Fall is our favorite time of year on Cape Cod and the perfect season to get out and enjoy some of the fabulous hiking trails that crisscross the region. Many of our favorites are within a 10-15 minute drive from the Whalewalk Inn, and a few are a little bit further afield, but still well worth the drive. Often our guests are surprised to learn that Cape Cod has miles and miles of walking trails. Nearly every town on the Cape has set aside abundant land, full of little-known walking trails and protected from future development. For the most part level and easy to navigate due to relatively few hills in the region, these trails are a great way for visitors to “get off the beaten path” and see Cape Cod from a new perspective no matter what the season.
Bell’s Neck, Harwich
Just over the Dennis/Harwich line, and not far from exit 9 off Route 6, is Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands, a nearly 260-acre parcel of woods, salt marsh and ancient cranberry bogs. A 3-mile trail loop leads through the marsh to an active herring run where, for a short time in the spring, thousands of river herring fight their way upstream to spawn.
This is one of our favorite places on Cape Cod. It’s a great place for a picnic and dogs are welcome on leashes. At the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge you can walk the nature trail along the top of the cliffs, stopping at the frequent overlooks for spectacular views of the ocean, then mosey down a set of wooden stairs to the beach below. Across the channel is North Monomoy Island where you might spot gray seals basking in the sun. Stroll down the beach to the right where less than a mile out you’ll see Stage Harbor and the old Stage Harbor Light out around the bend.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster has a network of walking trails through the marsh behind the museum that lead out to Cape Cod Bay, with additional trails across the street. The Wing Trail goes through upland woodland, salt marsh, dune and tidal flats on a mile-long round-trip walk. Tides can limit access, so check for times of low tide, unless you’re willing to wade through ankle-deep water for a while. For two quick strolls, the “Loop” and South trails at the museum provide a quarter-mile and three-quarter-mile trail, respectively.
Nickerson State Park also in Brewster, offers miles of trails that wind though acres of undisturbed woodland and around eight ponds.
Punkhorn Parklands provides miles of trails that can be accessed from Run Hill Road, off Setucket Road in Brewster. The Punkhorn also offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, birding and picnicking. It’s wise to take a map of the parklands with you before you set out to hike, because the network of trails can be confusing. Nearby is the herring run, located at the intersection of Setucket and Stony Brook roads, just down from Run Hill Road.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offers five miles of trails that wind through varied habitats, including woodlands, salt marsh and heath restoration.
Chatham Light to Monomoy Point Light is an 18-mile walk, much of it through sand and along the beach from Chatham Light at the corner of Shore Road and Main Street in Chatham to Monomoy Point Light on South Monomoy Island.
Nauset Marsh in Eastham
Park at the Salt Pond Visitor’s Center and pick up the trail head near the outdoor amphitheater. The trail loops around the shoreline of the Salt Pond and connects with a paved bicycle trail that leads to Coast Guard Beach, one of the Cape’s most spectacular beaches.
Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail
This partially boardwalked trail leads through stunted oak and pine forest and into the swamp area. Stunningly beautiful and serenely peaceful, this walk eventually leads to Marconi Beach, site of the the first wireless trans-Atlantic communication station.
Fort Hill, just off Route 6A in Eastham, is a gorgeous walk through fields offering views of Nauset Marsh and eventually connecting with the Red Maple Swamp Trail. Approaching the parking area for the trail, you’ll pass the Captain Penniman house, an old ship captain’s mansion that makes for an awesome photo op. This is a birder’s paradise walk, and easy loop trail with dozens of opportunities to spot wildlife.
No matter where you may wander on this beautiful peninsula we call home, at the end of the day you can relax in our heated indoor pool and hot tub, take a soothing sauna to ease your muscles, or book one of our rejuvenating massages.