10 Best Cape Cod Hiking Trails

Explore the top 10 Cape Cod hiking trails for stunning nature views. From serene beaches to lush forests, find your perfect trail for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

Alex Frick
July 5, 2024
Explore the top 10 Cape Cod hiking trails for stunning nature views. From serene beaches to lush forests, find your perfect trail for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

Cape Cod is a glamourous coast with a relaxed seaside atmosphere. With its calm sandy beaches and its laid-back lifestyle, it should be of no surprise this small community is the most sought-after retirement destination in all of New England.

Just a short journey from the bustling town of Boston, Cape Cod is a breathtaking respite from life in the city. The Cape is also a vacation hot spot. Whether it is enjoying one of several high-class restaurants, taking part in Cape Cod's lively nightlife, or exploring the beautifully diverse landscape, there is plenty to do within the city to keep you busy for as long as time allows.

Then there are the world-class boating expeditions. Professional fishing charters are available around every corner to get out to sea and land a trophy.

Cape Cod is also known as one of the best places to go whale watching in the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. With nautical means, you could even choose to travel to the luxurious islands, including the bourgeois Martha's Vineyard.

With all these amazing attractions, Cape Cod provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the hook-shaped Cape in its natural state. Cape Cod offers an array of outdoor activities for adventure enthusiasts, including miles of stunning and memorable hiking trails that will leave you with a true appreciation of this not-so-hidden gem in Massachusetts.

Plan Your Next Hike On Cape Cod.

1. Great Island Trail

Directions: From Eastham, head north on US-6 E for 8.7 miles and turn left onto Main Street. Drive for 0.7 miles and turn left onto Holbrook Avenue followed by an immediate right onto Chequessett Neck Road. Drive for 2.4 miles and make a left at Griffin Island Road and the parking area will be on your left.

The Great Island Trail is arguably the greatest hike in all of Cape Cod. This trail is easily the most difficult hike in Cape Cod but is also the most fascinating and diverse.

Beginning in picturesque Well Fleet Harbor, this hike wanders through scenes of marshlands, dunes, dense forests, and sandy beaches. Apart from the oak and pine forest, most of this trail is exposed.

It would be wise to pack plenty of sunscreen with your snacks, beach towels, and bug spray. After completing the moderate adventure, stroll over to the stretching Cape Cod Bay and splash around the cool waters to revive your weary legs.

T&T Tip: Before leaving, stop by Mac’s on the Pier and try some of the best ice cream around.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 5.4 Miles

Elevation Gain: 213 Feet

2. Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail

Credit: Cassie G. / Flickr

Directions: From Wellfleet, head south on US-6 W and drive for 3.2 miles and turn left onto Marconi Beach Road. Continue for 0.1 miles and turn left onto Marconi Station Road. Continue on Marconi Station Road for 0.9 miles and make a slight right into the parking area for this hike.

The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail is one of the more unique hikes you will find. Traveling within the woods is an enchanted walk through an ancient forest. This beautiful hike takes you along a wooden boardwalk above marshy swamplands.

Lining the wetlands is the gnarly and twisted Atlantic White Cedar Trees. These rare trees create an unusual ecosystem. Typical swamps are exposed and the creatures who inhabit them require unobstructed sunshine.

However, with the canopy these trees provide, there are fewer surface reptiles and more underwater wildlife due to the nutrient-rich waters. The trail is level and comfortable throughout, suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 1.1 Miles

Elevation Gain: 72 Feet

Related Read: 20 Best Hiking Trails in Connecticut

3. Goose Pond Trail at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Directions: From Wellfleet, head south on US-6 W for 4.7 miles and slight right onto W Road. Continue for 0.1 miles and turn right onto Mass Audubon Drive. After 0.3 miles, the parking area for this trail will be on your right.

The Goose Pond Trail in the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is an interpretive hike in a protected habitat for many of Cape Cod’s native wildlife.

The hike takes you along an informative pathway through tidal marshlands, pine and oak forests, and to the shores of a barrier beach.

Throughout the trail are placards with important and educational signage about the significance of the flora and wildlife in the sanctuary.

These informative placards explain the patterns and significance of the high tides zone and warns travelers of the nests of the Diamondback terrapins.

Be sure to always remain on the boardwalk, the ecosystem is extremely delicate, and disturbances could cause irreparable damage to the preserve.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.8 Miles

Elevation Gain: 45 Feet

4. Long Point Lighthouse Trail

Directions: From Wellfleet, head north on US-6 E and drive for 15.1 miles. Merge onto MA-6A E and continue for 1.0 miles before merging once again onto Province Lands Road. After 0.2 miles you will approach a traffic circle and the third exit will take you to the parking area for this trail.

The Long Point Lighthouse Trail is a stunning hike leading to tremendous views of the expansive Atlantic Ocean. The trail follows the coast before taking a breakwater boulder bridge to the picturesque shores of Long Point.

From the beach, you will have the opportunity to see seals and whales on the horizons of the Atlantic. Once reaching land, continue through wistful marshlands until reaching the iconic Long Point Lighthouse.

Built in 1827, The lighthouse is the perfect exhibit of early New England. The lighthouse is made of white painted brick with a black observation deck – lighting the way for the incoming ships. Unfortunately, the observation deck is not available for tours.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 5.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 68 Feet

Related Read: Best Time to Visit New England

5. Nauset Marsh Trail

Directions: From Eastham, head north on US-6 E and drive for 0.5 miles before turning right onto Nauset Road. Take an immediate right and the parking area for this trail will be on your right.

