The Beach Times

A Peek at Some of Cape Cod’s Famous Nature Trails – Part I
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, February 18, 2019


A Peek at Some of Cape Cod’s Famous Nature Trails – Part I

With its 559.6 miles of coastline, 11,000+ acres of ponds and lakes, and endless expanses of forests, there is no doubt that Cape Cod has some of the country's best nature hiking.

There are very few places in the country where you can spend your morning exploring a secluded forest, your afternoon lounging on a beautiful beach, and your evening dining at a five-star restaurant, but that is exactly what the Cape has to offer. In fact, some of Cape Cod's nature trails have a forest and beach within minutes of each other.

All trails on the following list feature a perfect mix of accessibility and scenery, making them excellent choices when looking to experience the tranquility and beauty of Cape Cod’s hiking areas. Here is part one of a two-part series looking at some of the Cape’s best nature trails.

 

Great Island Trail

 Great Island Trail

Pretty much any list of nature trails on Cape Cod will include Great Island Trail in Wellfleet because not only is it perhaps the most scenic walk on the Cape, but it could be the best hiking area in the entire state. The reason for the hike's notoriety is that it passes through so many different types of terrain and various altitudes, giving you a glimpse at everything that makes up Cape Cod in a single afternoon.

You'll start your hike at the Great Island Trail parking lot, which is just off Chequessett Neck Road, where the Herring River empties into Wellfleet Harbor. From there, you'll pass through an area called "The Gut" before the trail heads over some dunes to the path on the other side.

Once you get to the actual trail, you'll have a couple of different options. You can head east through a wooded area, which will take you to Smith Tavern. It's not an actual tavern, but rather the site of a whaling tavern from the 1700s. Nothing but a plaque remains of the site, and the hike is 1.8 miles in length, finishing with a splendid view of the harbor.

Or, if you're in the mood for a longer hike, you can head 2.9 miles south to Great Beach Hill. Once on the hill, you'll have outstanding views over Cape Cod Bay and the pine forests hiding the eastern trail. When the tide is out, you can continue past Great Beach Hill until you reach Jeremy's Point. It's a 4.1-mile hike from the beginning of the trail to this point, so make sure you're prepared to spend the whole day walking if you go this far and have an idea of the tide schedule, as well.

As was mentioned before, you’ll go through all kinds of terrain on this hike, including dunes, beaches, forests, and marshland, making it one of the more diverse walks you’ll find anywhere.

 

Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary

For a much shorter hike, head to the Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary, which wraps around Grassy Pond in East Falmouth. There are only 1.5 miles worth of trails here in total, making it an easily accessible hike if you struggle with longer distances.

Once here, you can take the Ashumet Farm Trail, which is no longer a farm but remains a prominent place for birdwatching, English Holly Trail, a wooded area that once hosted a herring run, and Mystery Tree Trail, an expanse with the property's tallest holly, along with magnolia trees and Japanese cedars.

Overall, the Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary is a quiet place for a short hike and the chance to experience a rare ecosystem that attracts over 30 species of dragonflies. The sanctuary is located directly across from the Cape Cod Fairgrounds on Ashumet Road and has a marked driveway where you'll enter.

 

Nauset Marsh Trail

The Nauset Marsh trail in Eastham is similar to the hike in Wellfleet because you'll pass through forest, marshland, and beaches on a single walk. The difference is the Nauset Marsh is a smaller area, as it's only 2.75 miles in length and will merely take you about an hour to complete. That's if, of course, you don't stroll the optional 1.5-mile extension to Coast Guard Beach, which you might choose to do.

The trail at Nauset Marsh is easy to locate because all you have to do is walk out the back doors of the Salt Pond Visitor Center at the Cape Cod National Seashore. From there, you walk past the building's amphitheater, and you're on your way. The magnificent thing about this hike is that you'll experience some beautiful views over the water, so bring a camera with you.

 

Bell’s Neck Conservation Area

Bell’s Neck Conservation Area is made up of two reservoirs, East and West, along with the Herring River, dense forest, cranberry bogs, marshland, and even a pedestrian bridge. While the trail is only 2.75 miles long, you'll pass through all kinds of terrain during your walk, making it well worth the trek.

The area was purchased by the town of Harwich because of its ecological importance, as the herring run is vital to the local ecosystem. Officials close the parking lot at the western trailhead between early April and the middle of June as to not disturb the herring. Keep an eye out for osprey and a glimpse of the ever-elusive black-crowned night heron during your hike, as well.

Parking is found near the Cape Cod Rail Trail to the north of the area, on Bells Neck Road between the East and West reservoirs, and just off Depot Street near the mouth of the Herring River.

 

Each Trail is Unique

The four nature trails mentioned provide a great start when hiking on Cape Cod because they all contribute something unique. Great Island Trail offers the chance to explore to a secluded beach away from the crowds, while Nauset Marsh allows you to hike right to one of the Cape’s busiest beaches. Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary has a collection of rare flora, while Bell’s Neck Conservation Area is home to a delicate ecosystem that harbors rare birds and an essential herring habitat.

What all of these nature trails have in common is they provide Cape Cod visitors and locals the chance to explore the environment and see that there is much more to the Cape than what first meets the eye. And, we’ll look at more unique natural areas in part two in the coming weeks.



Ashumet Holly And Wildlife Sanctuary Bells Neck Conservation Area Cape Cod Hiking Great Island Trail Hiking Nauset Marsh Smith Tavern

The Best Places to Kayak on Cape Cod
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Kayaking on Cape Cod

Cape Cod has some of the best kayaking opportunities found anywhere in North America, mainly due to the diversity of its water bodies.

