8 of the Best Hikes in Cape Cod and Top Tips to Make the Most of Your Time on the Trails – Lonely Planet Travel News | Gmx Pharm

While long walks on Cape Cod’s beaches are a thing, and for good reason, inland hiking trails offer insight into the Cape’s diverse ecology, including swamps, forests, and freshwater ponds.

Most Cape Cod hikes are short compared to trails in other parts of the country, but rewards include wildlife views and solitude even during the peak summer season. Here are eight of our favorite hikes in Cape Cod.

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Cliff Pond Loop, Brewster: best hike with dogs

3.2 miles/5.2 km round trip, 2 hours

Glaciers that carved the cape about 15,000 years ago melted and formed large inland freshwater ponds called kettle ponds, and some of the best examples of this can be found at Nickerson State Park.

At 204 acres, Cliff Pond is the largest pond in the park, and the Cliff Pond Loop runs along its pine and oak-forested banks. The trail opens to several secluded sandy beaches where swimming and fishing are permitted.

Common wildlife sightings include eastern painted turtles, foxes and herons. The Cliff Pond Loop can be added to the Little Cliff Pond Trail to create a longer figure eight route. Dogs on a leash are allowed on park trails.

The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail is a short loop through forests © Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, Wellfleet: best forest hike

1.9 km round trip, 1 hour

The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail lies within the Cape Cod National Seashore and offers a forested contrast to the nearby open beaches. This loop trail leads into shady pine and oak forests carpeted with moss and is notable for its grove of endangered Atlantic white cedars.

A boardwalk allows hikers to travel through the swamp ecosystem, which is home to several bird species including owls and woodpeckers, making it popular with bird watchers and botanists.

The trailhead begins at the Marconi Wireless Station parking lot, which has restrooms and picnic tables. Most of the trail is level and accessible, but a few steps down to the boardwalk may impede wheelchairs. Pets are not allowed on the trail; Wear long pants to avoid exposure to poison ivy and ticks.

Morris Island Trail, Chatham: best hike for wildlife viewing

2.5 km round trip, 1 hour

This loop trail begins at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center where guests can learn about horseshoe crabs, diamondback turtles, seals and insects – vital to the Cape’s ecology.

The sandy, pine-lined path of the Morris Island Trail winds through sea prune bushes to the beach, where plovers and whistlers are common sights (and the reason why pets are not allowed on the trail during breeding season). Hike at low tide as parts of the route are flooded at high tide.

The trail meanders inland past ponds and marsh grass meadows that offer glimpses of blackbirds, dragonflies and other inner shore creatures before returning to the visitor center parking lot.

A derelict wooden shack surrounded by sand dunes
The historic cabins along the trail are still used by artists today © Halee Burg / Shutterstock

Dune Shacks Trail, Provincetown: Best Historical Hike

3.2 km round trip, 3 hours

Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Dune Shacks Trail begins at a parking lot at the intersection of Route 6 and Snail Road. The trail passes through a short stretch of forest before opening up to steep sand dunes and finally the beach.

Climbing the dunes offers sweeping, dramatic views of this remote stretch of Cape Cod National Seashore. Pets are not allowed on this trail.

The dune shacks of the same name are part of the Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hills Historic District. Originally built in the 1860s as life-saving stations for shipwrecked people, the huts were described by Henry David Thoreau in his 1865 book. cape cod. These quiet, secluded cabins have become the summer studios of writers and artists such as Jack Kerouac, EE Cummings, Norman Mailer, Eugene O’Neill and Jackson Pollock.

The simple shacks have no water or electricity and are still used by artists who apply via lotteries to stay and work there. Hikers can tour these 19 historic cabins but are asked not to enter them or the grounds to respect residents’ privacy.

Sea Farms Marsh Trail, Falmouth: best hike for bird watching

1.2 miles/1.9 km round trip, 1 hour

The Sea Farms Marsh Trail follows 2 miles of Bourne’s Pond and Israel’s Cove through 87 acres of marshland and woodland that survived before development. Keep an eye out for foxes, blue herons, ospreys, swamp hawks and diamondback turtles.

Benches overlook scenic coves and are perfect spots to spot the many bird species that call this area home. Bourne’s Pond is popular for swimming, kayaking and fishing, and a cove opens it to the ocean and Menauhant Beach.

A woman hikes through a coastal area surrounded by grassy sand dunes
Be prepared for ticks, poison ivy and other hazards on the trails © Ajax9 / Shutterstock

Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen: best hike with kids

2 miles/3.2 km round trip, 1.5 hours

Once the home of children’s author and conservationist Thornton Burgess, the site is now the Green Briar Nature Center. The trails meander through gardens, wildflower beds and protected land, including the Smiling Pool pond and the Bruyère bed, which is found in many of Burgess’ Pete Rabbit stories.

After meandering the trails through the 57-acre conservation area, visit the historic Green Briar Jam Kitchen. Founded by Ida Putnam in 1903, the kitchen is now a living museum where visitors can learn the process of making traditional jams and purchase locally made fruit jams.

Menemsha Hills Reservation Trail, Martha’s Vineyard: best hike for views

6 km round trip, 2 hours

One of the longest and most varied hikes in the Cape, the Menemsha Hills Reservation Trail winds through wetlands, woodland, coastal plains and sheer cliffs before reaching Prospect Hill, the second highest point on Martha’s Vineyard.

At a whopping 308 feet above sea level, the Menemsha Hills offer dramatic views of Menemsha Harbour, the Elizabeth Islands and the Gay Head Lighthouse. Dogs on a leash are allowed.

Sandy Neck Nature Trail, Barnstable: best hike for camping

2 miles/2.5 km round trip, 1.5 hours

The Sandy Neck Nature Trail explores the dunes, marshes and tidal zones behind Sandy Neck Beach, which faces north to Cape Cod Bay.

From the ranger station, the Marsh Trail heads east behind the dunes for about 1.6 miles through the marsh zone, home to brackish garter snakes, diamondback and terrapins, tree martins and red-winged blackbirds. The Marsh Trail then connects to a 0.4 mile trail #1 that heads north to the beach.

Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Sandy Neck Nature Trail and limited free parking is available. Sandy Neck Beach is six miles long and 4×4 vehicles are allowed on the beach.

Tent camping is also possible in the oak forest near the beach at established sites. This area is a great hiking and camping destination with beach access and starry night skies over Cape Cod Bay.

Tips for Hiking Cape Cod

  • Ticks can be a problem when walking through grassy areas. Check yourself and your children regularly for ticks, especially on the tops of socks, waist and scalp. Don’t forget to check dogs, especially around the collar and ears.
  • Poison ivy may also be present. Stay on designated trails to avoid coming into contact with this three-leaf plague.
  • Deer flies, gnats, and mosquitoes known as “no-see-ums” can be a problem. Use insect repellent, especially in swampy areas.
  • Many Cape trails don’t have restrooms or drinking water, so prepare well before you set off.
  • Many public areas in the Cape restrict dogs at times due to bird nesting sites. Find out about the rules for pets on the trail beforehand. Dogs must always be on a leash on public property. Bring plastic bags to dispose of the rubbish.

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