The most beautiful cycling paths in Southeast NE: Cape Cod, Massachusetts South Shore, and Rhode Island

The Traveling Tulls cycle with a group of older adults every Sunday morning. It’s a wonderful way to get some exercise, enjoy the outside, and engage with some wonderful people. Our weekly bike rides are usually in quiet towns on the South Shore of Massachusetts, but we do regional rides once a month. This has allowed us to cycle some of the best bike trails in Cape Cod, Eastern Massachusetts, and Rhode Island! Safe, and scenic, bike routes perfect for older adults!

Massachusetts has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, but a lot of this scenery is not easily accessed by bike. The roads in Boston and the suburbs are narrow and winding, with few designated bike lanes. For visitors to Massachusetts, especially older adults, we recommend not cycling the main roads, but staying on the paved bike trails. There are some excellent bike trails in Massachusetts. Most of these are former rail trails leading to old New England towns and offering many interesting views of the area. These are our recommendations for the best bike rides in Southeast Massachusetts and the Cape Cod area.

Best Bike Trails of Southeast Massachusetts: Cape Cod, and Rhode Island

Cape Cod Canal Bikeway – a flat bike path accessible from both sides of the Cape Cod bridges

Total Length: 7 Miles

This is our favorite bike trail as it’s easy to access, well maintained, and without any cross streets to interrupt the ride. You can get a great workout on the Cape Code Canal Bikeway. The paved area is actually a service road which runs on both sides of the canal, so it can be accessed if you are on the South Shore or if you are staying on Cape Cod. Both sides of the trail are approximately 7 miles long, with parking areas, and bathrooms available. The northern bike trail runs from the iconic railroad bridge to Scusset beach, a lovely white sand beach with a snack bar. The southern bike trail begins at the Sandwich Marina (with restaurants and a canal museum) and ends just past the railroad bridge

Parking and access: there are multiple spots for parking on both sides of the canal. You can find pull outs along route 6 on the Sagamore side of the canal or head to the Buzzards Bay recreation area for a large parking area, restrooms, and a playground for the little ones. From the Cape side, park at the Sandwich Marina or in the smaller parking area at Tidal Flat recreation area.

Autumn colors on the Shining Sea bike trail

Falmouth Shining Sea Trail, from woodland to ocean.

Total Length: 10.7 miles

This is another favorite for its scenery and ultimate destination – Woods Hole. This village is where the famous Woods Hole oceanographic institute is located, and where ferries depart for Martha’s Vineyard. The trail runs through salt marshes, cranberry bogs, and wooded areas, with occasional ocean views. This is a lovely bike path for birdwatchers, who will be tempted to stop often to see the shore birds along the way.

The trail is fairly level, but does occasionally cross streets.
Parking and access: To begin the bike ride from the Falmouth end, take route 151, County Road, off of route 28 in Falmouth. Head to the small parking area just past the railroad tracks. The trail is an easy ride to Woods Hole where you can stop for lunch at any one of the great seafood spots. If you’re on the Cape, you can access the trail from parking lots near the ferry terminal in Woods Hole.

Cape Cod Rail Trail, a Cape classic bike ride

Total length: 22 miles

The Cape Cod Rail Trail runs for 22 miles from Dennis to Wellfleet, passing through some beautiful parks and wooded areas. It is a very popular trail so be prepared to share the trail with walkers, runners, and people on horseback. A perk of the popularity of this ride is that there are lots of food and ice cream opportunities along the way. There are also a couple of bike shops in case you need help.
Ride the whole trail or ride just a section to explore the area and find a beach. Restrooms can be found at Nickerson State Park, and at the visitors center for the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Parking and access: a large lot is located on route 134 in Dennis. Take exit 9A off route 6 South and look for the parking area on the left just after Cumberland Farms.
There are many other spots where the trail can be accessed – Nickerson State Park, Eastham, etc. For parking information see the Massachusetts trail guide.
Side Trips: cycling from the main trail
Old Colony Trail to Chatham -Just after mile 3 (from Dennis), at the bike rotary, take the well marked trail towards Chatham. (8 miles) This is a lovely trail leading to one of the prettiest towns on the Cape. At the end of the paved trail, you will see signs directing you to a scenic “share the road” bike route that will take you down to the shore.
Don’t miss the side trip to the Nauset Trail in Eastham which connects Salt Pond with Coast Guard Beach. This is where you’ll find the visitors center for the Cape Cod National Seashore. (1.6 miles). We highly suggest this extension as the primary trail runs in wooded areas away from ocean views.
Heron and other birds can be seen along the bike path Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island

Total Length: 14.5 miles

A regional favorite, for bikers and walkers is the East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island. This is a great bike ride- 14.5 miles of well maintained pavement leading you through several state parks, along the Narragansett Bay coast and into charming towns.  Coming from Massachusetts, we usually pick up the bike path on the East Providence end and bike towards Bristol where there are some great spots for lunch on the water.

Parking and access: Parking lots can be found off of Veterans Memorial Parkway in Riverside, RI, and at many other points along the route. For parking information visit the Bike Rhode Island website.

South Coast Bikeway

Not yet complete, the South Coast Bike trail hopes to provide 50 miles of continuous bike trails between Rhode Island and Cape Cod. The planned route links cycling paths together through some of Massachusetts most beautiful towns.

At this time, cyclists can enjoy the completed Phoenix bike trail – 4.5 miles of paved paths running through Fairhaven  and connecting with the Mattapoisett Rail trail. Explore side streets along this route to see some of Buzzards Bay’s prettiest spots.

Upper Charles Trail

Total length -~13 miles

At this time, the Upper Charles trail consists of some well paved bikeways and some more primitive gravel trails. Well worth the visit as you’ll bike through lovely woods and some of south central Massachusetts’ most historic towns.

