each week, we will bring you a new idea for you to enjoy your summer here on Cape Cod.  

Summer on Cape Cod means warm weather, lazy days on the beach, great restaurants, afternoon shopping, fireworks, and cookouts. Being outdoors and enjoying the beautiful scenery is a must. One way to do that is by traveling the miles of bike trails across the peninsula.

What is the Cape Cod Rail Trail

The Cape Cod Rail Trail offers residents and visitors to the Cape the opportunity to ditch their vehicles and travel by bicycle along paved pathways from Dennis to Wellfleet, while enjoying relatively flat terrain and unparalleled scenery along the way.

The 22-mile bikeway runs through the beautiful Mid and Lower Cape towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. Enjoy the freedom of the outdoors as you cruise this former railroad line through some of the most picturesque areas on Cape Cod.

The first leg of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, from South Dennis to Orleans, was completed in the late 70s, the next, from Orleans to Wellfleet, was finished in the mid-90s. Though intended specifically for cyclists, the paved, relatively flat surface with clearly marked vehicle crossings, also provides a wide, unpaved shoulder, which is used frequently by runners, walkers and even horseback riders.  This shady area is also popular for dog walking.

Visitors to the trail are invited to pull off into one of the local communities for a bite to eat or to visit area shops or beaches. Plenty of food and water can be found at areas along the trail. Restrooms can also be found along the way, located at Nickerson State Park, The Salt Pond Visitors Center at The Cape Cod National Seashore, and at the National Seashore Headquarters.

You will pass through charming villages, and can enjoy sand dune vistas, experience a variety of landscapes, such as salt marshes, pine forests and cranberry bogs, rest at tranquil overlooks, breathe in the crisp ocean air and cool off with a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  The Salt Pond Visitor Center is definitely a great place for nature enthusiasts to stop. The facility explores Cape Cod’s glacially-formed natural history and examines the lives of the region’s First People.

Because the Rail Trail has been well maintained and expanded in the recent years, people have eagerly returned year after year to experience it. Over the last several years, local officials representing both the Cape and the Commonwealth have proposed expansions to the trail in order to encourage bicyclists to visit the area and to help ease congestion on the region’s already very busy roadways.

Expansion of the Rail Trail Coming Soon!

Within the next few years, the trail will extend through Yarmouth and into Hyannis. The long-range plan will attempt to have one contiguous bike path from the Cape Cod Canal to Provincetown, using existing connections like the Shining Sea Bike Path on the Upper Cape.

The Rail Trail is the perfect ride for families and for those looking for an easy, leisurely route with numerous diversions. Be aware, however, this is an incredibly popular trail, and during the summer (and weekends in the shoulder season), you will have lots of company. But don’t let the crowds stop you from experiencing this trail. Just plan accordingly. 

Parking is available all along the trail, some for a small fee while others offer parking at no charge. You can find a list here:

It’s said that you can bike the Rail Trail in a single day, with 44 miles round-trip, if that’s what you want to do. If you don’t own a bike, but want to ride, don’t worry. There are plenty of places on Cape Cod that will be happy to hook you up with some wheels for your adventure.

So ditch the car, and bike, walk or roller blade your way east (or west, depending on where you already are). No matter where you start, a trip along the Cape Cod Rail Trail will, no doubt, be one to remember.

About Cape Cod Calling - Summer Bucket List Sponsor

Inspired by the beauty and magic of Cape Cod, its people and their many creative talents, Cape Cod Calling was founded by two washashores, Don and Denise Montgomery, who now call Cape Cod home. Cape Cod Calling is a subscription box and gift box curation service. Each box includes a variety of treasures made locally on Cape Cod by the talented Cape Codders and washashores who call Cape Cod home. For more information on Cape Cod Calling, click here.
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