My first reaction as I biked along this inland trail in Cape May County was jealousy — jealous that this trail could be built along power lines (and even adjacent to two large substations!) while the power company in my town resists requests to extend our trail under the transmission lines, citing all kinds of fears (including involving the rather puny substation that’s also along a road).
My second reaction was where’s the ice cream? Yes, it’s early in the biking season, but local businesses don’t seem to be capitalizing on a long bike trail in a county where the No. 1 industry is tourism. I guess they’d rather fight it out in downtown Cape May and along the boardwalks by the beaches. As if people won’t look for something else to do. So while the trail goes past the massive Cape May County Park with a free zoo, a campground (with of course informal access to the trail), a fancy golf course and several wineries, I’d describe it as pretty workman-like. Even a small art installation that screams selfie would add a bit of razzmatazz.
And my third reaction was this trail needs a rebranding now that a crucial gap was closed in 2022 and it’s now 17 miles long. Outsiders struggle to figure out where it goes and how far. Not just me; a fellow tourist with a bike, this one from upstate New York, asked me, and at that point I could only guess maybe 16 miles.
Step one, if I can be so presumptious, is to come up with one name. I know, politics. Name it after Native Americans who were here first, name it after Harriet Tubman, who spent time in Cape May, or name it after some of the wildlife here. Even call it something boring like Cape May County Trail. Right now one bit is called the Cold Spring Bike Path. Then it’s the Middle Township Bike Path. And eventually the Dennis Township Bike Path. And who knows — maybe Lower Township also has a piece?
Just make it easy on your visitors (and the locals): a common name, and make sure it still works when the next sections are added.
And then harmonize the wayfinding signage, please! I know, I know, many trails fail here for us out-of-towners. The best was at the northern end (but even that needs some points further along the entire trail (and don’t tell me you can’t because it’s not “your” trail). Maybe help me find that ice cream or other bike-appealing business?
Then there was this from Middle Township every quarter mile until they just ended … but the trail didn’t.
So where does the trail go?
First, it’s not along the beach. You’re nowhere near the water or even the Victorian homes of Cape May. If you’re starting at the southern end, the end point (I think) is the corner of Seashore Road and Route 9. Or is there trail all the way to the Cape May Ferry? Just bike lanes?
Anyway, the trail goes along the northern side of Route 9 for a short distance, then turns toward Cold Spring Village. Then north, north and north, past the county park and all the way to South Seaville (just after crossing Dennisville Road). No, all of it doesn’t yet show up on Google Maps. A lot doesn’t actually.
What I didn’t realize is that you’re only a few blocks from the business on Route 9. Maybe my ice cream was there? Assuming I could reach it. Breweries too, if that’s your thing. The brewery where I picked up a six-pack (in the car) was only a half-mile from the trail along NJ-83 (well, until it moves to Route 9). Shh, don’t tell the Brit until after I am home!
If you want to keep going, there’s a four-mile road gap to reach the three-mile Woodbine Railroad Trail, which we discovered on a 2017 ride. And then … could you have an easy time going all the way to Philadelphia once the Camden LINK trail is built from Winslow Township to Camden? Use this for your own High Point to Cape May epic ride?
A few updates
Yes, there are plans afoot to keep growing the trail! An update on connecting the Beesley’s Point Trailhead to the Dennis Township Trailhead — the nine-mile Cape May County Trail Connector — is coming at an April 23 (2023) meeting. At Beesley’s Point, you take the bridge across Great Egg Harbor Bay into Somers Point and Atlantic County. The South Jersey Transporation Planning Organization is one of the players.
And plans also are afoot for more of those wayfinding signs. In the meantime, thermoplastic markings are going down every 0.1 mile and for cross streets for the 17.2 miles between the small parking lot adjacent to Ferry Road in Lower Township and South Seaville in Dennis Township. Look for it by Memorial Day.
3 thoughts on “I biked the entire 17-mile Cape May County bike trail — here’s what it’s like”
Silvia: Nice review. When you get to the busy road by Atlantic-Cape CC, turn towards Rt. 9. On the NW corner there is an ice cream parlor. On the SE corner there is a diner.