Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore consists of forty miles of sandy beach, marshes, ponds and uplands supporting a wide variety of species. 

The views are spectacular including lighthouses, cultural landscapes and historic buildings, wild cranberry bogs and beaches for swimming. Not a swimmer, no problem there are walking and biking trails to be explored.

I lived north of Boston for so long that I didn’t begin to explore the wonders of the Cape until recent years. Even now I still have to remind myself that it’s just a short jaunt for me even with the summer  traffic. One of the rangers said he likes to tell people it’s only two hours from the heart of downtown Boston. My response…depending on traffic.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has 2 Visitor Centers. I am most familiar with the one in Eastham known as the  Salt Pond Visitor Center. It’s right off RT 6 so you really can’t miss it. This was the Visitor Center I stopped at where the ranger told me about the whales. But I have been to this one several times before. I have enjoyed the movie they offer and walked most of their trails. There is still one “spur” trail that I haven’t covered yet. I am going to have to make a point of it this summer.

At the tip of the Cape in Provincetown you will find the Province Lands Visitor Center. This center has an awesome elevated deck with ocean views. I was there once last summer with my friend JR. That was a great day.

But back to the Salt Marsh Vistior center in Eastham, the Buttonwood Trail is a short, easy walk with a boardwalk over a pond.This time of year you can’t even see the pond  because of all the Buttonwood plants growing in it. I’ve seen a lot of red wing blackbirds and ducks there.

The Nauset Marsh Trail is a bit longer but still an easy hike. That trail runs alongside a pond  until it reaches the marsh. At that point a wooden bridge leads you over the marsh.

On my most recent visit the pond was filled with white swans. I bet there was a dozen or more. As I crossed the little bridge near the pond I also spotted a little rabbit. He was hiding in the shade under the bridge. I stayed very still and pretty soon he popped back out again.

Crossing the marsh bridge the sky was beginning to cloud up and the air was getting heavy and humid. The birds seemed to sense a storm coming so there weren’t too many flying. I have watched hawks hunting and loads of other little birds flying around when I’ve walked this path before but today it was quiet.

Once you cross the bridge the trail climbs through the woods before leveling out again and opening up to overlook the marsh and the ocean in the distance. I didn’t complete the walk today but I have walked it many  times in the past.

Those are just 2 of the many trails that wind through the National Seashore. I believe there are 12 “self-guided” trails that are open year round. Buttonbush and Nauset Marsh that I just mentioned; Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp and Doane trails are all in Eastham.

In Wellfleet which is farther south heading toward the lower cape you can walk the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and Great Island Trails.

In the Truro- Pamet Area you’ll find Bearberry Hill Overlook, Small’s Swamp, Highlands Woods Walk, and Pilgrim Spring trails.

Not to be left out is Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. Here you’ll find the Beech Forest Trail.

This year is special for the Seashore because Cape Cod National Seashore’s 50th anniversary celebration is underway. There will be special programs along with commemorative items at the park bookstores and visitor centers. The special logo was designed by Eastham’s own Joe Fish a 2010 graduate of Nauset Regional High School.

I love the cape..not just the National Seashore but the whole area. There’s always something new to discover. I am really hoping to get to try some of the bike trails as well as more hiking trails before the season ends. There just never seems to be enough time.

From swimming and sunbathing to fishing and whaling, clams and cranberries, artists colonies and galleries, Pilgrims and Native Americans, glass blowing and jam making, even a great white shark or two looking for a quick-lunch on the seals off Monomoy Island there’s certainly something for everyone to do and see.

Just watch out for traffic jams in the summer months! I’m sure I’ll be making many more visits here and will share all my experiences with you.

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