The Beach Times

Hiking Your Way Through the Upper Cape – Part II: Mashpee and Sandwich
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, April 27, 2020

Last time, we looked at some hiking areas in Bourne and Falmouth, which you'll run into soon after entering the Cape.

But what if you're staying in Mashpee or Sandwich and want nearby places to get into the wilderness?

You're in luck because there are plenty of great hiking trails in these communities, each providing you with an accessible spot to spend a few hours in nature without ever being too far from your amenities.

Here are a couple of the many places where you can hike into the woods in Mashpee and Sandwich during your Cape Cod vacation.

The Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge

Proceeding east from Falmouth will quickly bring you to Mashpee, home of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. This area is massive, taking up nearly 6,000 acres, although only about 330 acres are owned and maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, with state and local groups holding the rest.

As you'd expect with such a large park, it's broken into sections with each area having a parking lot and offering a unique experience. Everything is near Route 151 in Mashpee, so you can use that road as a baseline.

First, there's the Childs River Conversation Area, which is south of Route 151 off Old Barnstable Road. This area is unmarked and doesn't have an official parking lot, but you can access it from Brown's Road. The Childs River runs through the region, and it's full of dense tree cover with a few residential areas popping up, as well.

Next, you can explore the Quashnet River Conservation Area, which is just east of the Childs River Conversation Area. There's a parking lot for the hiking area just off Route 28, and you can also access the trail from Mashpee High School and Falmouth Road. The main trail travels along the banks of the Quashnet River and is heavily forested.

North of those sections is the Quashnet Woodlands, which starts at the north end of Johns Pond. From the parking lot, the trails head east on the Quashnet River's shores and north around Moody Pond. There's a beach there too, delivering a beautiful place to cool off in the summer. Make sure you don't head too far north through the woods because the park borders the Otis Air National Guard Base and military personnel will turn you back.

There's also the South Mashpee Pine Barrens, which is southeast of the Quashnet River. The parking lot for this section is off Great Neck Road South, and you can also access it from Great Hay Road. This area features dense woods, although you're never too far from the main road, either.

Finally, you can check out the Jehu Pond Conservation Area, which has a parking lot on the pond's shores and trails that run through the forest and to Abigails Brook. Residential developments surround Jehu Pond, but heading north from the parking lot will take you into the wilderness.

In addition to these areas in Mashpee, the park also features the Crane Wildlife Management Area and the Coonamessett Reservation Area, which are located in Falmouth. You could spend your entire vacation exploring the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge without even covering a fraction of it, so plan ahead and figure out what you want to see before arriving on the Cape.

Keep an eye out for wildlife in the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge; you might be lucky enough to see the red fox, white-tailed deer, or countless bird species that call the region home.

East Sandwich Game Farm

The East Sandwich Game Farm sits just off Route 6A, not far from the Post Office. The park is state-owned but operated by the Thornton W. Burgess Society. The society's team of volunteers keeps the refuge in great shape for visitors. Overall, the East Sandwich Game Farm is 133 acres in size, although when combined with the adjacent Talbot's Point Conservation Area, there's over 245 acres of land to explore in this section of Sandwich.

As you arrive at the East Sandwich Game Farm, you'll reach a driveway that leads to the hiking trails. The driveway is essentially a dirt road, and it's not a comfortable journey, so many people choose to park at the gates and walk from there. At the same time, there's a boat launch on Scorton Creek, giving some visitors reason to drive into the farm.

Once you enter the park, you'll find multiple hiking trails to explore, taking you along the creek and through some marshland. The trails aren't well marked, and hikers tend to lose the paths on their travels. The area is well-traveled, however, so it's easy to keep your bearings.

If you walk far enough south, you'll reach Hoxie Pond, a small body with a serene atmosphere. Hoxie Pond is an excellent place for birdwatching or to take a break while exploring.

The East Sandwich Game Farm isn't the most challenging site to hike on the Upper Cape. Still, it's easily accessible and a relaxing place to wander through the woods with your family, or all alone, without having to worry too much about navigation or difficulty.

Hiking on Cape Cod

As you make your way through these trails on the Upper Cape, you'll gain a new appreciation for Cape Cod's secluded sections. Your Cape Cod vacation is sure to include time spent at some of the region's beaches and other hot spots, but there's something special about escaping into a wilderness that sits only minutes from the crowds.