The Nauset Marsh Trail is a comfortable hike leading into the quiet banks of Cape Cod National Seashore. This peaceful hike is a packed and level dirt pathway that travels through a lush forest of trees and ferns before opening into a beautiful meadow.

Follow the vast meadow until you meet the tranquil shores of Salt Pond. After taking some time to enjoy the relaxing shores, continue until you reach Salt Pond Bay.

You will find a wonderful overlooking view of this expansive body of water. You will eventually reach a narrow canal and you will return the same way you entered.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 4.1 Miles

Elevation Gain: 219 Feet

6. Red Maple Swamp Trail

Directions: From Eastham, head south on US-6 W toward Van Dale Avenue for 0.6 miles and turn left onto Hemenway Road. Continue for 0.3 miles and turn left into the parking area for this hike.

The Red Maple Swamp Trail is a scenic journey with Native American origins. This interpretative hike guides you through remnants of a once-inhabited native village.

With educational signage leading the path, you will discover relics - including a rare sharpening stone. As you continue, the signs will tell stories of daily life, honoring their history and culture.

The trail descends into Red Maple Swamp, a beautifully diverse wetlands ecosystem. Nearly the entire trail is along a comfortable boardwalk, surrounded by maple and oak trees. There is very little elevation gain - this hike is suitable for adventurers of all skill levels.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.8 Miles

Elevation Gain: 95 Feet

Related Read: 33 BEST Places To Visit In New England

7. Cliff Pond Trail

Directions: From Orleans, head southwest on MA-6A W toward Eire Road and drive for 2.6 miles. Turn left onto Deer Park Road and continue for 0.4 miles. Take a left onto Flax Pond Road and after 1.1 miles, the parking area for this trail will be on your right.

The Cliff Pond Trail is a wonderful loop hike that circumnavigates the scenic shores in Nickerson State Park. Cliff Pond is just a massive body of water. The pond encompasses 206 acres with an impressive depth of 33 feet.

The pond has little aquatic vegetation, making this natural body of water tremendously clear. On a cloudless day, the bright blue sky reflects off the clear surface and the pond turns into a ridiculously vibrant light blue.

This trail is level and well maintained. This path is suitable for all hikers of all skill levels. The lake is also popular for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.7 Miles

Elevation Gain: 78 Feet

8. Sand Dune Trail

Directions: From Holbrook, head north of US-6 E and drive for 12.1 miles. Look for the Dune Shacks Trail Parking Area, the trailhead for this hike.

The hike through the Sand Dune Trail is a unique natural ecosystem adventure. The entirety of the trail wanders up and over natural dunes that mimic a desert.

When you climb the tallest of dunes, you will have the opportunity to see expansive bay and ocean views from a memorable vantage point. In the summer, treat this trail as if you are tackling a desert.

The sand is loose, making the two-mile hike much more strenuous. In addition, the trail is completely exposed. Be sure to pack proper skin protection as well as much more water than you will anticipate needing.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2.4 Miles

Elevation Gain: 200 Feet

9. Hatches Harbor and Race Point Lighthouse

Directions: From Wellfleet, head north on US-6 E and drive for 13.5 miles, turn right onto Race Point Road. Continue for 1.5 miles and turn left onto Province Lands Road. Drive for another 0.9 miles and the parking area for this trail will be on your right.

The Hatches Harbor and Race Point Lighthouse Trail combine two elements of Cape Cod in one incredible hike. The hike traverses the shores of Hatches Harbor, with wonderful overlooking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Take some time and look to the horizon. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot several whale species – including the finbacks, orcas, and humpbacks.

The trail will lead to the Race Point Lighthouse. Built in 1845, the lighthouse was erected and stands 45 feet tall. During that time, a keeper’s house was also built. Today, the house has been renovated and can be rented for overnight stays.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 3.3 Miles

Elevation Gain: 29 Feet

Related Read: 25 Best Romantic Winter Getaways in the Northeast

10. Pamet Cranberry Bog Trail

Credit: jyoga3 / Flickr

Directions: From Truro, head south on US-6 W towards Town Hall Road and turn right onto Truro Center Road. Continue for 0.1 miles and turn right onto S Pamet Road and drive for another 0.1 miles. Turn right onto N Pamet Road and drive for 1.6 miles and the parking area for this hike will be on your right.

The Pamet Cranberry Bog Trail is a peaceful beach hike with industrial ties. The trail leads across an exposed valley before ascending Bearberry Hill – a dune overlooking Pamet River Valley and the Atlantic Ocean.

Continue on the trail until reaching an old boghouse, formerly used in an era of commercial cranberry harvesting. Although rated as easy, the hike does take significant effort due to the loose sand and quick elevation gain.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 229 Feet

Alex Frick
Article updated:
July 5, 2024 11:05 AM

Alex Frick is a Midwestern-born, RV-pulling, bike-touring, globetrotting freelance writer and journalism student at the University of Florida. Traveling full-time with his travel nurse wife and their famous hiking tabby, Rafiki, Alex specializes in outdoor adventure writing and sports coverage, drawing from his experiences living nomadically. With a passion for uncovering hidden gems and lesser-known destinations, Alex's work invites readers to experience the world through the eyes of a modern adventurer.

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