Willow Street / Exit 7
Willow Street Yarmouth MA
Many northern New Englanders looking for a snow and ice free area to ride in the winter or early spring head south to Cape Cod. Winters there are normally less wintery, more like New York’s Long Island, and as winter moves into spring it’s rare that the snow is too deep to ride in or that the sandy gravely soil that makes up much of the dirt on the Cape is muddy. Many riders check conditions by joining NEMBA’s Cape Cod email list and asking a local.
Most people heading for the Cape direct their cars to either the Trail of Tears in Barnstable or to Otis in Bourne and Falmouth. Others head farther down the Cape to Nickerson State Park. But one of the best riding locations on the Cape is also one of the least known. It’s at exit seven on the Mid Cape Highway, Route 6 and is commonly referred to as Willow Street. Confusing things Willow Street actually comprises two separate riding areas. Both are located near the same exit and can be linked together to form about 35 miles of riding.
The first of these is located just a few hundred feet from the end of the exit ramp. When you exit the highway drive to the South side of the highway bridge and park in the dirt lot beside the train tracks. You’ll see a trail with a Cape Cod Pathways marker leading into the woods and that trail will lead you to over 20 miles of enjoyable sometimes hilly singletracks located in the Hyannis Ponds Wildlife Management Area.
Going straight on this trail for about three miles will bring you within site of Phinneys Lane. If you turn right there, go under the highway and follow a dirt path up to the water towers you’ll find another trail on the north side of the highway that will take you back to the railroad tracks. This loop, called “The Highway Loop”, is about six miles long. But it misses almost all of the good riding in the area.
Instead take the second singletrack on your left and follow the most obvious trail. This will net you almost 15 miles of riding. Most of which will be fast and fun though there are a lot of hills to slog up. You’ll notice what looks like wide dirt roads. These are the legacy of a failed housing development on land that was later preserved as a wellhead protection zone by the town. Don’t try to ride on these roads, instead follow the singletracks that cross them. You may come across a trail leading around the Barnstable Airport. If you do keep following it until it leads you out to Phinneys Lane. Turn right at that point to get back to the “Highway Trail”
You’ve been riding mostly in the town of Barnstable. For your second adventure you’ll be in Yarmouth. From the end of the highway ramp head south on Willow Street for about ¾ of a mile. Turn left on Higgins Crowell Road and follow it for three miles until just past the Yarmouth Police Station where you’ll see a small conservation area parking lot. These are the Yarmouth Town Trails. Heading out of the back of the parking area you’ll discover over fifteen miles of trails. Some lead through the Horse Pond Conservation Area but most will take you on a long journey to the west and south of the Bayberry Hills Golf Course. After some exploration you’ll actually find yourself on a small hilltop overlooking the parking area by the Willow Street railroad tracks.
Another, shorter ride is located just across Higgins Crowell Road. That trail will first lead you around the Sandy Pond Conservation Area and then, as you explore, into a vast area where the locals have developed an extensive network of trails. Some of these trails do dead end in people’s back yards, but that’s what exploring is all about.
My guess is that one day will not be enough to explore the areas mentioned in this article. But here’s a good tip. While you’re on the Cape Cod NEMBA email list or Facebook page, ask a local if they’d like to join you for a ride. You’ll find that Cape Cod NEMBA folks are very friendly and usually more than willing to show off their favorite trails.
Accommodations and eating establishments are actually too numerous to mention. Do a Google search.
By Bill Boles
Adapted from a SingleTracks Magazine article.