The Best Trails to Bike and Hike on Cape Cod and the Islands
Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands contain hundreds of hiking and biking trails, which give visitors direct access to the area’s most untouched natural beauty. These trails typically do not have much elevation gain or loss, instead they meander gently through forests and salt marshes, looping around kettle ponds and skirting ocean beaches along the way.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few of the most popular hiking and biking paths on the Cape and the Islands:Beech Forest (Outer Cape)Trailhead: Race Point Road, Provincetown Distance: 0.8 miles Beech Forest is one of the most densely wooded sections of the Cape. A walking trail meanders through the forested dunes, encircling the shallow waters of Blackwater and Beech Ponds. The walking trail climbs the dunes in one or two places but is mostly level. Most of the trail surface is hard-packed sand, although a wooden boardwalk helps visitors keep their feet dry near the ponds. Cornelia Carey Sanctuary/the Knob (Upper Cape)Trailhead: Quissett Harbor Road, Falmouth Distance: 0.5 miles The Knob is a serene nature walk with spectacular views of Buzzards Bay. The sanctuary, which hugs the warm waters of Quissett Harbor, is also an ideal habitat for waterfowl and other birds. Over the years, birdwatchers have seen more than a hundred species of birds in the salt marshes that line this coastal bank. Great Island (Outer Cape)Trailhead: 1440 Chequessett Neck Road, Wellfleet Distance: 7.5 miles Great Island is a popular hiking loop that begins where the Herring River flows into the ocean at Wellfleet Harbor. After it parts ways with the Herring River, it climbs through thick pines before popping out on the rocky cliffs over Cape Cod Bay. The trail continues along the sand dunes of Great Beach Hill, with the option to continue to Jeremy Point when the tide is out. To shorten the hike, loop back at the cliffside monument that marks the site of an old whaling tavern. Menemsha Hills Reservation Trail (Martha’s Vineyard)Trailhead: 345 N Road, Chilmark Distance: 3.7 miles In the Menemsha Hills Reservation, hikers can ascend to the top of the second-highest point on Martha’s Vineyard (which is an elevation gain of just 106 meters). The trail – which winds through pine forests, coastal grasslands, salt marshes, and rocky shoreline – offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. You might also spot goldenrod and beach plum on dune cliffs above the gorgeous Menemsha Hills Reservation Beach, a rocky beach dotted with tide pools.
Here are a few of the major biking trails.Cape Cod Rail Trail (Mid-Outer Cape) The Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) winds through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet, before coming to an end near the Cape Cod National Seashore. In all, this trail stretches through Cape Cod for about 22 miles, intersecting with the Old Colony Rail Trail in Harwich and with Nickerson State Park in Brewster. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation opened the CCRT in the 1970s. The paved trail lets people skip the traffic on Route 6A and travel up and down the Cape by bike instead. While not every section of the CCRT offers scenic views, the trail winds through many of the historic towns, pastures, and forests that make up inland Cape Cod.
Shining Sea Bikeway (Upper Cape)The Shining Sea Bikeway connects North Falmouth with the scenic village of Woods Hole. On the way, the 10-mile bike path passes through downtown Falmouth and next to the sparkling waters of Vineyard Sound. Avoid Falmouth’s notorious summer traffic by riding a bike, taking a run, or skating down the coast of Falmouth on this picturesque bike path.
Cape Cod Province Lands Trail (Outer Cape)The Cape Cod Province Lands Trail is scenic a 5.45-mile loop that takes bicyclists, joggers, and skaters over sandy dunes, in between saltwater kettle ponds, and through a shady beach forest. On this paved bike path, visitors can experience the diverse landscape and unique ecosystems of the outer cape, while taking in spectacular views of Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
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