Key information for visitors with disabilities to Cape Cod include two foundational opportunities. The 22 mile Cape Cod Rail Trail offers a paved linear bike trail through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans Eastham and Wellfleet, passing through Nickerson State Park about mid-way in Brewster. Both of these state parks offer accessible opportunities managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.Reserve America. Spaulding Adaptive Sports' McGraw Center offers adaptive biking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail a few times a week from spring through mid-October. Check out their full menu of adaptive recreation programs at Nickerson State Park as well as eastern Massachusetts year round here.
There are some noteworthy shorter accessible trail excursions scattered around the mid-cape area. Checking those in Chatham and Harwich will get you exploring off the main highway through small towns. I especially appreciate small town conservation properties for quieter trails but restrooms are usually not available. Wellfleet's trails are easy to find off Route 6 and will likely have restrooms, but check websites to find out whether they are open during the pandemic and/or off season.
Chase Park - short accessible trail in a town park to view a historic grist mill and chartres-style labyrinth.
Sylvan Gardens Conservation Area - the quarter mile Sylvan Path ends at an accessible viewing platform overlooking two ponds.
A. Janet DeFulvio Wildlife Sanctuary Boardwalk - takes you to a salt marsh and view of an osprey nesting platform.
Lee Baldwin Memorial Woodlands - red maple swamp trail with boardwalk and bench honors local conservationist.
Cape Cod National Seashore - Doane Trail is a half mile loop trail through an pine oak woodland with interpretive stops near the Salt Pond Visitor Center. A picnic area is adjacent to the parking lot for the trail. The Buttonbush Trail is next to the Visitor Center, with a quarter mile length oriented towards people with vision impairment - only the first half is wheelchair accessible.Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - a quarter mile wheelchair accessible sensory trail to Goose Pond, right on the edge of the bayside salt marsh. A self-guided audio tour with 13 stops provides excellent highlights of nature along the way, including the chance to view and touch whale bones. You can listen to the audio tour online prior to coming and/or download it to bring with you. It conveys a wonderful sense of the history of land use in addition to featuring the various habitats here. This trail is designed to include people with vision impairments and is one of a dozen or more accessible sensory trails Mass Audubon has established at sanctuaries around the state.
Shining Sea Bikeway - an 11 mile bike path travels from Woods Hole north through Falmouth near the coastline of Buzzards Bay. This is a very popular bike path but well worth the venture - spring, fall and early in the morning are your best bets for a less crowded experience.
Two Ponds Conservation Area - a new short accessible trail with low visitation travels alongside an Atlantic white cedar swamp and ponds and is especially lovely in fall.
Wellfleet Hollow State Campground - accessible campsites in quieter newly renovated campground
SMILE Mass Beach House - accessible town house on the beach includes floating beach wheelchair
Planning an Accessible Vacation on Cape Cod:
DCR (Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation) advocates for people to stay close to home and visit parks within walking distance or a short drive. If you plan to venture further afield, as well as on any outing, please protect yourself and others. In addition to following safe practices outlined by the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, please be sure to follow these additional DCR guidelines for safe park visiting:
- Minimize outdoor recreational time to limit potential exposure to COVID-19;
- Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people;
- Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals;
- Administer healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds;
- Participate in only non-contact recreational activities;
- Leave a park or area should large gatherings begin to build; and,
- Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population