The best way to get around Cape Cod?
By bike, of course, especially when a bike path connects a slew of small towns and provides easy access to bike shops, ice cream stores, kettle ponds and ocean beaches.
I spent five days on the Cape last week with friends who have a summer house there. We pedaled our way from our home base in Dennis to destinations all up and down the 25.5-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail.
We zipped along the smooth, flat ribbon of asphalt on our way to explore Crosby Beach and stopped for ice cream in Orleans. I experienced my first biking round-about (cool!) and stopped for a dip in beautiful Seymour Pond, which abuts the trail. Every time we zoomed through a tunnel, we all hollered to hear the echo.
We also pedaled back toward the mainland in pursuit of Long Pond in Yarmouth, one of nine kettle ponds I dipped a toe in during my visit. The trail provides easy access to Nickerson State Park, home to some of the best ponds I experienced during my trip.
The trail follows the route of an old railroad line that went bankrupt in 1970s. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts bought the land in 1976, and started building the trail a few years later. The first 19 miles were unveiled in 1981, and additional sections have opened since. Most recently, a 5.7-mile stretch between Dennis and Yarmouth was added in 2018, and plans call for ultimately extending the path all the way from Barnstable to the west to Provincetown at the tip of the Cape.
Trail users can park for free at 13 points along the route, which currently links Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Chatham, Brewster, Orleans, Wellfleet and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains the route.
Need a bike? Rent one from one of more than a dozen bike shops along the way. (Check out the list at Cape Cod Visitors Directory.)
The trail is open from dawn to dusk. By law, children 16 and under must wear helmets.