Cape Cod and the Provincetown area offer a ton of things to do. The vast expanse of beautiful sand dunes practically begs you to go out and explore.
Whether you’re up for a hike, a drive, or want to kick it up a notch, biking on the Province Lands Bike Trail is hands down one of the best ways to soak in the scenery.
Below, I’ll dish out all the deets you need to make the most of this incredibly scenic and enjoyable bike trail.
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What is the Province Lands Bike Trail?
The Province Lands Bike Trail is a scenic biking route in Cape Cod and the Provincetown area, spanning approximately 7 miles. It takes riders through diverse terrain including beautiful sand dunes, forests, and ponds.
Beyond the stunning scenery, noteworthy landmarks along the trail include Race Point Beach, the National Park Service-Race Point Ranger Station, and the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station Museum.
Where we rented our bikes from: The Bike Shack
We snagged our bikes from The Bike Shack, and I gotta say, the price tag was a pleasant surprise – solid bang for your buck at $25 for two hours or $65 for 24 hours (for E-bikes). They are also open in the off-season, which was a very nice surprise.
Feeling a bit adventurous, we decided to give E-bikes a shot for the first time. It turned out to be a blast, and what I appreciated most was the sheer simplicity of these things.
The motor kicks in when you start pedaling, like a little boost from an unseen buddy, and that boost takes you a good distance.
While you’ll still need to put in some effort on the uphill stretches, thanks to the E-bike power, it’s a heck of a lot easier. That being said, if you’re in it for a serious workout, these E-bikes might not deliver the same sweat-inducing challenge.
Tips for the Province Lands Bike Trail
Although the National Park Service classifies the trail as “Advanced-Intermediate,” I felt like it was closer to easy to moderate in terms of technicality and moderate in terms of exertion required (some relatively steep sections).
It’s definitely a riding path that you can’t get too relaxed on.
The trail spans approximately 6 to 7 miles, with variations depending on the specific route you choose. Our entire journey covered approximately 10.5 miles, but we started tracking our route right from the bike shop and took a detour to explore one of the ponds.
Overall, the terrain offers a mix of inclines, declines, and some tight turns. Some stretches of the path may be obscured by fallen leaves, pine needles, or wind-swept sand so be on the lookout.
The speed limit is 10 mph but if you’re riding over sand you want to play it safe as we almost witnessed a pretty big wipe out due to a sandy patch on the path!
The proper etiquette is for you to ride single file and stay in your lane which I highly recommend because there are some blind turns on this path. Keep in mind that walkers or joggers may also be on the path.
Wearing a helmet, especially for those less experienced, is recommended. Although we had beanies for warmth and opted to forgo helmets, you obviously want to exercise sound judgment based on your own individual comfort levels.
Our experience on the Province Lands Bike Trail
We kicked off our ride around 10 AM on a brisk November morning. Despite the temperatures hovering in the 40s, the sun was out, making it surprisingly pleasant. It’s proof that biking around here isn’t just a summer gig.
Initially, we hopped onto Highway Six, which might sound daunting as it’s a highway, but we stuck to the outer lane and encountered no issues.
We then transitioned to Race Point Road, where you will intersect the loop trail. Just look for the signs.
The decision to go clockwise or counterclockwise is then yours to make. We chose the counterclockwise route, winding through a heavily wooded trail alongside Race Point Road, eventually emerging near the airport and proceeding to the Race Point Beach area.
At the beach, you have the opportunity to descend to the shoreline, offering breathtaking views of the sandy beaches.
It’s quite likely that you’ll spot gray seals gracefully navigating the waters. While swimming is an option, be aware of the currents and those big fish known as great white sharks.
This area is where we set up a bonfire later that evening, catching the sunset – an experience I wholeheartedly recommend.
Keep in mind, though, that if you’re aiming to build a bonfire, securing a permit is a must. During the summer months, the demand can be high, with lines forming as early as 5:30 in the morning! Planning ahead is key to ensuring you don’t miss out on this memorable activity.
In the vicinity, there are a couple of other noteworthy buildings to explore.
One of them is the National Park Service-Race Point Ranger Station, but it’s only open during the summer/early fall. We could only appreciate its exterior as we visited post-summer.
However, earlier, we had the chance to explore the ranger station at Salt Pond, and I highly recommend it. It boasts a charming little museum, an auditorium for watching films, and is an excellent spot to delve deeper into the area’s history. It’s also by the Nauset Lighthouse.
The other building worth noting is the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed during our visit, but during the summer, they host demonstrations showcasing how a lyle gun works and detailing historic rescue efforts. It’s something I regret missing out on.
While you’re here, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Beyond the seals and the potential sight of whales in the distance, you might cross paths with a striking red fox, as we did. Regrettably, it seemed that others had been feeding the fox, slightly marring the encounter, but the beauty of the animal remained undeniable.
After our exploration of Race Point, we retraced our path on the loop. This segment guides you through the dunes, offering one of the most picturesque bike rides you’ll experience. There’s something about the combination of pine trees and sandy landscapes that transported me back to living in Arizona’s high desert. Coupled with the cool temperatures, it made for a truly delightful bike ride.
Once we navigated through the dunes, the trail led us through the Beach Forest sections showcasing some of the stunning ponds and kettles like Bennet Pond. The scenery was consistently breathtaking, and along the route, interpretive panels provided insights into the wildlife and vegetation.
Subsequently, we circled back to the bike shop as other commitments awaited us. However, thanks to the E-bike, there was ample energy left for another loop or the exploration of additional bike trails. This adventure easily had the potential to stretch into a three to four-hour endeavor, although we managed to wrap it up in just under two hours.
If you’re seeking a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the dunes along Cape Cod National Seashore while getting a bit of exercise, I can’t recommend this bike path enough.
It offers stunning scenery and weaves through diverse terrain, providing a workout that’s satisfying without being overly strenuous. While heading downhill and navigating turns, exercise caution to prevent accidents. If you’re inclined, consider donning a helmet for added safety.
Overall, this ride is likely to be one of the most enjoyable biking experiences you’ve had – it certainly was for me!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.