Autumn is a funny time of year in New England. You can experience consecutive days of blue skies and warm temperatures; or you can go through every type of weather in a matter of minutes. This is especially true in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where the weather in Upper Cape, Mid Cape and Lower Cape varies as much as if you were traveling to different states.
But go we did and glad to have done so. Crossing over the Cape Cod Canal by way of the Sagamore Bridge, we were delighted to see partly cloudy skies overhead. However, we were dismayed by the downpour that greeted us just two exits from our destination, which was the Salt Pond Visitors Center located at the start of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham. Big puddles covered Route 6. We quickly donned our rain gear and decided to go inside and figure out what to do.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Salt Pond is located at the beginning of the National Seashore, which extends all the way up to Provincetown. The park is big – 43,604 acres. If time is limited, decide which area you’ll explore and focus there. You could really spend a week exploring the entire park and nearby towns.
We noticed that one of the trails, the Nauset Trail, started in the parking lot and traveled 1.5 miles to Coast Guard Beach. The trail promised a mild ride through the woods and marshland. This seemed a good test run and we were not disappointed. Mild ups and downs were easy to maneuver. On a sunny day the woods would have kept us shaded and cool. But we were able to coast through big puddles that stretched across the path. We took a break on the wooden bridge that crossed the marshes to watch something I hadn’t seen before – a mother egret and her two babies hanging out in the water.
Coast Guard Beach was windy with crashing waves and whitecaps thanks to the offshore storm. Signs deemed it unsafe to swim due to the riptides but no one had to worry about us diving in! I was happy to stay bundled up on the shore, admiring the dunes and taking in the scenery. This time of year you begin to see color changes even on the dunes.
As we rode into the parking lot of the Visitors Center the clouds parted and – blue skies and sunshine! We decided to ride north on the Cape Cod Rail Trail to where it ended in Wellfleet and back again – a total of about 10 miles round trip.
If you cycle from the Visitors Center through the stoplight and go a short distance down the road across the street, you’ll see signs for a right turn that takes you to the trail. Don’t do what we did. We cycled up Route 6. Too many cars driving fast and close, even off season! We took the next turn and easily connected onto the trail.
We Will Return to Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is pleasant and relatively flat. Unfortunately there is not much scenery at this end but you can take short detours to get to the beach or connect onto the main road where there are many shops and restaurants. I did notice a lot of signs for bike repairs, bathrooms and food so I didn’t worry about getting stuck.
When we returned to our starting point Donna and I wished we had time to continue on the other end. The Cape Cod Rail Trail in its entirety starts in Dennis and goes 22 miles one way through the towns of Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. But knowing we’d be sitting in a car for the next four hours, we decided instead to save our legs and backsides for the next ride, knowing we would be back again.