Nothing says summer on Cape Cod like packing a cooler, slinging a chair over your shoulder, and shuffling quickly across hot sand to the tide line. For most travelers, trips to “The Cape” are yearly rituals geared towards relaxation, but there’s no hiding it anymore: Cape Cod is also a hiking destination. Trails crisscross the peninsula’s shifting dune fields, maze-like marshes, cannonball-worthy ponds, and rocky ridges. If you can’t spare any beach time on your Cape vacation, don’t fret. Some of the region’s best trails also hit the beach, and if they don’t, you’re never too far from a sandy stretch. So, before you pull out a paperback and a beer, detour to one of these five great Cape Cod hikes, including the stunning Sandy Neck.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Exploring the mid Cape, the Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 22-mile-long paved trail that takes you through picturesque towns like Dennis, Harwich, and Brewster. This popular path winds through forests, cranberry bogs, and past serene ponds, providing a relaxing and scenic biking and hiking experience.
Sandy Neck Trail
Sandy Neck Beach Park, in Barnstable, is a true gem for hikers. The Sandy Neck Trail takes you along a pristine coastline with rolling dunes and peaceful marshes. This 7-mile trail is a paradise for birdwatchers and offers ample opportunities for spotting wildlife. You can even take a guided hike to learn more about the area’s ecology and history
Great Island Trail
Begin your Cape Cod hiking adventure on The Great Island Trail, located in Wellfleet. This 8.5-mile trail takes you through diverse landscapes, from salt marshes to pine forests. You’ll even encounter remnants of an old village, giving you a glimpse into the area’s history. The highlight? A stunning stretch of sandy beach where you can enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Province Lands Trail
For panoramic views of the Cape Cod National Seashore, head to the Province Lands Trail in Provincetown. This 5.5-mile loop trail takes you through rolling dunes and offers breathtaking vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to bring your camera, as the sunsets here are nothing short of spectacular.
The Beech Forest Trail
Located in Cape Cod’s charming town of Provincetown, the Beech Forest Trail offers a short, tranquil hike that immerses you in a lush beech forest. The 1.6-mile loop is perfect for a leisurely stroll, and the dense canopy provides welcome shade on a hot summer day.
Fort Hill Trail
For history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, the Fort Hill Trail in Eastham is a must-visit. This 1.5-mile trail leads you through fields once used by Native Americans and early settlers, offering a glimpse into the region’s past. The trail’s elevated boardwalk provides excellent bird-watching opportunities and stunning views of Nauset Marsh.
White Cedar Swamp Trail
Located in the Cape Cod National Seashore, the White Cedar Swamp Trail in Wellfleet is a unique hike through a cedar swamp. The 1.2-mile loop trail is boardwalked, making it accessible for all skill levels. It’s a serene journey through a lush, shaded environment, quite different from the coastal trails.
While Cape Cod may be renowned for its beaches and relaxation, it’s also a hidden gem for hikers. From sandy shores to dense forests, historic sites, and the stunning Sandy Neck, Cape Cod’s trails offer a diverse range of experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. So, next time you find yourself on this beautiful peninsula, be sure to pack your hiking boots along with your beach chair, and explore the natural wonders that Cape Cod has to offer. It’s a side of “The Cape” that’s worth discovering.