Archive for April, 2020

The Road Less Traveled: Quiet Cape Cod Trails

Friday, April 24th, 2020


As of this writing, in late April, social distancing guidelines are still in effect in Massachusetts. For those who are making an effort to exercise, beaches and bike trails beckon. Yet on a sunny day, the nearby Cape Cod Rail Trail is being well utilized, so much so that staying six feet away from others can be difficult. Even when our lives return to normal, and social distancing is no longer mandated, there is something to be said for seeking out the road less traveled. With this in mind, we’ve ferreted out trails on Cape Cod that, even at the height of summer, are delightfully deserted.

In Harwich

Within walking distance of our Cape Cod beach hotel is the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve. A wide, well-packed trail winds around massive old cranberry bogs. Cold Brook bisects the now-overgrown bogs. Birds of prey on the hunt soar overhead, and several species of birds have taken up residence in the boxes that surround the bogs. Look for eastern bluebirds at or near eye level, and northern red-tailed hawks overhead.

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A kettle pond on the Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary trail.

In Harwich Center, immediately off the Cape Cod Rail Trail, are the Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary and Island Pond Conservation Area, which contain nearly 300 acres of walking trails and preservation land. Here you’ll find a couple of kettle ponds, a geodesic dome house (privately owned, but visible from the trail), and miles of packed dirt trails with very few hills. The Cape Cod Lavender Farm abuts the conservation land, and the owners are very open to hikers stopping by to take in the fields of lavender.

We’ve walked these trails many times. Nine out of 10 times, we’re all by ourselves.

In Orleans

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The beach at the end of the Kent’s Point trail.

At just 1.5 miles long, the trail at the Kent’s Point Conservation Area is short and sweet, and the view at the end of the trail is absolutely stunning! The view on the drive over isn’t bad either. The trailhead, with a small parking area, is at the end of Frost Fish Lane in Orleans. As the road narrows, there’s a great view of Lonnie’s Pond on the right. Just past the pond is the trailhead, also on the right. Once on the trail, the more you explore, the more views of the water you’ll find. The trail ends at a narrow beach on the southern end of Pleasant Bay. Bring a towel and go for a dip.

We’ve hiked this trail on a spectacular summer day and had it, and the beach, all to ourselves.

In Truro

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The view from the top of Bearberry Hill.

While many of the self-guiding trails within Cape Cod National Seashore can be a bit crowded during the summer months, the Pamet Area Trails are an undiscovered gem, and Bearberry Hill is the crown jewel. The trail itself is less than a mile long, but with adjacent fire roads, you can easily turn this into an afternoon’s worth of exploring. As you begin your ascent, turn around and take in the view of Ballston Beach, and an old Coast Guard station. The view of the Atlantic Ocean at the top of Bearberry Hill will take your breath away. As you wind your way farther in, you’ll come across an old bog house that is preserved and maintained by the National Park Service.

Yet another trail we have walked on a sunny summer day that we’ve had all to ourselves.

In Provincetown

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The dike crossing over the creek on the Hatches Harbor fire road.

Unlike the Pamet Area Trails, which are widely publicized within Cape Cod National Seashore, the fire road to Hatches Harbor is not. In fact, it isn’t on the NPS website at all. You just kind of have to know about it. Park at Herring Cove Beach (fee is charged in summer), and head northeast on the bike trail. The fire road will be on your left. The beginning of the trail was in fact once a road (it’s still occasionally used by park personnel). It is a densely packed sand trail that is wide enough for vehicles. A creek meanders through the dunes here. An ancient dike acts as a bridge. When you’re on the dike, look over your shoulder and you’ll see Pilgrim Monument towering behind you. If you have the time, and the stamina, push on until you reach the ocean (mind the tide; certain parts of the trail are submerged at hide tide). Along the way, you’ll pass Race Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse is rented out by the night. On our travels, we’ve found guests to be quite friendly and amenable to impromptu tours. The trails end on a beautiful and blessedly empty beach.

While this trail is flat, it’s lengthy, and some of it is soft sand. Don’t let the thought of the beach at the end tempt you into overdoing it.