We tend to avoid the Cape during the summer months. Parking is difficult, beach access is restricted in places to residents or those with visitor passes, but after Labor Day everything opens up and is simply easier to visit. With this in mind we headed to Falmouth, just over the Bourne Bridge, and found the northernmost parking area for the Shining Sea bikeway, where we set up our tandem bike and headed out.
We have visited this trail in the past, but it’s been a few years, and we had never started this far north before. What we found was multiple places with stunning views, besides, of course, the section of rail trail that fronts directly onto the beach near Woods Hole.
The paved path was busy, but not dangerously overcrowded, as all the area rail trails seemed to have been at the height of the pandemic. Lots of walkers, roller bladers, bicyclists and even a few on skateboards were enjoying the sunny day with us. We had room to enjoy the trail, which is always nice.
Because of our experiences this past year, our bike is now better set up to venture onto local roads more safely. We have a safety reflective triangle, that makes us more visible. For extremely busy roads we wear reflective vests, and grab our flag that helps drivers understand they need to provide some distance. I felt much more relaxed than in the past when my co-pilot headed off the trail and took us down to a local beach quite near the north end of the trail.
We spotted grape vines all along the length of the path. Catching the scent of ripe grapes, we stopped and enjoyed a few ripe wild grapes before heading on our way.
The Great Sippewissett Marsh provided the best birding spot along the trail. We saw masses of great white egrets wading in the marsh grasses.
Other white egrets perched in the trees at the edge of the marsh. The ocean waves crashed on the shore in the distance.
On visits here in the spring in years past we have spotted alewives massed in the brackish waters just inland from the stream they used to migrate from the ocean. September is not the time to spot alewives, but they are sure to return next spring.
The stretch of rail trail that follows the shoreline in Falmouth is truly spectacular.
Martha’s Vineyard is easily visible across the water, about three miles distance. Walking or pedaling next to the ocean is a real pleasure.
We reached the end of the trail, which spills visitors out into the parking for the Woods Hole ferry. At this point we turned around and headed back north. In all we went a little over twenty miles, including the side trips on local roads. We spotted multiple parking areas along the length of the trail, with more located near the Woods Hole end of the trail.
What a varied yet accessible place to visit. The paved surface is nearly flat the entire length of the trail, with no hills to speak of at all, truly handicapped accessible. We look forward to returning and will probably choose to repeat the same path we followed this trip, from north to south then back again. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. The newest book is Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.