Run America’s Oldest Road

Touted as the oldest public path in the U.S., Old Sandwich Road in Plymouth, Mass., is ripe for a historic run through ‘America’s Hometown.’

Plymouth is known, obviously, for its rock—the first storied landmass that the disembarked Mayflower Pilgrims stood upon in 1620. But beyond the boulder itself, the town (40 miles south of Boston on the northeastern shore of Cape Cod Bay) proudly shows off the rich folklore of its past as the first English colonial settlement in New England. From meeting houses and estates to the Plimoth Patuxet Museum, featuring a replica Mayflower II and a 17th-century village, visitors can find numerous places throughout Plymouth to step back in time.

And to enhance a day spent exploring history, runners can step forward, too, on what’s touted as the oldest public road in America: Old Sandwich Road. Though some historians make cases for other avenues to take that title (like the 1,300-mile King’s Highway, which connects Boston to Charleston, S.C., or Aviles Street in St. Augustine, Fla.), others point to the centuries of the Wampanoag people’s pathway usage of Old Sandwich Road prior to the settlers’ arrival. 

What’s not debated is how ideal of a surface that Old Sandwich Road makes for a pleasant run. Tree-lined and completely dirt, the road is narrow and flat, running north to south. Just as the road shared usage from its Native American originators to the Pilgrim settlers, today it’s utilized by runners, walkers and cyclists (cars, too, so be aware of your surroundings). Enjoy the long view to the area’s past as you go: Six historical sites line Old Sandwich Road and Sandwich Road, plus a working tavern (see below), as well as Plymouth’s other rock: Sacrifice Rock, an ancient landmark where generations of Wampanoag and other Indigenous explorers left small offerings of branches and stones while heading south from the coast. Sacrifice Rock is just south of Sacrifice Rock Road on the east side of the road; Plymouth Rock is about six miles north.

Recommended Route  

A good place to start an out-and-back on Old Sandwich Road is on its south end at Ellisville Harbor State Park. Parking is free, and the slight incline of Old Sandwich Road running north means a little downhill help on your return. (Note that there are no restroom facilities at the parking lot, however.) Run the road for as little or as long as you like. The road continues for 5.9 miles to a four-way intersection in Sheldonville, Mass. For a 10-mile out-and-back, turn before Pine Hills.

Trail Add-On

For a side-trip of singletrack and a short climb, trail runners can pop onto the Dixon Preserve at Hio Hill. The trailhead is along Old Sandwich Road and the loop adds just 1 mile, but delivers a view of Cape Cod Bay through trees while passing by numerous boulders.[Text Wrapping Break]

Refresh and Refuel

On the south end of the historic road, head to The Blueberry Muffin (2240 State Rd.), a breakfast and lunch spot known for Peanut Butter Toast, Blueberry Overnight Oats or Blueberry Cake French Toast. If the route name keeps you thinking ‘sandwich,’ check out the brewpub fare at the Mayflower Beer Garden at Pinehills (3 Village Green N.). Or, go big—Plymouth, after all, played host to the original Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, marking the Pilgrims’ first autumn harvest—with a farm-to-table feast completed by craft beers and whiskeys served in a 1770s tavern at Rye Tavern (517 Old Sandwich Rd.). 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.