For some, there is nothing better than a day on the ocean in a kayak, as you can quietly maneuver along the shoreline and access beaches, islands and areas that you can’t get to any other way. You might also have the chance to see some wildlife without a noisy motor scaring it away.

For others, kayaking through a still pond or lake is the way to go, since you are protected from rough water and weather, and can quickly get to shore for a break when needed. You are also never far from your vehicle, so returning after a day spent on the water is much more manageable.

Or, you might look for a river or stream to navigate in your kayak, which can provide access to both the ocean and some ponds, depending on the route you take.

As you can see, the Cape has everything you could ever want from a kayaking destination and if you aspire to get out on the water this vacation, make sure you bring your boat. Alternatively, there are kayak rental locations found throughout Cape Cod, if needed.

 

Nickerson State Park

At Nickerson State Park, you'll have so many choices on where you kayak that it can be overwhelming. The park as a whole is 1,900 acres in size and features numerous ponds, including Cliff, Flax, Little Cliff, Higgins, and Eel, and all of them have direct road access. These roads make it easy to reach your desired pond or travel through the park until you find one that isn't overly busy.

One of the great things about Nickerson State Park is that most of the ponds are close enough to each other that you can portage between them if your boat is light enough. That way, you can explore multiple kettle ponds throughout the day without having to load your kayak back onto your car. The larger bodies have beaches to check out, as well, so you can include a swim in with your excursion.

 

Nauset Marsh

People around Cape Cod say that Nauset Marsh is perhaps the best place for beginners to get out on the water. This saltwater marsh is one of the most fertile in the world, which means it is full of wildlife, including seals, otters, and birds, to see while you paddle through its streams. In addition to the small streams running through the marsh, there are tidal creeks and more open bodies of water, like Salt Pond Bay. This diversity means you can explore various eco-systems throughout the day

Those with more kayaking experience can start their journey in the wetlands before paddling into the Atlantic at Coast Guard Beach. Make sure you keep track of where you entered the ocean, however, as it can be easy to get lost.

Overall, Nauset Marsh is a spectacular place to take your boat because the scenery is outstanding and you can go in so many different directions once you’re out there. Most kayakers enter the marsh at Town Cove in Eastham, just off Route 6.

 

Bass River

At five miles long, Bass River is Cape Cod's largest river, and it sits conveniently between Yarmouth and Dennis. You can enter the river from either town or the boat launch at Smugglers Beach on Nantucket Sound. Once in the river, you'll find some areas quiet and others livelier. There are powerboats on the river, but they are speed restricted, limiting the wake created and allowing for a smoother journey for those using kayaks or paddle boards.

The river has numerous coves and inlets you can explore, and you'll also find a couple of marinas where you can stop for lunch. The marinas can also rent you a kayak or paddle board. If you head far enough north, you'll eventually get to Kelleys Bay, Dinahs Pond, or Follins Pond, as well, which provide a quiet place to explore. Note, however, that the speed restrictions are not in place on Follins Pond.

 

Eel Pond Landing

For something a little different, start your journey at Eel Pond in East Falmouth. One thing you'll notice about Cape Cod is that there are numerous ponds with the same name, so if you're looking on a map, make sure you find the Eel Pond in East Falmouth and not the one in Woods Hole, Bourne, or Brewster, although these other ponds are also accessible via kayak.

The Eel Pond in East Falmouth starts on Nantucket Sound right by Washburn Island, which is a stunning wildlife reserve. Heading north, you can turn right and take the Seapit River into Waquoit Bay or go left and travel up the Childs River to Waquoit Village. Either way, you'll have a quiet ride and will almost certainly see some animals along your journey.

You might have to start your trip at the Waquoit Bay Kayak Launch in Mashpee or Bosun’s East Falmouth Marina, since it can be challenging to find an access point or parking along Eel Pond.

 

Wequaquet Lake

Wequaquet Lake in Barnstable is another place worth visiting with your kayaks, but keep in mind that parking can be difficult to find. There is a boat launch at the north end of the lake where you can get your boat in the water, but only a dozen or so parking spots.

If you're lucky enough to score a space, the lake is massive and, therefore, it's easy to find a peaceful area to paddle by yourself. There are also some uninhabited islands that you can visit if you want a break from your boat. This lake is in the middle of a large residential area and, therefore, is a favorite of locals. If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s a good idea to look for a vacation rental nearby to make it easier to access.

 

Kayaking On Cape Cod

There’s no way you’ll get to all of the Cape’s kayaking routes on your vacation here because you can pretty much put your boat in the water anywhere and you’ll find it to be kayak friendly. Just make sure you stay away from rougher areas of the ocean unless you’re an experienced paddler and are confident with your navigation skills.

Likewise, you can always take a kayaking tour, as numerous companies will supply a guide and ensure you’re on a scenic route all day long. Kayak rentals are also available if you’re not able to bring your own, so don’t let the fact that you’re flying in from another part of the country stop you from enjoying the natural beauty that is best enjoyed from the quiet water passageways on Cape Cod.

When looking to rent a kayak, it's a good idea to call ahead at the beginning of your trip. That way, you'll be aware of rental rates and availability before arriving at the office.

Whether you're into kayak tours or will be bringing your own kayaks on your vacation, you're sure to find something that suits your needs on the Cape this summer.

 



Bass River Eel Pond Kayaking On Cape Cod Nauset Marsh Nickerson State Park Wequaquet Lake

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