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Though the idea for a Cape Cod Canal goes back to the settlers of Plymouth Colony, the waterway didn’t begin construction until 1909. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over operation and maintenance of the canal in 1928. Originally dirt roads on either side of the canal, paved service roads now double as the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway. Although there is no easy off-road route to cross the canal, each side of the bikeway offers a unique experience for trail users.
Starting from the visitor center in Buzzards Bay on the north side of the canal, the trail passes by recreational areas, including access to a short stone-surface trail in an open space nature preserve. In 0.6 mile this figure eight trail also features playground equipment, including a zip line and parcourse. Located just before and just after the Bourne Bridge, 1.3 miles into the trail, are RV camps with grills and recreational areas.
The trail offers scenic views of the canal and chances to watch native birds scouting for fish or spot rabbits hopping across the trail. After passing under the Sagamore Bridge, 4.7 miles into the trail, you will soon reach the northern trailhead at the Scusset Beach State Reservation (7.1 miles from the visitor center). Sand dunes and grasses waving in the breeze mark the way to the picnic area, swimming beach, and rocky peninsula for walking at the end of the trail. Starting from the Tidal Flats Recreation Area in Bourne on the south side, head north through a parking lot and pass the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge on your left. Interpretive signage shares the story and purpose of the railroad bridge. Not much farther along (0.6 mile into the trail) is trailside access to the Aptucxet Trading Post Museum. Settlers founded the trading post in 1627 to trade with American Indians and the Dutch for essential goods such as salt, sugar, and furs to pay off the debt incurred to reach Massachusetts.
Past the museum, canalside residential houses offer local charm on the right, while open views of the canal and Bourne Bridge (1.5 miles into the trail) dominate to the left. After the bridge, the trail leaves the residential neighborhoods behind and becomes abundant with trees and wildlife. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the path is its use as an access point for recreational fishing along the shore of the canal. Many bicyclists even have fishing pole carriers on their bicycles.
After passing under the Sagamore Bridge 4.7 miles into the trail, the trail parallels the Cape Cod Central Railroad; you can see the ties of the rail line to your right. Nearing the end of the trail (6.4 miles from the Tidal Flats Recreation Area in Bourne) is an industrial area with a power plant and pipelines on the right and industrial docks on the left. Not long after, you will reach Sandwich Marina Park, where the trail ends at 6.7 miles. Here, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the history and natural area. The sprawling marina offers multiple dining options—perfect after a trail ride—and is a close bike ride into town if you want to explore Sandwich further.
Although the Tidal Flats Recreation Area in Bourne represents the south side of the trail, Friends of the Bourne Rail Trail—and Friends of Falmouth Bikeways—hope one day to extend the trail south to connect to the northern end of the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth. In addition, the East Coast Greenway may incorporate the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway into a new coastal route linking Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, via Cape Cod.
North of the canal: To reach the Scusset Beach State Reservation trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. From MA 25 (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.), take Exit 3 for US 6 toward Bourne/Hyannis. Go 0.5 mile to a traffic circle, then exit left to US 6 E/Main St. In 3.8 miles, merge onto Meetinghouse Lane, which becomes Scusset Beach Road in 0.4 mile. Follow Scusset Beach Road 0.8 mile to its end, where you’ll find parking at the East Canal Lot to your right. Note that there is a daily fee for parking.
To reach the Buzzards Bay trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. From MA 25 (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.), take Exit 3 for US 6 toward Bourne/Hyannis. Go 0.5 mile to a traffic circle, then take the second exit onto US 6 W toward Buzzards Bay Bypass. Continue a little over 1 mile to the Buzzards Bay Rotary. At the rotary, take the third exit onto Main St. Go 0.3 mile, then turn right into the Visitor Center for parking. If you pass Wallace Ave. on your left, you’ve gone too far.
South of the canal: To reach the Tidal Flats Recreation Area trailhead, take I-495 or I-195 to MA 25 S. Take MA 25 S (Blue Star Memorial Hwy.) until it becomes MA 28 (10 miles past I-495). Go 0.8 mile, crossing the Bourne Bridge. At Bourne Rotary S., take the second exit onto Trowbridge Road, which becomes Shore Road in 0.7 mile. Continue another 0.6 mile, then turn right onto Bell Road. Continue straight 0.2 mile to two parking lots.
To reach the Sandwich Marina Park trailhead from US 6, take Exit 2 and head north on MA 130/Water St. In 1.4 miles, turn right onto Tupper Road, heading northwest toward Cape Cod Canal. Continue on Tupper Road 0.8 mile, then turn right onto Freezer Road. Follow Freezer Road 0.3 mile. Do not turn right into the private marina area; instead, continue straight to reach the playground area with public parking.
smooth enough for rollers, large enough also.
Markings on the ground every half mile with the distance from start (in both direction)
Parking on both side of the 6.5 Miles trail.
People fishing on th side, catching sea monsters ...
Flat and fast, very scenic.
Great trail. Mostly flat.
Trail goes over canal on one of the bridges. I didn't bother.
Lots of boats, Fisherman, just plain folks exercising.
Birds, Birds, and more Birds. Mostly off path.
Most bikes (modified to carry fishing gear) ridden by older gentlemen looking for a spot to cast their lines. Only saw one fish being pulled in.
