Ten Best Nature Walks on Cape Cod
Crowes Pasture in Dennis one of the many places on the Cape to lose yourself in nature. Photo by William DeSousa-Mauk.
Visitors to Cape Cod come for many reasons, be they sunning on the beach, shopping in the town center’s, antiquing, or grabbing a lobster dinner. However, there is another, far less crowded side to Cape Cod. All along the peninsula people can find quiet paths through the woods, filled with resplendent scents of nature and all sorts of animals.
Several animals to look for while on the walks are deer, rabbits, and foxes (although the latter is more common at night). There are also plenty of birds for the more ornithological person, from hawks and falcons to crows, blackbirds, and sparrows, as well as the common seagull.
Many of the walks have wild berries that are edible (so long as you know what you are looking for) in the summer and early fall. One may find raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and huckleberries. The huckleberry bush is extremely common in Cape Cod forests and the small, dark purple berries are great in pies and other dishes.
Some of these walks are even dog-friendly (as long as owners are mindful to pick up after their pets).
Depending on one’s age and physical ability, people may find some of the walks preferable to others, due to their lack of steep hills or the length of the walk itself.
The walks listed here are free to the public, at least in the quiet season (in the summer, parking rates may apply, and there are guided tours available at some of the locations).
1. Kent’s Point, Orleans - This dog-friendly walk is located just off of Monument Road in Orleans. The walk is easy and great for people of any age. There is handicapped parking access down the trailhead for people who don’t want to walk from the main parking lot.
Kent’s Point has stunning views of Pleasant Bay, especially at the end of the walk, where people can sit at a bench on the top of a hill (not very steep), and just look out at the various boaters out on the water. There is also access to the water, although the beach is a bit rocky, so it’s not recommended to go sunning here!
The woods have different trails throughout them which are fun to explore and none of the trails are particularly long, so people can make this walk as long or as short as they please.
The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail near Marconi Beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet is not to be missed. Photo by Jane Booth.
2. Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, Wellfleet - This walk near Marconi Beach is beautiful, but it is long and not for people who can’t handle walking uphill. From the parking lot, one walks down the trails to the boardwalk through the swamp. The boardwalk is a loop through Atlantic White Cedars in the quiet Wellfleet swamp.
The walk itself is hauntingly beautiful, especially in the off-season when there aren’t many people there and visitors can just lose themselves in the quiet forest, reminiscent of something out of a Grimm Fairy Tale.
There are markers along the trails to identify the various wildlife. In the season, because the area is a swamp, remember the bug repellent or be faced to brave the swarms.
Once off the boardwalk loop, one can further explore the surrounding woods (there’s a path that leads to the dunes and looks out over the beach), or one can head back uphill (this is the steep hill part that might put off some of the less in-shape people) to the parking lot.
3. Fort Hill, Eastham - This walk in Eastham is fantastic year-round (it can get a bit buggy in the summer). The walk has two parking lots, so people can start from either end. Like the Cedar Swamp, Fort Hill has a boardwalk that meanders through a swampy area.
The walk is a bit shorter than the Cedar Swamp and a bit easier too, so people who are intimidated by hills might find some consolation here (however, there are still some hills, so don’t expect flat terrain). There are different trails to take and depending on time, exploration can be fun. However, if time is tight, stick to one trail.
There are great views of the National Seashore and trail markers that identify native wildlife. The Captain Penniman House is right next to the trails, a great place to go for people looking to get educated about the area’s history.
4. Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, Brewster - There are two walks available here, one on either side of 6A. However, in the summer, to park in the main lot, the museum requires that people have a museum membership. Once the off-season hits however, anyone can park and enjoy the beautiful walk.
Another note is that like most of Brewster, this walk is not dog-friendly from May to October and people who bring pets can face hefty fines (this is a recent change, as is the membership requirement for parking).
The walk on the side that does not have the museum is shorter than the one on Wing’s Island and the trails are a bit less developed.
The walk on Wing’s Island is stunning (although the way over can be flooded at high tide, so plan accordingly). People walk out across the marsh into the woods. There are several ways to walk the Island, but they are all connected. Here, as on other walks in the area, there are trail markers to identify native species and the museum offers tours of the trail as well, but reservations are required to take advantage of the field guides.
At the end of the Wing’s Island walk, there is access to the Bay and one can go down to the beach before going back to the parking lot, a very nice feature. Depending on the tides, people can walk out on the flats and find various sea creatures. This is a great walk for anyone and it is certainly not very strenuous. It is also close to the Punkhorn Parklands in Brewster, another recreational area.
