Many people think that summer is not complete without one or more trips to Cape Cod. It’s easy to see why too. Of course, Cape Cod National Seashore has 40 miles of pristine sandy beach, but the area is also home to lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and even cranberry bogs. There are even many hiking and cycling trails.
On the other hand, Cape Cod National Seashore isn’t much of a secret. The region has always attracted large crowds, and this year is no different. In fact, now that restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic are easing and vaccination rates are increasing, record numbers of people are flocking to all national parks.
Fortunately, the National Park Service (NPS) is well aware of the trend, and their rangers are eager to share their tips so you can get the most out of a trip to Cape Cod. That’s why NPS recently published its “Top 10 Tips for Visiting Cape Cod National Seashore” – written by the park rangers who work there.
Let’s get right to the point. Here’s the scoop on the best ways to plan a memorable trip to Cape Cod National Seashore this summer.
1. Plan ahead
The most important step in thinking about a trip to Cape Cod National Seashore is, as the rangers note, “Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, and Did We Mention: Plan Ahead “.
Here’s how to find all the information you need on park regulations, beaches, and best practices. First, use the Cape Cod National Seashore Trip Planner, which can be found here. Second, be sure to check here for current conditions on everything from high tide notices to construction limiting beach parking.
2. Recreate responsibly and leave no trace
The National Park Service’s Recreate Responsibly initiative has three pillars. The first is “Protect yourself”. Since more than 300 million people visit national parks each year, it is important to protect your own health at all times.
“Protecting ourselves” is just as important, because the tens of thousands of NPS employees, as well as the volunteers, partners and others who keep the parks and facilities running, also want to stay healthy.
The final part of Responsibly Recreating is “Protecting America’s Treasures.” As the National Park Service explains, “National parks are home to some of the country’s most precious and irreplaceable resources, including wildlife, landscapes and historic places.”
Finally, make sure you dispose of waste properly and follow the Leave No Trace principles when packing what you bring. As you would expect, recycling is available on the beaches of the park.
More details on the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace can be found here.
3. Respect wildlife
Rangers stress the importance of observing wildlife from a distance. If possible, they recommend leaving a space equivalent to three school buses between you and the wildlife in the park.
Pro tip: When taking pictures of wild animals, rangers use the “rule of thumb”. Here’s how they do it: Hold your thumb up and at arm’s length. If you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb, you are probably at a safe distance.
4. Recreate Responsibly With Your Pet
We all love our pets, but that doesn’t mean national parks are the best places to visit with dogs. Rangers explain that dogs are not allowed on the park’s trails or on several beaches because shorebirds nest there.
There are, however, places in Cape Cod National Seashore that you can enjoy with your pets. Keep in mind that where permitted, pets should be kept on a six foot leash at all times. You will also need to be prepared to clean up and pack all animal waste.
More information on areas that allow pets and important restrictions can be found here.
5. Know where to go
If you plan to visit the beach, it’s important to remember that crowds usually get up “late to get up and early to go to bed,” the rangers explain. This means that it can be difficult to find parking spaces in the park during peak hours.
If you plan to visit the beaches, you’ll want to inquire about fees and accessibility in advance. This information can be found here.
Pro tip: Find your beach parking before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to avoid the crowds.
6. Watch a park movie
“Learn a bit of history before your visit,” recommend the rangers. “While the reception centers remain closed, the film from the park, Standing Bold, is available to view on the park’s website.
You can find Standing Bold here.
7. Be wise and smart with sharks
Let’s face it: if you visit Cape Cod National Seashore, you will likely go in the water.
“The ocean may seem calm and peaceful, but it can turn deadly in an instant,” the rangers explain. “Beware of reverse currents and other hazards on the beach. Sharks are also prevalent near Cape Cod beaches in the summer. Plan ahead and know before you go.
You can read more about safe beaches and oceans here.
“Great white sharks swim in the waters of Cape Cod,” the rangers explain. “There is always a risk of interaction with sharks when you enter the water. Be aware of your surroundings. “
You can find more information on shark safety on Cape Cod here.
Pro tip: Look for the purple shark flags on the beach. These flags indicate that there has been a recent shark sighting.
8. Put a Ranger in your phone
The rangers suggest downloading the NPS app before arriving at the park. The free app, available for iOS and Android devices, provides interactive maps, park tours, and on-the-ground accessibility information on over 400 national parks to aid in trip planning.
Pro tip: You can also follow Cape Cod National Seashore on Twitter to keep up with the latest alerts and information.
9. Think outside the box
There is more to Cape Cod than the beach and the ocean. In fact, the park has 11 designated hiking trails that the rangers suggest you use.
You can find information on everything from the different trail lengths and how long it takes to walk them to directions, conditions, and features here.
Pro tip: Remember: pets are not allowed on the park’s trails.
10. We’re all in the same boat
Rangers ask you to follow the latest public health guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This means that if you are fully immunized you do not need to wear a mask inside or outside park facilities. On the other hand, if you are not fully vaccinated, you should wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor areas if physical distancing is not possible.
You can find more information on protecting your health as well as park employees here.
Finally, when planning your trip, be sure to read all of our coverage from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Plus, all of our national park coverage is here.