by Donna Cain
Fall is such a special time on Cape Cod. The crowds are gone, the weather and waters still warm and there is such a freshness in the air. We took this picture last fall on the rail trail that runs through Brewster and is very close to our inn, The Captain Freeman Inn. I just love this shot as it shows all of our fall colors. The Cape Cod Rail trail is located where the original railroad tracks ran through Cape Cod. Since I am such a history buff, I found the details of the original railroad fascinating. In the early 1800’s the Cape was a very isolated area and only accessible by stage coach or packet boats. I learned about packet boats in that Captain Freeman use to walk down Breakwater Road (which is the street our inn is located) and board a packet boat to reach his larger ships in Boston. Packet boats were flat and could maneuver in the shallow bay landings.
By 1848, the Old Colony Railroad Company had laid tracks that connected Boston and Sandwich. By 1873, the railroad 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, Connecticut and Boston. Soon the railroad’s importance was replaced by the automobile. In 1935 new bridges were created to carry cars over Cape Cod Canal 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.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is 22-miles of beautifully paved trails. It makes riding a bike an easy adventure for both novice and experienced riders. The trail route passes through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. It also connects a 6 mile trail to Chatham, and an 8 miles trail within Nickerson State Park. The path in Nickerson is much more hilly then the other paths. We love to take the trail up to the end of the Nauset Bike Trail leading to Coast Guard Beach. There are also many short side trips that lead to many of the other beautiful National Seashore Beaches.
The following information is details from the Mass Gov web site. They maintain the trails which are always pristine and well cared for:
South Dennis trailhead to Nickerson State Park
The trail begins in South Dennis at an intersection with Massachusetts Route 134. This trailhead has a parking area and is just south of exit 9A on US 6. The first 1.5 miles of the trail run through a primarily industrial area in Dennis. It roughly parallels Great Western Road during this section, crossing it twice.
The trail then enters Harwich as the landscape turns to houses and agricultural land before turning gradually north and intersecting with the Old Colony Rail Trail at a bike rotary between miles 3 and 4. The rotary has maps and benches in its center for users of the trail. North of the rotary, the trail passes through a wooded area and crosses Route 6 via an overpass. Another parking area is located at the trail’s intersection with Headwaters Drive, north of Route 6. It crosses Massachusetts Route 124 at mile 5 and runs along it until mile 7, passing several ponds and entering Brewster at mile 6.
The CCRT crosses Massachusetts Route 137 at mile 8 and then runs south of central Brewster. A parking area is located at Route 137, before the trail enters Nickerson State Park just past mile 10. It is in the park for about two-thirds of a mile, intersecting some of its trails, then crosses Massachusetts Route 6A by an underpass as it leaves the park. A parking lot is located near the Route 6A crossing.
Nickerson State Park to Wellfleet trailhead
The trail continues to cross Namskaket Creek into Orleans between miles 11 and 12.
The crossing of Route 6 between miles 12 and 13, near exit 12 on the highway, constitutes the trail’s only (and brief) on-road section. The trail follows Salty Ridge Road to West Road, where it turns right over the Route 6 overpass. It then turns left and leaves West Road heading northeast into downtown Orleans. The CCRT crosses Main Street just past mile 13; this area in downtown has several bike shops and dining establishments. A parking area is located off of Old Colony Way, named for the former railroad that the trail runs on. The landscape changes to a less dense residential area as it leaves downtown. The third crossing of Route 6 is an overpass just before mile 14 and just east of the Orleans rotary.
The trail enters Eastham shortly after this, at which point there is a large salt marsh on the west side of the trail. Around mile marker 15, the trail enters the residential section of Eastham, crossing Gov. Prence Road. The trail remains relatively straight through most of Eastham, and at-grade road crossings are fairly frequent. Locust Road, between miles 16 and 17, is a signed bike route to the Nauset Bicycle Trail (which brings cyclists and pedestrians to Coast Guard Beach) and the Salt Pond Visitor Center, as well as other points in the Cape Cod National Seashore. In the North Eastham area, just west of the trail’s intersection with Brackett Road, there are bike shops as well as delis and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop. North of Brackett Road, the trail runs closer to Route 6 and several motels and restaurants on the east side of the highway are connected directly to the trail.
The CCRT enters Wellfleet near mile 19. Sparse residential development lies west of the trail, while the east side of the trail is fronted by a power line right-of-way, with undeveloped National Seashore land beyond that. North of mile 21, the trail intersects Marconi Beach Road, which leads to Marconi Beach and the Marconi Station site. Sparse development continues, with the trail ending near mile 22, at Lecount Hollow Road in Wellfleet. This trailhead has the only parking area on the trail north of Orleans. The road provides access to several Wellfleet town beaches.
We have had many guests that have brought their own bikes, and we have a great spot to store your bike. There is also a great bike rental just up the street form the inn, Cape Cod Bike and Kayak. They have great bikes and service along with a great restaurant next door, Local Flavors, where you can pick up a sandwich for your bike ride picnic.
Exhaling on Cape Cod and looking forward to a bike ride on our wonderful Cape Cod Rail Trail.