You'll quickly learn that the Cape's hiking scene is incredibly diverse, and you'll be amazed at just how much is packed into such a small part of the country.

Take the time to learn where some of the Upper Cape's top hiking areas are from your vacation rental and spend your afternoons relishing some of Cape Cod's most peaceful environments.

Cape Cod Hiking Hiking

Hiking Your Way Through the Upper Cape – Part I: Bourne and Falmouth
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Upper Cape includes four towns – Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich – and their respective villages. As you enter Cape Cod, you'll cross either the Bourne Bridge or the Sagamore Bridge, both of which take you over the Cape Cod Canal from the off-Cape side of Bourne.

Your journey from there can take many different routes, depending on how you want to spend your Cape Cod vacation. Of course, you'll want to hit the beaches and visit some restaurants, but there's more to the Cape than eating and lounging.

Hiking, for example, is a popular pastime for locals and visitors because it takes you away from the crowds and into the middle of pine and oak forests featuring swamps, ponds, rare plant species, and wildlife.

Each of the Upper Cape's towns has excellent hiking trails, so in part one of a two-part series, here's a look at two significant conservation areas in Falmouth and Bourne, Massachusetts.

Four Ponds Conservation Area in Bourne

Upon entering Cape Cod on Route 28, you'll drive into the town of Bourne, which features waterfront villages, beaches, and tons of natural areas. Heading south, you'll travel for about five minutes before reaching the turnoff for Barlows Landing Road, and that directs you to the Four Ponds Conservation Area.

Four Ponds, which sits in Pocasset Village, isn't the largest hiking area by any means. The park is just off Route 28 and close to Pocasset's main commercial area, however, so it's one of the most convenient places to hike in Bourne.

Town Forest Trail and Pine Trail, the two longest hiking paths, wind through the forests and into some swampland. Pine Trail has smaller unmarked trails that will take you directly to the swamps, marshes, and bogs, which provide excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. You can also access Pine Train from Pocasset Town Forest, an adjoining park north of Four Ponds on Valley Bars Road.

Town Forest Trail starts near the Pocasset River and passes Upper Pond. It's a 2.2-mile loop that will eventually bring you back to the parking lot, and it connects with Pine Trail in numerous locations, making for a longer hike.

You'll find shorter walks on Lions Trail and Eagle Trail, neither of which venture far from the parking lot. Lions Trail is a quick loop around Freeman Pond, while Eagle Trail curves around The Basin. There's a smaller unmarked trail to Sheep Pond on Eagle Trail, too. These hikes are perfect for trekking with children because they each take about 30 minutes to explore.

The oak and pine woodlands through this area are full of ferns and swamp azalea, and if you're lucky, you'll come across some painted turtles, spring peepers, or pickerel frogs. One thing to keep in mind is that all of these ponds are human-made, but you'd never know it once you experience this beautiful section of Bourne.

The Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area in Falmouth

Moving south from Bourne, you'll quickly reach Falmouth and the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area, a massive state park that's broken into three distinct sections.

The western part of the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area is located where Route 28 and Route 151 meet in East Falmouth. There's a small dirt parking lot there, but it's unmarked. You'll want to look up its location before you arrive because it's easy to miss. This western section of the park has a dirt road running through it, in addition to countless trails. Mountain bikers frequent the western section because of its hills and wide paths.

The eastern side of the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area is also along Route 151, but it features more access points and far less tree cover than the western portion. This area has some open fields, making it a stunning place to go for a walk, although you can also head into the woodlands if you prefer the tree cover. There's a flying field here, too, where members of the Otis Model Aero Club launch their model planes.

You'll find the southern section of the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area south of Route 151 between Currier Road and Sandwich Road. Keep in mind that this part of the park doesn't have trail maps and is a popular hunting area from the middle of October through November during quail and pheasant season. Much like the eastern portion, the southern section of the park is a mix of open fields and trees.

The Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area combines forests and meadows, depending on which section you hike, and is a great place to view butterflies and birds. You'll also find beautiful wildflowers and 15 threatened plant species in the park. You could spend much of your Cape Cod vacation at the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area and still not see everything, although you'll probably want to check out some other places from time to time.

Just Some of Cape Cod's Hiking Trails

The Upper Cape is full of outstanding ways to spend your holiday, and if you book a vacation rental in the area, you'll be close to some of Cape Cod's best hiking areas. A bonus is that most of these hikes are minutes from bars and restaurants, giving you the chance to cool off indoors or on a patio after exploring the woods.

