Active Travels: Best Beach Walk on Cape Cod
By Steve Jermanok
Cape Cod National Seashore’s longest trail, the 7-mile round-trip Great Island Trail, is worthy of being designated a hike, not a walk. This 3-hour plus trail through marsh, woods, and soft sand is a strenuous thigh-burner. The trail follows the circumference of Great Island, a former whaling port and now one of the most secluded areas on Cape Cod. For the serious walker who yearns to get away from the summer crowds, this path should not be missed. Simply bring several bottles of water, a hat, sunscreen, and a picnic lunch and you’re on your way.
Stroll down the short hill from the parking lot and take a right, continuing around the marsh the entire distance. At the fork, take a left toward Smith Tavern. Just prior to reaching the easternmost tip of the island where people often fish for stripers and blues, you’ll see another sign directing you over the dunes through the woods. The trail winds through the pine forest to the site of an original whaling tavern. Continue out of the woods to a marsh where sand dunes tower on your right and Wellfleet Harbor can be seen to your left. This soft sandy path leads to Great Beach Hill. Five minutes later, you’ll reach another marsh and a sand spit known as Jeremy Flats. At low tide, you can walk out to the tip, but I’d save your energy. You have a 2.2 mile walk down the beach of Cape Cod Bay to reach The Gut. I have rarely seen another person on this desolate strip of sand, just large scallop shells and tiny fiddle crabs, funny-looking critters that have one oversized claw bigger than their entire body. If you start to feel like Lawrence of Arabia lost in the desert, look out at 10 o’clock and you’ll see Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument, the lone sign of civilization.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.