Roller Coaster Biking Through Provincetown Sand Dunes

A few ups and downs are usually expected in the path ahead, but this path throws in surprise twists and curves, all while traveling through shifting sands.

It’s been called the Cape Cod Spiral. It brings unsuspecting bikers up to unimaginable heights before forcing them to plummet down the other side. When the path drops, it feels as if you’ve been shot out of a cannon as you try to navigate all the angles at warp speed. Narrow tunnels appear right after a few drops. At times the path seems suspiciously like a toy train track designed by a madman. But madmen do know how to have fun.

Provincetown is at the very tip of Cape Cod. It’s mostly sand. Even while driving into town, sand dunes rise up on either side of the highway.

The sand that collects on the bike path is just another obstacle. If you try biking too fast through it, you just might end up flat on your back appreciating the sky more than the dunes.

The Cape Cod National Seashore built this 8-mile loop in the 1960s. Maybe that explains it. After struggling to bike up the hills, it’s tempting to reward yourself right away with a downhill catapult supplied by gravity but the hilltops are the best places for water breaks with 360-degree views of the dunes and ocean.

After feeling the heat of the sun and sand, another leg thankfully travels through shady tunnels of green. Sun-baked pine and oak mingle with glimpses of the ocean beyond the trees. This path leads to Bennett Pond, which looks a lot like a swamp but it does offer some pretty lily pad and tree root views.

Most Cape Cod bike paths were built on straight, flat railroad lines. They’re a little too easy. Not this one. It will make you work for your views.

The reward for so much up and downhill biking is a walk through the streets of Provincetown and lunch in a shady spot. If you’re lucky, the pet bird at the Governor Bradford Restaurant might decide to peek out of her house and entertain you with a song.

Sheila Hurst is the author of Ocean Echoes, an award-winning novel about a marine biologist who gives up on love to study jellyfish. A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.

40 thoughts on “Roller Coaster Biking Through Provincetown Sand Dunes

    • Come on out here! We’re usually getting that November weather even now so I know what that’s like. This year it’s been strangely hot for just the last couple weeks. It’s a little unnerving.

      • I’d really love to come! I’m planning on a trip next year, because this year has been a bit of an upheaval for me. When is the weather good?

      • Right around now – I do love the heat even if it feels strange compared to normal summer weather. I think we get the same type of weather as the UK. Spring is usually the worst time with a lot of cold rainy days. Late August is a little less busy once kids start going back to school. Let me know when you’ll be around!

  1. I love the bike paths on the Cape, Sheila, but I’ve never ventured that far out.

    • Provincetown is pretty far but it’s worth the trip. It really is like a self propelled roller coaster ride.

    • The dune scenery is really different and it’s a bit more of a workout than the usual biking but it is a lot of fun!

  2. My wife and I made the Cape a part of our vacations a few times. These photos make me want to return.
    One day on the Cape I remarked to my wife, “Look at those license plates; everybody from Massachusetts must come to Cape Cod.”
    My wife said, “I can’t believe you said that. Cape Cod is a part of Massachusetts.”
    “Yeah, I knew that. I was just testing you.”
    I suppose the reality is that is does seem like another state, if not, another country.

    • That’s funny – it does feel like everyone from Massachusetts comes to Cape Cod (and NY and CT). Like that famous Thoreau quote, you can stand here and put the rest of America behind you. I’m not really so sure how true that can be though when sometimes it feels like the whole country is already here!

    • That was funny – the birdhouse was right by the outdoor seating area. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a bird peeking out of there.

    • It’s fun driving into Provincetown just to see that part. I guess someone must have to get out there and clean the highway off every once in a while.

  3. You make the trail sound challenging and inviting! I’d like to try it too

  4. Sheila…I’m impressed that you ride that tough terrain! Good for you! What beautiful photos you have here, and it looks like a gorgeous day. Thanks for taking us along on the ride too! And I’m not even tired! 😉 I haven’t been to “P” Town in more than 10 years. I love that place!

    • It is a lot of fun out there – I’m glad you could come along for the ride! You’ve got some pretty huge sand dunes near you too. I keep wanting to go back to the Sleeping Bear Dunes but haven’t been there in forever.

  5. Love the pics. I haven’t been to Provincetown in years. I don’t go much farther than Hyannis when I visit (although I am making a trip next weekend to the Vineyard).

    I am not a biker, so I wouldn’t handle that road well at all. But the view does look goregeous.

    • I’m sure you could do it if I can! Hope you have a great time on the Vineyard. The Oak Bluffs to Edgartown bike path is really nice too and there aren’t so many hills. If you go to Oak Bluffs, be sure to stop at Donovan’s Reef and ask for a dirty banana.

  6. Beautiful images and description. ‘even madmen know how to have fun’…brilliant! My brother and cousin are huge bikers. My cousin just did the alps. I’m gonna send them this link.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m guessing the alps would probably be more exciting, but this one was scary enough for me.

    • Thank you! It’s nice to dream about these things now that there’s snow and ice outside too. I’m looking forward to more sunshine and biking – hopefully in a few more months!

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