In the next part of this two-part series, we'll look at some outstanding hiking opportunities in Mashpee and Sandwich that will make your vacation to the Cape even more memorable.

Cape Cod Hiking Hiking

The Sandy Pond Recreation Park in Yarmouth, MA
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, April 13, 2020

Your Cape Cod vacation will likely be full of fun in the sun and time spent enjoying many of the activities for which this beautiful part of the world is famous.

In Yarmouth, Massachusetts, that means spending your days lounging on the beaches, shopping in the boutiques, and feasting at the restaurants. It could also lead you to historic buildings, nature parks, and marinas.

An off-the-beaten-path location that you might consider exploring is the Sandy Pond Recreation Park on Buck Island Road. The park is a few blocks north of Route 28, and close to the Barnstable Municipal Airport and Hyannis Harbor, as well, but provides a quiet escape from the bustle of those crowded facilities.

When looking for a peaceful way to spend a day in Yarmouth, Sandy Pond should be on your list of places to explore.

Recreational Facilities

Perhaps the main reason to visit Sandy Pond is its recreational area, which is full of excellent facilities for the entire family.

For starters, there are two playgrounds, so you can let the kids play while you relax and enjoy the scenery. You'll also have access to tennis and basketball courts, should you want to play a game with family and friends, or simply shoot some hoops on your own.

There's a softball diamond at the park that local groups often use, and if there's a game going on, the hills on either side of the field provide an excellent vantage point to watch.

There are on-site washrooms, which are a necessity if you plan to spend the day at the park, and there is a picnic area with tables there, too. The picnic area even has built-in grills, making it easy to cook lunch or dinner, rather than having to rely on sandwiches or other cold items.

Parking is always a concern on Cape Cod, but Sandy Pond has three parking areas to make it easier. While there's no guarantee that you'll find a spot, the park has a lot of parking for its size. There's also a bike path that runs directly to the park so that you can ride from your vacation rental.

Those who end up with a vacation rental in the vicinity of Sandy Pond will surely want to spend at least one day exploring its facilities.

Activities at the Pond

As you leave the recreation area near the parking lot, you'll walk down a small path before coming to Sandy Pond. The pond is a beautiful place to cool off in the summer because it has plenty of shade and a small swimming area.

If you've brought your kids to the Cape, Sandy Pond is a good choice because the water is shallow, and you won't have to worry about the crowds of the oceanfront beaches. The water is also far calmer and doesn't have those frightening ocean currents.

In addition to swimming, you can wade into the water and fish at Sandy Pond, or walk on one of the trails until you find a private spot to put your line in the water. The relaxation of fishing in one of the Cape's small ponds on a calm summer's day is unmatched.

Speaking of the trails, there's a nature walk around the pond, as well, so you can get some exercise in and explore some secluded spots through the trees. The trail isn't well-manicured, but it's short enough that you shouldn't run into too many problems.

You wouldn't expect to find such a secluded spot this close to some of Cape Cod's busiest locations, but that's exactly what the trails at Sandy Pond provide.

The Yarmouth Dog Park

The newest facility at the park is a 26,000 square-foot dog-friendly area to the west of the main parking lot. The Yarmouth Dog Park opened in 2015 and is broken into three areas: one for large dogs, one for small dogs, and one for shy or young dogs.

The park has lots of space for your pet to run and also features picnic tables, water fountains, and cooling pools, so your dog doesn't get too hot.

Dogs are also permitted on the trails around Sandy Pond, provided you keep them on a leash the entire time.

If you've brought your dog on your Cape Cod vacation, you'll surely want to check out the Yarmouth Dog Park during your travels.

Part of Your Cape Cod Vacation

As you spend your holiday on Cape Cod, you'll find new and exciting things to explore each and every day. In Yarmouth alone, there are numerous beaches, high-end restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and historic venues, just to name a few of the top attractions.

There are also plenty of parks and facilities that are popular with locals but don't get the tourist traffic that better-known locations attract. These sites, such as Sandy Pond, give you a little insight into the real Cape Cod and are worth stopping by during your time here.

Sandy Pond Yarmouth

A Guide to the Conservation Areas of Dennis, Massachusetts
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, April 6, 2020

Dennis, MA, and the rest of Cape Cod are famous for their beaches, history, restaurants, and all-around coastal lifestyle, but there's another side of the area that you might have missed.

