Winter weary riders often travel to Cape Cod for early season riding. The Cape has much to offer. For most of the winter the Cape’s trails are snow free and dry. Then too almost every town on the Cape has at least one really good trail network to explore. Locals know where these are but most off-Capers seem to focus on Otis in Falmouth and the Trail of Tears in Marston’s Mills. A few will venture farther down the arm of the Cape to Nickerson State Park in Brewster, but few get to ride anyplace else.
What a shame! On route 6 alone Exit 1 & 2 lead you to Shawme Crowell State Forest in Sandwich. Exit 3 to Scudder Creek, also in Sandwich. Exit 4 to the Maple Swamp Conservation area. Exit 5 to the aforementioned Trail of Tears. Exit 6 to the Hathaway’s Pond Conservation area in Barnstable. Exit 7 to over 50 miles of trails in Barnstable and Yarmouth at “Willow Street”. Exit 8 to “The Badlands” in Yarmouth Port. Exit 9 to the “Route 6 Trails” in South Dennis. Exit 11 to the “Test Track” and Exit 12 to Nickerson State Park.
If you’ve never heard of some of these places, but would like to explore them, and many others not mentioned here, or on the NEMBA site, Join the Cape Cod NEMBA Group Facebook page and ask a local for a tour.
To whet your whistle let’s take a look at just one of these riding gems, The Badlands.
The Badlands are located in Yarmouth Port just north of Route 6. They consist of a vast network of trails on both private and public lands. They go on for miles. The Badlands’ trails actually connect to trails leading all the way back to Maple Swamp at exit 4. That’s about 30 miles. (But we’ll save that ride for another day.)
The riding at the Badlands ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Many of the singletracks are smooth and flowy, completely lacking in rocks or roots as the glide up, down and around some very gentile hills.
On the other extreme, the rediculous, is the Badland Trail. Although the whole area is referred to by the locals as The Badlands, the Badland Trail itself is a deviously constructed singletrack that winds itself over and around every defilement, rock, crevice and drop that could be found at a long abandoned sandpit. You’ll know when you’re on it because it will be unlike anything else you’ve ever ridden. Ummmm – Or walked, before.
Fortunately the Badland Trail is an exception. Most of the area’s trails are quite suitable for all levels of riders though some are quite hilly. The gently rolling hills become steeper and longer as you head east and they do add up. By the end of your ride, you'll be tired. A quick look at the map will show you that the trail network is quite convoluted. More than one day of exploring will be required to find out where they all go.
Assisting in this is a marked portion of the Cape Cod Pathway that sort of runs from end to end and the Bud Carter trail that starts in the northeastern corner.
Weir Road, which turns into Great western Road runs through the middle of the Badlands. The trails to the east of Weir/Great Western are mostly easy and flowing with some hills. That is – except for the Badlands Trail.
The climbs north of Weir/Great Western Road can be challenging. Especially if you’re going the wrong way on the area’s many singletracks. But they do have a purpose. At one point you’ll be at the top of an immense sand pit with an excellent view of the surrounding area. Step, or ride off the edge of the sandpit though, and it’s a long way down.
I usually choose to park near the base of German Hill Road, about 1000 feet north of Route 6 where there’s a small parking area. 42 German Hill Road, Yarmouth Port on your GPS will get you there. Though the trail starts about 500 feet before that. The main trail goes into the woods on the north side of this road. Park here and you get to ride all of the best flowy stuff before you get to the harder trails.
Alternatively you could park at 230 North Dennis Road where there’s very limited parking. This is at the start of the Bud Carter Trail. If you choose that option you’ll be starting at the low point of the area and will get some warm up climbs right off the bat.
If you’re not into exploring on your own, as I suggest above, use the Facebook option to see if you can get some locals to show you around. But, if you are exploring on your own, you won’t get too lost. Bring a copy of the map and listen. On most of the trails you can hear Route 6 traffic noise off in the distance.
Given the number of trails mentioned above, if you’re heading to the Cape this winter for a ride, why not make it a weekend mini-vacation instead of a day trip? The snow slush and mud will still be waiting for you when you get home, and don’t you deserve a break?
Oh! And of course the trails are even better in the spring, summer and fall. :-)