The Cape Cod Rail Trail follows a former railroad right-of-way for 22 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. Its paved surface, few hills, and well-marked automobile crossings make it ideal for cyclists. The trail has a wide unpaved shoulder on one side to accommodate horseback riding, walkers, and runners.
There are many opportunities to get off the trail and visit a beach. Food and water are also readily available and public restrooms can be found at Nickerson State Park, Salt Pond Visitors Center at Cape Cod National Seashore and the National Seashore Headquarters. If you do not have a bike, bike rentals are available at many points along the way. For people with disabilities, a limited number of hand-cycles are available for rent at specific bike concessions. For more information call Nickerson State Park at 508-896-3491.
Before the first railroad tracks were laid, the Cape was a relatively isolated area, accessible only by packet boat or stagecoach. By 1848, the Old Colony Railroad Company laid tracks that connected Boston and Sandwich. Railroad track extensions continued and by 1873, Old Colony had linked Boston with Cape Cod’s outermost point of Provincetown, offering a miraculously short, five-hour journey. As the Cape’s popularity as a summer resort increased, the railroad was heavily used to transport visitors from New York and Connecticut, as well as other parts of Massachusetts. With the growing number of visitors came train-loads of food and other provisions needed to meet their needs. But the railroad’s importance was soon surpassed by the automobile. Bridges to carry cars over Cape Cod Canal were opened in 1935, and in 1937 passenger service to the towns east of Dennis ended. Trains continued to haul freight until the mid-1960’s, but then the tracks were torn up and the station-houses were razed or vandalized. If you look carefully as you ride along the trail, you can still see occasional relics of the Cape’s rail days.
Along this rail trail, you will encounter trail users of all ages and abilities, including bicyclists, walkers, hikers, runners, inline skaters, wheelchair users, and baby carriages. For the safety and enjoyment of all, please adhere to the following:
-- Be courteous of other path users.
-- All users keep right, except to pass.
-- Stop at all stop signs.
-- The trail is open for recreation from dawn to dusk. (Commuters with appropriate lights may use the trail at their own risk)
-- Pets on a short leash are welcome. Remove all waste.
-- Give a clear audible signal before passing and pass only when it is safe to do so.
-- Travel at a reasonable speed in a consistent and predictable manner.
-- Wear protective headgear. This is required by law for children 16 years and younger, but recommended for all wheeled users.
-- Respect private property adjacent to the trail.
-- Carry in, carry out.
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