Cape Cod National Seashore

Trail to the Sea, Cap Cod National Seashore.
Trail to the Sea, Cap Cod National Seashore. (courtesy, NPS)

Explore White Cedar Swamp
The 1.25-mile White Cedar Swamp Trail is an elevated boardwalk that loops through a forested swamp of Atlantic white cedar, red maple, black oak, and white oak. It is an excellent example of the many Cape Cod swamps that thrive near "freshwater kettles" created by blocks of ice left by receding glaciers during the last Ice Age. An understory of checkerberry, wild sarsaparilla, and mayflower gives way to a lush carpet of sweet pepper bush, inkberry, and sheep laurel in the wetter regions.

Kayak Salt Pond and Nauset Marsh
The Salt Pond is a 40-foot deep glacial kettle hole breached by the sea. You can access the pond via the Nauset Marsh Trail, a half-mile loop trail that explores the surrounding salt marsh ecosystem. We strongly urge birders to flock here because it is an excellent viewing area for waterfowl and shorebirds. Keep your eyes open for osprey and blue heron. The Salt Pond Visitor Center is the seashore's main visitor facility and features a museum, bookstore, and theatre. The theatre screens short films on Cape Cod's natural and colonial history.

Rediscover the New World
The 101 passengers aboard the Mayflower intended to settle in northern Virginia, but were blown off course and landed at what is now called Coast Guard Beach in 1620. The Pilgrims tried to push south toward their original destination but hit the unforgiving shoals of Pollock's Rip, forcing them to return to Cape Cod, where they settled at Plymouth. In Provincetown, you can visit the Pilgrim Monument and the Provincetown Heritage Museum.

Recreational Highlights

The Seashore has a number of short self-guiding trails. We invite you to walk them to relax and gain insight into the Cape's natural and human history. The trails generally have descriptive names: Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp, Nauset Marsh, Great Island, Pamet Cranberry Bog, Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, Small Swamp, Pilgrim Spring, and Beech Forest. Brochures about each trail may be obtained at the visitor centers.

Buttonbush Trail, with special features for the blind, starts at Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Seasonal lifeguard services and other related facilities are located at these beaches: Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove. Several towns also have public beaches; all charge fees.

Windsurfing and surfing within the National Seashore are permitted in waters outside lifeguarded beaches.

Cycling Cape Cod is a wonderful experience. You can use roads outside the the National Seashore area to move quickly enough up and down the Cape without needing to depend on a car. The Seashore maintains three bicycle trails ranging from 1.6 to 7.3 miles long. Roller-skating, skateboarding, and the use of motorized vehicles, including mopeds, are prohibited on these paved trails. Bicycles may be rented within the towns.

Try surf fishing from the many beaches, but stay away from swimmers. No license is required for saltwater fishing, but a state license is required for freshwater fishing. Town licenses for shellfishing are required. Regulations and fees vary among the towns.

Upland game and migratory waterfowl may be hunted in certain areas in the specified season. There is no open season on non-game species. Ask for a brochure on hunting opportunities and restrictions. Federal, state, and local laws apply.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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