At first glance, you'll notice that Dennis seems pretty thoroughly developed, with each of its villages having downtown areas and residential neighborhoods, but did you know that large sections of town are protected?

Throughout Dennis, you'll discover a variety of conservation areas with forested hiking trails to explore. These areas are protected from development, ensuring that the Cape's ecosystem remains intact for generations to come.

If you want to see what Cape Cod was like before European settlement, take a wander through a conservation area or two during your vacation. Hiking doesn't get much better than this.

Indian Lands

On the shores of the Bass River, just south of the Mid-Cape Highway and Kelley's Bay, is the Indian Lands Conservation Area. The Cape Cod Rail Trail runs through this area, and there is a parking lot for it, too, making it an excellent place to begin a bike ride.

In addition to the Rail Trail, conservation area visitors will find hiking trails and some places to stop for a picnic. The park permits dogs, and it's possible to carry a kayak or canoe from the parking lot to explore the river. If you don't have a boat, you can fish from the shore, as well.

Fresh Pond

Fresh Pond Conservation Land is in West Dennis, just off East-West Dennis Road. The pond is a short distance from the village's downtown area, making is easily accessible for anyone with a vacation rental there, and features decent-sized parking lot.

Locals know that Fresh Pond is, first and foremost, a dog park, with two fenced areas in addition to a trail network that wraps around the water. From the trails, you can access some beaches, giving your pet a chance to cool off, or let your dogs run the trails.

You can also hike, fish, kayak, or picnic at Fresh Pond, but be aware that there will likely be numerous dogs around when you visit.

Flax Pond

Cape Cod has multiple bodies of water called Flax Pond. This particular version is surrounded by trails and features some of the Cape's best bass fishing. Flax Pond in Dennis sits just north of Follins Pond near the town's border with Yarmouth and is deserving of a visit during your time here.

Parking for Flax Pond is on Setucket Road, as there is a dirt lot with a direct trail to the water. The path is well-manicured, making it possible to carry a kayak to the pond for some fishing, and you'll see numerous swimming areas as you hike, as well.

Dogs are permitted at Flax Pond, as is hunting. As a result, you'll want to keep an eye out for signs during the hunting season.

Crowes Pasture

The lone conservation area on this list with direct ocean access is Crowes Pasture, which sits on the banks of Quivett Creek and runs all the way to Cape Cod Bay. This area has multiple parking areas, allowing visitors to explore the various trails or find a secluded section of beach.

Getting to Crowes Pasture is relatively easy, as you can take South Street, which is just north of the Old King's Highway in East Dennis. Keep in mind that while there are numerous parking lots, most are very small and tend to fill quickly, particularly in the summer.

You are permitted to bring your dog to the beach, but remember that these sandy areas are a piping plover habitat. There will be signs when piping plover are nesting, at which time you'll have to keep your pets away.

If you've invested in an off-road vehicle permit through the town of Dennis, you can take your vehicle onto the beach, too. This pass makes it easier to put a kayak in the water and do some fishing, or simply spend the day relaxing in the sun. Keep an eye on the town of Dennis' website because off-road access periodically closes to protect the piping plover habitat.

Blueberry Patch

If you head to the Blueberry Patch Conservation Area, you'll immediately notice that it's different from the rest because it's made of three separate areas: Cross Patch, Romig, and Simpkins Neck.

The parking area is on New Boston Road, a short distance west of the Hall Street turnoff. From there, you can hike the 1.5 miles of trails or venture off for a closer look at the salt marshes that surround Chase Garden Creek.

As the name suggests, there is a blueberry patch here, as well, but it's reserved for Dennis residents only. If you don't have proof of residency, you run the risk of getting a ticket for picking berries.

Swan Pond Overlook

Swam Pond is the most civilized conservation area on this list, as you can park on Center Street in Dennis Port before hiking the trails. These trails are butterfly-shaped and cross each other frequently, so you can walk as little as a mile or far longer if you wish.

There's also a large picnic area at Swan Pond, making it the perfect place to head for a late-morning hike followed by a scenic meal overlooking the water.

Explore Dennis' Protected Areas

Check out some of these conservation areas during your Cape Cod vacation to experience this region's natural environment and to see what the Cape was like before development.

Dennis' conservation lands provide you with an excellent place to escape the crowds and cool off at a pond or in the shade of the forest.

Have a look at the conservation areas near your vacation rental because you never know, you might find your new favorite spot on Cape Cod.

Conservation Area Dennis

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