Cape Cod National Seashore
|Shorebirds at Cape Cod National Seashore. (courtesy, NPS)|
There are 11 self-guiding nature trails at Cape Cod National Seashore. Self-guiding trail folders (with information on specific natural and historic features) are available at several trailheads. Trailside plant identification panels with numbers refer to the Common Trailside Plants guide book, on sale at park headquarters and visitor center bookstores.
Fort Hill Trail
Features: This trail crosses open fields, connects with the Red Maple Swamp trail, and offers spectacular vistas of Nauset Marsh, Nauset Spit, and the Atlantic Ocean, as it loops back to its starting point.
Length: 1-1/2 miles. Allow at least 1 hour for the entire walk.
Location: Turn off Route 6 at the brown Fort Hill sign on Governor Prence Road in Eastham. Continue to the parking area on the left, across from the Captain Penniman House. (It can also be started from the Hemenway Landing parking area.)
Conditions: Moderate walking difficulty; solid surface. Some log steps on slopes.
Red Maple Swamp Trail
Features: Boardwalk sections of this trail loop through the heart of the Red Maple Swamp. This setting is most colorful in the fall. (Wheelchair accessible via Hemenway Landing.)
Length: 1/2 mile. Allow a minimum of 1/2 hour.
Location: Entrances to this trail feed from the Fort Hill Trail.
Features: This trail involves all the senses as it winds through forest, crosses over the Buttonbush Pond on a boardwalk bridge, and traverses formerly cultivated areas, while looping back to the starting point.
Special Features: Guide rope, texts in Braille, and large print.
Length: 1/4 mile. Allow 1/2 hour (longer if blindfolds are used).
Location: Adjacent to Salt Pond Visitor Center amphitheater; off Route 6 in Eastham; marked by brown signs.
Conditions: Easy; some log steps on the second half of the trail; moderate grade.
Nauset Marsh Trail
Features: This trail winds along the edge of Salt Pond and Nauset Marsh, crosses fields, and returns to the Salt Pond Visitor Center through a recovering forest. There are several spectacular salt marsh and ocean vistas along the way.
Length: 1 mile. Allow 1 hour to walk this trail leisurely.
Location: Adjacent to the Salt Pond Visitor Center amphitheater; off Route 6 in Eastham.
Conditions: Easy; some log steps; moderate grade. Use caution when crossing the bicycle trail.
Other: The 1.5-mile Cedar Banks hiking trail connects the Nauset Marsh Trail with Doane Memorial and Coast Guard Beach. Allow at least 45 minutes extra each way for this option.
Doane Loop Trail
Features: This paved trail winds through an emerging pine and oak forest and offers vistas of Nauset Marsh.
Special Features: Fully wheelchair accessible loop trail (also recommended for strollers or baby carriages).
Length: 1/2 mile. Allow 45 minutes to complete this trail.
Location: 1 mile east from Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham via Doane and Nauset Roads (leading to Coast Guard Beach), at the picnic area marked by brown signs.
Conditions: Easy; paved surface; wheelchair accessible grade.
Atlantic White Cedar Swamp
Features: This award-winning trail descends through a stunted oak and pine forest into a mature woodland, and then leads to a boardwalk that loops through the picturesque Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. The trail returns uphill via historic "Wireless Road" (a sand road) to the starting location.
Length: 1-1/4 miles. Allow 1 hour to walk this trail.
Location: Turn east off Route 6 in South Wellfleet, at stop light, to the Marconi Station Area. Follow brown signs to the Marconi Site and Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.
Conditions: Moderate difficulty; some steep stairs; return route is 1/2 mile uphill in soft sand. The swamp portion of this trail is boardwalk.
Great Island Trail
Features: This is the National Seashore's most difficult trail. It rambles along sandy stretches between the elevated heights of Great Island and Great Beach Hill. The higher elevations are punctuated with spectacular vistas, which peek out from an emerging, even-aged pitch pine forest. Portions of the trail lead to a colonial era tavern site (no remains visible), while other sections skirt salt marsh embayments.
Length: 3 miles, one way, to Jeremy Point overlook (8 miles round-trip via Tavern Site route). Allow at least 3 to 5 hours to explore Great Island. Check tides in advance.
Location: From Route 6, follow green signs to Wellfleet Center; turn left onto Commercial Street (follow signs to town marina; continue along the shoreline from town pier via Chequesset Neck Road to the Great Island parking lot). Driving hint: Keep water view on your left at all times after leaving Route 6.
Conditions: The National Seashore's most difficult trail, mostly soft sand. Some log steps. Portions are submerged at high tide. Head covering, sturdy footgear, and drinking water are advisable.
Cranberry Bog Trail
Features: This area was once an active cranberry operation, but was abandoned in the 1950s. The area still retains many key characteristics for cultivating cranberries, which can be seen along the pathway that leads through several former bogs.
Length: 1/2 mile.
Location: Turn right (east) on North Pamet Road, Truro. Proceed 1-1/2 miles. Trail begins at the parking lot below the Environmental Education Center (a Youth Hostel in the summer).
Conditions: Easy; many log steps; steep grade.
Small Swamp Trail
Features: Farmers from the Pilgrim era sought to make a living on the fragile Cape Cod landscape. Gradually, the soil gave out and farms were abandoned. Eventually, the abandoned landscape began its slow recovery process. The forest here now hides most, but not all, of the former land uses in this area.
Length: 3/4 mile.
Location: Turn right (east at the Pilgrim Heights area sign). Walk begins at the interpretive shelter.
Conditions: Easy; some log steps; moderate grade.
Pilgrim Spring Trail
Features: This short loop trail winds through the recovering pine and oak forest, and passes a representative site which commemorates the Pilgrim's initial exploration of this area.
Length: 3/4 mile.
Location: Interpretive shelter, Pilgrim Heights area. Path leads to site of a spring representative of location where Pilgrims drank their first fresh water in New England.
Conditions: Easy; some log steps; moderate grade.
Beech Forest Trail
Length: 1 mile.
Location: Turn right (north) at traffic light on Race Point Road. Proceed approximately 1/2 mile to the Beech Forest parking lot on the left side of the road.
Features: This trail provides walkers an in-depth journey into the heart of a picturesque beech forest. The trail skirts the shallow Beech Forest Pond, and hugs dunes that are gradually engulfing part of the forest.
Conditions: More difficult; steep log steps; mostly soft sand.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication