Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

What does your ideal Cape Cod vacation look like?

If it’s anything like mine, it’ll involve beach hopping from bay side to ocean side, sampling as much clam chowder as you can stomach, making a trip up to Provincetown for shopping and general merriment, and perhaps a night at the Wellfleet drive-in.

But with my last 2 Cape Cod jaunts, I’ve added one more endeavor to the must-do list: biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT).

Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

About the Cape Cod Rail Trail

A paved pathway running about 25 miles from South Dennis north to Wellfleet, the Cape Cod Rail Trail makes for a safe and scenic ride up the central Cape. It runs alongside what used to be the Cape Cod railroad tracks, which were torn up in the 1960’s in favor of bridges and America’s beloved automobile. With nary a remnant, it’s hard to envision freight trains once rumbling up and down the Cape, though.

The CCRT passes through 6 towns: Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. There are bike rental shops all along the way, just off the trail – most of which will let you park your car for the day. Rates are very affordable, and vary by outlet – we paid $20 for 5 hours at Barb’s Bike Shop, which is stationed at the very start of the trail in Dennis.

Cape Cod Rail Trail map

Photo Credit: New England Vacations Guide

What’s the Cape Cod Rail Trail like?

Um, awesome. Or did you want a bit more than that?

The scenery along the Cape Cod Rail Trail is quite diverse

There are cranberry bogs in Dennis, though I didn’t photograph them because they’re rather bland looking outside of harvest season. Visit in the fall, and you’ll see vibrant red just off the trail.

Through Harwich, you’ll pass by several lakes that’ll make you question whether you came to the Cape to see the beaches. The trail enters the town of Brewster at Nickerson State Park, where my family spent many a camping trip back in the day. From Brewster to Orleans, the scenery goes from marshes to forest.

In Eastham and Wellfleet, the trail meets Rt 6, where you can veer off to stop at an ocean beach. Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, and Lecount Hollow are excellent (albeit crowded) options. A few hours picnicking and resting on the beach, and you’ll be good to hop back on the trail.

Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

The ponds in Harwich

Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Brewster

The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a flat trail that you can customize to your own style

You can make the CCRT as long or short, leisurely or demanding, as you wish. There are families that stick together on the trail, keeping pace with the slowest member of their clan, that you’ll likely want to pass by. But there are also people in proper cycling attire with fancier bikes who are in it to rack up miles and therefore whip past everyone on the trail.

You can bike the whole CCRT, or just a segment of it – at any pace. Every .1 of a mile there are mile markers spray painted on the ground, informing cyclists how far into the trail they are, and which town they’re currently in.

What’s more, you don’t even have to cycle! There are plenty of folks who walk, run, scooter, or rollerblade instead.

CCRT

wpid7243-cape-cod-rail-trail.jpg

Forest in Orleans

What to do near the Cape Cod Rail Trail

With the summer heat and inevitably stiff bike seats you’ll be enduring, taking breaks on the rail trail is necessary. The CCRT constantly criss-crosses with actual roads, so you can easily get off to find food, drink, or supplies.

Here are a few of my recommendations for pit stops along the Cape Cod Rail Trail:

  • Stop for coffee, chocolate, or ice cream at Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans
  • Get off at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham and bike the 2 mile trail to Coast Guard Beach
  • Grab a sandwich or some clams at Cobie’s in Brewster

Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Getting off the trail around Nauset

Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Coast Guard Beach in Eastham

Lecount Hollow Beach

Lecount Hollow Beach in Wellfleet

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

Where in the World is This?


  • Seeing as my favorite part of my Chicago visit was riding bikes along the lakefront, I think I have to make cycling part of every new trip I take. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    • lindsaypunk

      AGREED! I’m trying to do the same when I travel now, too :) I had a blast BixiBiking my way through Montreal last year as well!

      Ooh and if you haven’t already, you should definitely bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and around your neck of the woods – I’m SO aching to get back there for Round 2!

  • I had never heard of this rail trail before, now I am interested in doing it since I loved the Cape so much during my last visit :D

    • lindsaypunk

      OHMYGOSH you absolutely have to do it on your next visit! It’s so beautiful and takes you through a lot of cool towns, which you can stop off to explore at any time :)

  • Turtlestravel

    Yeah! I grew up riding the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It’s still something I love to do when home visiting family on the Cape. I’ve had a post draft written up forever about it, but didn’t have the pics I wanted to go with it. Yours are amazing. Loved reading about my childhood home. Thanks for posting!

    • lindsaypunk

      You did?! That’s so awesome! Very cool that you still have family there – all the more reason to visit!

      Thanks for the kind words! I think you should still post about it – you must be an expert if you grew up riding the trail :)