The pace is SLOW...
In this case The Corps of Engineers are spending their money wisely.
I was disappointed in this ride because the distance given is 13 miles, but that is round trip. When I do training rides I usually like a distance on the order of 25 miles. I also drove almost two hours to get to the trailhead near the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
The trail is not a total bust. The northern trail is very suitable for a family outing. You can spend time at Scusset Beach for a picnic or snack before heading back to the trailhead. There are racks where you can lock your bikes while exploring the dunes and beach.
Be courteous and cautious because the trail has a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
There's a lot of history to be discovered along this trail. The trail is paved and in great condition. There are no vehicles allowed accept for park rangers and maintenance. Its a great place to see local wildlife. The scenic views are located along the canal with many opportunities for some great picture taking. Good place for everyone of all levels and physical condition. I really enjoyed riding the canal.
Love this Trail. Get for a family day, I bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the wonderful views.
After riding 4 rail trails on the Cape, this one is my least favorite. I say that because it's not particularly scenic. The highlight is the railroad bridge in Buzzards Bay. That being said, this trail is good for training, as there are no road crossings to contend with on the Cape side. There is plenty of parking near the railroad bridge on either side of the canal. The RTC site's directions are to the Bourne Bridge parking area. If you want to start at the railroad bridge, continue further down Shore Rd. until you cross the railroad tracks.
have been doing this one quite a long time...beautiful ride, along the canal, though always seem to have a head wind on way back to Buzzards Bay, I start at train bridge.. if its in the summer time you can spend some time at Scusset beach.. its very nice there... somewhat crowded on weekend but not too bad..worth a try...also has nice facilities etc.
It was a last minute decision to ride the Cape Cod Canal. Crossing both the Bourne and Sagamore bridges with a side trip to Mashnee Island made this a 25 mile easy ride on a beautiful day.
A short ride from the southern canal entrance brought me to the access for bikers and walkers to cross the Bourne Bridge to the cape side of the canal. From there it's necessary to back track a bit to get to Mashnee Island and the southern terminus, across the canal from Mass Maritime Academy. Here is where I came across a very old cemetery that has people who were born in the seventeen hundreds. One of the lesser known history items of this area is The King Phillip War in the 1690s. Many familiar names from that war are common around these parts. Narragansett, Pocaset, and Cataumet are but a few of the common names of that era.
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Glorious ride year round.Just be prepared for the head winds.
If you have the time and end at Buzzards Bay end,be sure to take the extra time to tour the UMass Maritime Academy campus.Gorgeous and impressive!!
We did a day trip here last weekend. We started on the Bay of Cape Cod,riding against the wind. The views are breath taking. Not living near the ocean, it was a delight to take in all the sights that God created for us. We marveled at the fisherman, how their bikes were all rigged to hold their fishing poles and their catch of the day. Quite a sight. We met many friendly people along the way & runners. As we approached the end we had the pleasure to watch the draw bridge lower for the train, then raise again. One question... It has on the map this trail is 13 miles long, are you counting both sides of the trail?
Massachusetts has the best Trails! Beats Connecticut hands down.
This is a great getaway, long weekend trip so you can take in all that the Cape has to offer!
We will be back to ride the Cape side next time!!!
Mel & Sandy
I highly recommend starting your ride on the East or Cape side of the canal, at the parking lot near Buzzard's Bay and the 1935 vertical-lift railroad bridge. The bridge is really a stunning piece of architecture up close. (Be careful, though. I was under the impression that the line was abandoned, but it was in fact an active railroad on 8/31/13, at least.) You can see the Main Cape branch line curving off north and the Falmouth branch curving away south just past the bridge. About a mile from the bridge is the Aptucxet Museum, which has a antique windmill, a former railway depot building, colonial artifacts, all kinds of interesting things. A mile or so further north, you'll come to the Bourne bridge, which has the Bourne Recreation Area under it on this side, with restrooms and picnic tables and tourist information. (By contrast, the Sagamore bridge on this side has a construction site and a porta-potty at present, so the Bourne is your picnic bridge.) As you ride along, you will see an occasional large stone abutment on either side of the canal. I have no idea if they are left behind from railroads or piers or something else, but they're interesting.) The Cape Cod Bay end of the canal trail on the east side takes you by some industrial facility with warnings about open flame, but past that there's recreational parking again and the end of the bike path. The day we made our ride, we found the return trip to be harder due to the wind coming up the canal from the south. We got back to the rail road bridge just in time to see it lowered! It's quite something to see and hear. Before the bridge came down, boat traffic on the canal stopped and then the bridge lowered and the Cape Flyer passenger train crossed over, bringing tourists back to Boston. (The train seems to have a special section just for bicycles, FYI.) Nice ride. I'd like to try the west side path, but the east side was so much fun, I'm not sure which I'll do next time I drive down.
Nice trail but it can get a little windy. Fun to watch the boats but not much else to see on the trail.
This is a great paved, fairly level trail running along the canal. There are just a few spots requiring some maintenance, otherwise I would've given it a full 5 stars. I rode it yesterday, 5 Nov 11, and though I had to battle the wind on the return trip, it was well worth it. Numerous opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing. Also proud to see our Coast Guard patrolling the canal. The Bourne and Sagamore Bridges offered some great photo ops. Definitely recommend the ride.
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