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Cape Cod Cape Cod Rail Trail

The Cape Cod Rail Trail which first opened in 1979, typically gets 400,000 users a year. The scenery along the bike trail, which used to be the old railroad line (see background), features forested tracts, salt marshes, cranberry bogs, dunes, lakes and ponds, beaches, scenic harbors, nature preserves, and more. The trail is dotted with bike rental shops, snack shops and restaurants along it’s route. It has a growing infrastructure that caters to trail users. Free parking is offered at eight trailheads.

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 Cape Cod Rail Trail is not the longest or the best. But the picturesque 22-mile pedal-hike trail remains a showpiece and one that certainly garners attention. It is one of the oldest bike paths in the United States.

Part of its appeal is that the trail lies on Cape Cod, perhaps the No. 1 tourist destination in the Northeast, an area that gets 13 million vacationers a year.

The rail trail stretches from state Route 134 in South Dennis to the east and north to South Wellfleet within the Cape Cod National Seashore. It runs through the towns of South Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans and Eastham to near Wellfleet—with a spur trail that runs to Chatham.

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.


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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 03/09/08
Categories: ActivitiesOutdoors
Keywords: activities, outdoors, biking, bicycling, bike trails, bike paths, Cape Cod Rail Trail, Old Colony, railroad


Did Cape Cod make a mistake by tearing up the railroad tracks to build bicycle trails?
As fuel prices continue to be unstable and the nation’s highways become more congested, transportation experts believe the United States is headed toward a railway resurgence… (more)

Posted by Cape Cod from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on 11/18/08 at 05:33 PM | #

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