The Beach Times

A Peek at Some of Cape Cod’s Famous Nature Trails – Part 2
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Thursday, February 28, 2019


A couple of weeks ago, we looked at some of Cape Cod’s best nature trails and, as you might expect, there was too much to fit into a single post, so we’ll continue the discussion now.

The Cape’s natural areas are unique because they give you the feeling of being completing isolated, yet you remain a short distance from the ocean and a town or two at all times. As a result, you’ll don’t have to venture too far from your vacation rental to experience the serenity of the woods or to find a deserted beach teeming with wildlife.

Here are a few more nature trails that are worth checking out during your next vacation on Cape Cod.

 

Sandy Neck Beach Park

Sandy Neck Trails- Photo by Catheren Andrade

Barnstable is home to Sandy Neck Beach Park, a 4,700-acre zone with dunes, forests, marshes, and beaches that is a must-visit when on Cape Cod. What makes Sandy Neck so interesting is the diversity in its landscapes, as you can sit on a beach one minute and walk through the woods the next.

The landscape of Sand Neck has taken thousands of years to form, as it is a barrier beach with Cape Cod Bay on one side and Barnstable Harbor on the other. The result is a beautiful space with six hiking trails, many of which lead to more secluded areas of sand away from the crowds.

To reach the more reclusive expanses along this six-mile stretch, you'll want to take Marsh Trail. This trail starts near the beach's main parking area and runs close to the end of Sandy Neck Beach. Along the way, you'll pass marshes and forests, and every trail that intersects with Marsh Trail leads directly to the beach.

Once you get to the end of Marsh Trail and approach the beach, you'll have the option of taking Trail 6 to stunning Beach Point, which has shallow water and scenic views of the harbor. On any given day, dozens of boats might set up in the area to enjoy its sandy banks. This area is also home to the Sandy Neck Lighthouse.

It is possible to drive the length of the beach if you purchase an ORV permit and have the necessary equipment. The license is $170 for non-residents, since you must buy it for the entire year, and the tools needed include rope, a jack, support boards, a shovel, a tire gauge, and a spare tire. If you're staying on the Cape for a few weeks, this is an option worth considering.

There's also a new mobile app that provides up to the date information on Sandy Neck Beach, including tide charts and weather updates. If the beach closes or its hours of operation change, you can learn about it through the app.

 

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Three distinct areas make up Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, and you'll surely want to schedule ahead if you plan to visit all of them. Overall, the refuge is 7,604 acres in size, and about 94% of it has a Wilderness Area designation. The region is home to whitetail deer, seals, and a variety of migrating birds, including the piping plover and roseate tern, both of which are protected species. There are also plenty of whale and great white shark sightings every year in the waters off the Monomoy Islands.

The first part of the refuge is relatively easy to reach, as Morris Island connects to the rest of the Cape with a roadway and is just outside of downtown Chatham. Here, you'll find the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, along with 40 acres of trails, marshes, dunes, and forests. There are ten markers along the 3/4-of-a-mile trail that provide information on the local flora and fauna and let you know you're on the right track.

Next, there's North Monomoy Island, which is home to some of the Cape’s best bird watching. The island isn't open to foot traffic right now, due to its importance as a wildlife refuge. You can take a boat tour around the space, however, allowing you to see a lot of what it has to offer. There are several seal-watching tours from Chatham that pass right by North Monomoy, and the captains will usually get as close to land as possible along the way.

You can go exploring a little bit on South Monomoy Island, which is the most extensive portion of the refuge. This island as a couple of boat landings, and although there isn’t a regularly scheduled ferry service, you can book a private tour if you want to visit. Keep in mind that parts of the island close at various times, so you’ll have to be careful where you walk. Markers will indicate every closure. There's a long beach on the north section of the island that is outside of the refuge. Renting a boat or taking a private charter are the only ways to get to this beach, which is perhaps the most secluded on Cape Cod.

 

Spruce Hill Conservation Area

At only a half a mile long, the trail through the Spruce Hill Conservation Area is the shortest on this list, but it’s still worth a look because it heads through a dynamic area filled with Norway spruce, oak, and pine trees, which form a thick canopy of green. You'll also pass a swamp before heading over the dunes and reaching the incredible views of Cape Cod Bay. This stretch of beach is relatively secluded, as well, making it a nice place to relax and watch the bird flying overhead.

Spruce Hill is right along Route 6A, just outside of downtown Brewster and only a mile from Nickerson State Park. There's no market at the entrance, and it'll feel like you're heading up someone's driveway when you arrive, but, rest assured, you're not. You'll see the parking lot after you pass the house. It's also possible to leave the main trail about halfway down and head through an area with even greater tree cover, giving you a better chance to see some wildlife.

 

Nature Trails Everywhere

It would be impossible to cover all of Cape Cod’s nature trails because you can find one almost anywhere. Head to any of the region’s kettle ponds, for example, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a trail wrapping around the water or heading even further back into the woods.

The great news is that these trails provide a refuge for animals and keep parts of Cape Cod quiet, no matter the time of year. Whether you’re visiting the Cape for a few days or spending the entire summer here, make sure you experience the conservation areas and nature trails that allow you to get away from it all.



Cape Cod Hiking Hiking Sandy Neck Spruce Hill Conservation Area

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