Dave and I 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, these are the best bike trails 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 the Boston area, 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, including many trails that are part of the East Coast Greenway trail system. 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 for all skill levels.
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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 multi-use trail
This is our favorite bike trail as it’s easy to access, well maintained, and without any cross streets to interrupt the ride. We get a great workout on the Cape Code Canal Bikeway. The paved trails are actually service roads which run on both sides of the Cape Cod canal. You can access the trail from either the South Shore or the Cape side. 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 on Cape Cod Bay 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
While you’re in historic Sandwich, consider visiting the Heritage Museums & Gardens, just minutes away from the marina.
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.
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 are located 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 Rail 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.
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 are located 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 Bikeway 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. Be sure to ride the spur opposite Arsene Rd to get a beautiful view of the marshland.
Explore the side streets in Mattapoisett and Fairhaven to see some of Buzzards Bay’s prettiest spots. Fairhaven has extraordinary architecture thanks to the oil tycoon, Henry Huttleston Rogers. Enjoy a walk around this historic town, a meal on the waterfront, or bike a bit further to Fort Phoenix park.
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 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 has 44 miles of paved trails, though some of these trails may be 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.
Best 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.
Further Afield: More of Massachusetts Best Bike Trails
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
Location: Cheshire to Pittsfield in Western Massachusetts
Length: 12.7 miles, multi-use trail
Parking: Several free parking lots with trail access along rt. 8
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
Location: through the communities of Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham (not all segments have been completed)
Length: 25 miles, paved
Parking: for trail segments completed and parking visit the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail website
Cochituate Rail Trail
Location: Framingham to Natick
Length: 4 miles, paved
Parking: Navy Yard Field, 41 Washington St., Natick
Manhan Rail Trail
Location: Easthampton, in Western Massachusetts
Length: 6 miles, paved
Parking: free parking in center of Easthampton, more parking on Rt. 5 near the Oxbow
Norwottuck Rail Trail (part of the Mass Central Rail Trail)
Location: Northampton to Belchertown, in Western Massachusetts
Length: 11 miles, paved
Parking: free parking Elwell Recreation Area in Northampton, Railroad Street in Hadley, and Station Road in South Amherst
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, road trails that we cycle regularly.
Duxbury to Marshfield
Total length: 9 miles (or so…)
Duxbury was established in 1637 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 Street, 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 the Green Harbor Lobster Pound.
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!
Plymouth Waterfront, short and sweet!
Plymouth geared 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, makes 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. The Nelson Park path is one of the best bike trails for kids.
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 picnic areas are welcoming. This area has more hills than on most coastal bike paths, so be prepared to get a workout!
Note that the state forest bike trails can be rough, and are used also by walkers and horses. We prefer to stay on the wide roads of the park.
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!
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.