Begin at either end: Hopkinton (Rt. 495 to exit 20, north on Rt 85 1.5 miles) or Whitney Street/Front Street in Holliston. 

This trail is shaped like a V. The apex of the V is in Fino field in Milford. This is a great place to park and enjoy just one branch of the trail. 

Nantucket Harbor. Some of the best bike trails in Massachusetts are on Nantucket


Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard – New England cyclist’s dream destinations

The island of Nantucket is ideal for cyclists. There are about 30 miles of trails leading crisscrossing the island. Our favorite bike ride is the Milestone Road path, a 6.8 mile trail to ‘Sconset (actually Siasconset, but no one calls it that!). ‘Sconset is a photographers dream village, so take your time and enjoy the rose covered cottages.
Be sure to get off your bike when you return to town – the cobblestones, though charming, are hazardous to bikers! And don’t bike on the sidewalk! It’s against the law.
Martha’s Vineyard also has miles of paved trails, though they are busier than the ones in Nantucket. Take the 16 mile Edgartown, Oak Bluff, to Vineyard Haven loop to have a full day of bike exploring.

More great bike trails for visitors to Boston

Charles River Bike Paths

Total Length: about 18 miles

If you’re only in Boston for a short time and want to cycle and sight see, the Charles River bike path is for you. This 14-mile loop follows both banks of the Charles River from the Museum of Science in Boston to Watertown. You will be biking on the Esplanade, passing the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops performs, and catching views of Fenway Park, Harvard, and MIT. The width of the path varies so cycle carefully. The path can be accessed at any point on the Cambridge side, and from footbridges over Storrow Drive on the Boston side.

The Minuteman Bikeway, a historic bike ride

Total Length: 10.13 miles

This is a bit out of the way for people on the Cape or the South Shore of Boston, but it’s well worth trying if you have the inclination. The Minuteman bike path passes through the historic towns of the American Revolution. Like many of the other Massachusetts bike trails, this was originally a railroad bed, but has since been paved and is a pleasure to bike. There are many stops along the way for food and bathrooms.

Sign up for a cycling tour of Boston’s Emerald Necklace – a 4 hour guided bike tour of the parks surrounding the city center.

Or take a day off cycling to enjoy a day in Boston.</div

Our favorite small town bike rides on the South Shore of Massachusetts

Though we encourage visitors to use designated bike paths when they can, there are some lovely, and safe, roads that we cycle regularly.

Duxbury to Marshfield

Total length: 9 miles (or so…)

Duxbury was established in 16  as the Pilgrims’ summer colony. History abounds in this charming small town. We suggest you begin your day by stopping by the Chestnut Street cemetery where John and Priscilla Alden, Myles Standish, and many others of the original Pilgrims are buried.

Then find a parking spot at the shopping areas in Halls Corner (at the flagpole) and begin your ride. Cycle down Washington Stree, over the tiny Blue Fish River bridge (where you might see kids jumping into the river on a warm day!) Continue to follow the water, bearing right on King Caesar Road, and following that to the Powder Point Bridge. Cross this wooden bridge to the barrier island of Duxbury Beach. Turn left through the parking lot and follow the road to Green Harbor in Marshfield. There’s a great spot for lobster rolls at …

You can turn around here, or continue following the ocean to Brant Rock, another pretty seaside neighborhood in Marshfield.

Return on the same route, stopping at French Memories in Duxbury for pastries, or waiting until you’re back at Halls Corner for a stop at Scoops Ice Cream!

Powder Point bridge in Duxbury on a sunset bike ride

Plymouth Waterfront, short and sweet!

Plymouth is gearing up for its big 400 year celebration in 2020 and has been improving cycling opportunities in town. Water Street now has a designated bike lane on both sides which you can follow along the harbor and down to the 1 mile Nelson Park bike path. Lovely views, and lots of opportunities for delicious seafood, make this short ride a fun afternoon.

Note: Nelson Park is a wonderful spot for families with young children. There’s a playground, a splash pad, and a small beach as well as access to the bike path.

Myles Standish State Forest, for a more challenging ride

Total length: up to you!

The state forest in Plymouth, Carver, and Middleborough has miles of trails and roads for biking. You can bike to one of the many ponds where swimming and picnicking are encouraged. This area has more hills than on most coastal bike paths, so be prepared to get a workout!

Note that the bike trails are often rough, and are used also by walkers and horses. We prefer to stay on the wide roads

Traveling Tulls has not received any products for review. We suggest items we have enjoyed and hope you will too. This post includes affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking on one of these. DISCLOSURE

Hope this gives you some good ideas for scenic, and safe, bike rides in Southeastern New England. We’ve enjoyed a lot of great cycling trips in the area, and refer you to one of these excellent guides to further explore the area. Happy cycling!

Rail-Trails Southern New England: The Definitive Guide to Multiuse Trails in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

Best Bike Rides Cape Cod and the Islands: The Greatest Recreational Rides in the Area by Gregory Wright

Plymouth is great base for your Southeastern New England rides. And there’s so much to enjoy in this historic town. Plymouth at 400: a local’s guide to the perfect weekend.

Experience the best of Southeastern New England on your bike. Scenic #biketrails through #CapeCod #RhodeIsland, and Southeastern Massachusetts.

5 thoughts on “The most beautiful cycling paths in Southeast NE: Cape Cod, Massachusetts South Shore, and Rhode Island

  1. Such a great guide on where to cycle in MA! All the different trails look so pretty and a great way to see the area. I would love to visit and do some of these. Was just in Boston in June too! 😁

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