Look for blue heron on the waters surrounding the Indian Lands Conservation Area in South Dennis. Photo by Jane Booth.
5. Indian Lands Conservation Area, Dennis - The Indian Lands Conservation Area is located right next to the Dennis Town Offices on Main Street. Dogs are welcome here (as long as they are leashed).
The trail begins under the powerlines and passes by an old stretch of railroad. Walkers then enter a wooded area, which passes through marsh and beach. There is a picnic table at one point and benches along the way.
The whole walk is picturesque and it can take hours if one decides to walk around both trails, a wonderful way to spend the day.
6. Thompson’s Field, Harwich: This is an extremely dog-friendly walk near the Harwich Water Department. Dogs can be off the leash here as long as they are under control and not aggressive. This walk is not recommended for people who dislike dogs.
There are two entrances, although the main one off of Chatham Road is the easiest to find. There are many trails that cut through the field and the walk is very easy. The terrain is mostly flat and the part that has a hill can be avoided. The bike trail cuts the field in half and the field can be a nice stop for cyclists as well, given that there is a small picnic area.
7. Lowell Holly Reservation, Sandwich and Mashpee: This walk spans two towns and is well worth a visit. The trees along this walk are rather unique as far as arboreal species go on Cape Cod, a true delight for someone tired of scrub pines and oaks.
Two ponds (Mashpee and Wakeby) are part of the walk, with the various trails taking visitors along the shorelines. Both ponds are stocked with fish as well, so visitors can take a relaxing trip to fish along the shores. There is also a very nice picnic area, so the Reservation can provide a wonderful day trip for families and friends alike.
The walking is not too strenuous, but be sure to bring good shoes as the miles of trails can take a toll on feet.
Shawme Crowell State Forest in Sandwich also offers hiking opportunities amongst its campgrounds. As long as dogs are leashed, they are welcome here.
8. Beebe Woods, Falmouth: A true Cape Cod treasure, the Beebe Woods in Falmouth offers an extensive collection of trails for visitors to tramp along. The landscape is varied and visitors can explore different trails to make their walk longer or shorter if they please.
Highfield Hall offers guided nature walks on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from April through September at 10 am for visitors who don’t feel comfortable wandering alone in the woods or for folks who want to glean more information about the historic area.
“The Punch Bowl”, a pond deep in the woods, is a popular feature and well worth seeing, although it requires a bit of a commitment to reach. The trails also connect to Peterson Farm, another popular walk in its own right. The pastures are populated by sheep (used to “mow” the grass), and there are plenty of other animals the wander the property, from deer to foxes.
Another walk worth mentioning in Falmouth is the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary. The Sanctuary offers plenty of trails for visitors to stroll along and, as indicated by the name, birdwatchers can come and try to identify the various species that populate the area. There is also a peach orchard on the property.
9. Crowes Pasture, Dennis: Another dog friendly walk, Crowes Pasture offers an array of trails hidden just off of Route 6A in Dennis. There is also access to Cape Cod Bay, and unlike Brewster, dogs are welcome along this stretch of beach, making this a great place for dog lovers to go in the summer (a time of year when it is very difficult to find canine-friendly fun).
The beach is also open to off-roaders so long as one has a permit. Because the area is on the Bay, one can start off in the woods and end up out on the sandbars (just be wary of high tide).
Visitors should be careful walking in the area during hunting season (wear bright colors) because hunters do use the area.
Crowes Pasture is not the only nature walk in Dennis and plenty more can be found here.
Another walk worth mentioning is behind the Historical Society of Yarmouth. The walk boasts 50 acres dotted with trails. The 50 acres was home to the first private golf course on Cape Cod, but has since been reclaimed by nature. There are planned walks offered during the spring and fall, led by Ian Ives, a naturalist from the Audubon Society at Long Pasture.
10. Bourne Sisters Woodland, Bourne: This walk spans two sides of County Road, with one walk on the Leary Property and the other walk consisting of a much longer Loop Trail through the woods and marshes of Bourne.
Dogs are welcome and the two trails offer a nice choice for people who may want a longer or shorter walk. The sedges of the marsh are reminiscent of paintings and despite being close to roads, there is a quiet beauty here.
Plenty of animals can be spotted on this walk, and herons are not strangers to the marshes at the Leary Property.
Four Ponds Conservation Area is another nature walk worth mentioning in Bourne. The area boasts plenty of trails and dirt roads and is close to Rt.28. The hikes can be easy and one should allow about an hour and a half for the walk.
See the CapeCodTravel.com biking and walking trail list here.