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Hiking on Cape Cod National Seashore

What to Bring

Hiking shoes   Backpack
Sunglasses   Windproof/
waterproof jacket
Snacks   Water
Food   Hat (in summer)
 

Specs

  Directions
 
From Boston, take route 95 South, then
Route 3 South
Continue on to route 6 after the Sagamore bridge
The Sanctuary is about 3 miles after the Salt Pond Visitor Center (main gateway to the
National Seashore)
Watch for Sanctuary sign on the left
Parking lot at end of the Sanctuary road
  Good to know in advance
 
Trail map available at the nature center

Open year-round from 8 am to sunset (8 pm in summer)

Restrooms and water at the visitor center
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, P.O Box
236, South Wellfleet MA 02663, (508) 349-2615
  Etiquette
 
No dogs
No biking or jogging
Shell collection prohibited on the beach
Stay on trails
Carry in, carry out policy
 
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A day in the Wellfleet Sanctuary
 
 

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 2/5
  Time from Boston: 2.5 hours
  Duration: Full day
  Cost:

$5 per person

  Main activity:

Hiking

 
 
 
 
The Wellfleet Sanctuary offers miles of trails in a preserved environment of meadows and wetlands – definitely worth the trip from Boston.

The sanctuary is mostly made of freshwater and saltwater wetlands that can be partly submerged at high tide. The northern part of the sanctuary also includes a sizeable pine forest. Though the trip from Boston usually takes 2.5 hours, and sometimes 3 hours on summer weekends, we do recommend this hike even for a day trip. Trails are not extremely long (around 5 miles for our hike) but offer great views and many opportunities to stop and just relax on the grass. The boardwalk trail, in particular, allows you to reach the barrier beach, and depending on the tide, to wade in the bay or observe the crabs and other shellfish.

The hike we suggest leverages the two main trails of the sanctuary. On one day, you can typically do the Boardwalk Trail in the morning and explore the Bay View Trail in the afternoon. There is very limited shade on the Boardwalk Trail, and it can be quite warm on summer days. The Bay View Trail is partly in the woods and therefore a good fit for an afternoon walk. Both trails will take about 3 to 4 hours at a leisurely pace, including stops.

All trails are clearly marked; here are detailed directions:
Exiting from the nature center, turn right immediately to reach the trailhead
Follow signs for Boardwalk Trail
After Goose Pond (the main pond on the left a short distance after the trailhead), take left on Goose Pond Trail. Goose Pond Trail is a loop that brings you back on the Boardwalk Trail after a detour along the saltwater wetlands
Follow again signs for Boardwalk Trail at the next intersection (wooden bench). A warning sign at the intersection indicates that sections of the trail can be submerged at high tide; err of the side of safety and visually check the tide level; if it rises, anticipate how long it will take you to return to higher ground without wading in cold water; remember that water can rise quickly on such flat terrain
Take right at sign for Try Island Trail, then follow again sign for Boardwalk trail on right; continue on the boardwalk until you reach the beach
The trail formally ends at the beach but you can continue on the sand if the tide is low enough
Come back the way you came and follow signs for nature center for the most direct route
For your lunch, the Sanctuary provides a picnic area near the nature center; however that space is small. Picnicking elsewhere is not encouraged because wildlife should not be accustomed to eat human food; if you do want to have lunch on the trail, be extremely careful not to leave anything behind you
When you reach the trail head below the visitor center, continue left on Bay View Trail; this trail will follow the northern section of the sanctuary’s wetlands
Follow sign on the left for Fresh Brook Pathway
Follow the signs to return to the nature center through a pine forest; at the end of the loop, you will walk through the sanctuary campground; camping privileges are reserved for members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society (see our related destination Camping in the Wellfleet Sanctuary).
The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
The entrance fee is $5 per person for non-members, $3 for children under 12 and seniors. Entrance is free for Mass. Audubon members. The annual membership fee is $40 for a family (a $25 promotional rate is sometimes offered) and we strongly suggest to get one, considering how many sanctuaries and other outdoor areas it allows you to visit for free.