Piney woods, gently sloping hills, and freshwater kettle ponds grace 1,900 acres at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Massachusetts. It is difficult to believe you are a short, walkable distance to Cape Cod Bay when all the beautiful woodlands surround you. Situated on the northern shore of the Cape just before the land bends northward, Brewster offers visitors a great location for exploring the eastern portion of Cape Cod.
Camping at Nickerson State Park is a fun, nature-driven experience. The park offers over 400 campsites for tents, RVs, and trailers. They even have yurts available to rent, allowing you to camp without lugging tons of gear. Featuring hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, and offering easy access to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, Nickerson State Park has plenty of options for enjoying a nature-driven vacation. Campers who have visited know, with the limited amount of spaces and the opportunity for enjoying the great outdoors, the spots fill up quickly. Reserve your camping spot early for the best selection.
Spend the day enjoying the park if you are more of a “hotel stay” type of vacationer. You can enjoy everything Nickerson State Park has to offer; it provides a nice change of pace from the crowded Cape beaches. There is a daily parking fee charged from Memorial Day weekend through November with in-state and out-of-state rates.
Things To Do In Nickerson State Park
Vacationing at Cape Cod’s Nickerson State Park is an opportunity to unplug, slow down, and let Mother Nature’s embrace lull you to a peaceful inner state. You can be as active or as laid-back as you desire.
The park is a wonderful spot to enjoy a sunrise camp stove coffee while the sun illuminates the lake and the birds fill the air with their morning songs. At the end of your day, bond with your family and friends over a s’mores-filled campfire as the night sky twinkles with starlight.
The hiking trails at Nickerson run the gamut from paved paths to wooded treks through the woods and around the ponds. There are many popular hikes around the park, and 12 different hikes are rated and reviewed on AllTrails. You will definitely find a hike that suits your skillset.
Little Cliff Pond hike wraps 1.7 miles around this delightful kettle pond. The easy hike is mostly flat, but there are a few gentle hills to test your legs.
Rated as a difficult 8.5-mile, out-and-back hike, Nickerson State Park Long Trail will wander you through the park’s wooded areas. The path is reasonably well marked and takes you by offshoot trails that provide views of the lakes.
For a beautiful summer afternoon hike, head out on the Higgins Pond Loop Trail. The easy to moderate 2.2-mile hike around the lake offers beautiful views of the water. There are some hills to challenge your workout, along with the usual roots and rocky path obstacles.
Cliff Pond is the largest pond in Nickerson State Park, clocking in at 204 acres. It is a kettle pond or kettle hole lake carved by the glaciers. With a beautiful beach and surrounded by a shady forest, this unique swimming hole will bring you back to childhood memories of lake swimming. Whether you hike over or drive (there are limited parking spots), you will enjoy swimming in the cool, clear water.
There are eight freshwater ponds at Nickerson State Park to explore. Each visit to the park’s water features offers a different experience.
There are many boating options available at the park, from motorboats and stand-up paddleboards (SUP) to canoes and kayaks. You can tote your own equipment giving you the freedom to enjoy the water on your time and terms. Alternatively, there are rental options all along the Cape to help you enjoy your on-the-water fun.
Boating is allowed on the ponds with a few restrictions. Cliff pond has a 10 HP maximum engine limit. However, electric motors are allowed in Flax Pond. Both ponds have boat ramp access.
For a person-powered experience, rent a kayak or SUP from Lea’s Boat Rentals. The outfitting company is run by ambitious college students and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Located steps from the water, Lea’s is the easiest rental option for the Park.
Biking Around Cape Cod
Nickerson State Park offers over 10 miles of paved bike paths. The center trails loosely form a figure-8 that winds you around the wooded park, offering peeks of the lakes.
The path also connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT), a well-maintained, 25-mile-long paved path enjoyed by bikers and hikers alike. The path runs from Yarmouth to Wellfleet and crosses through scenic areas of the Cape. You will pass through quiet residential areas, cranberry bogs, and sections of the National Seashore. The trail is mostly flat and you will see many riders on cruisers, which are perfectly suitable for the CCRT.
There are many bike rental options along the CCRT. Brewster Bike is a good option with its proximity to Nickerson State Park.
Sleep In A Yurt
A traditional yurt is a portable, round tent used by nomadic groups in Central Asia. At Nickerson State Park, it is a fun and interesting camping experience. Renting a yurt is perfect if you don’t own a tent. You only have to bring some basic camping gear and you are ready to rough it.
The yurts at Nickerson State Park sleep four people. They are equipped with a table, chairs, and bunk beds (no linens). Happily, they offer electricity and water hookup. Many of them are located in fully shaded areas to keep you cool at night. A large percentage of the yurt rentals are ADA accessible. You can book a yurt rental at Reserve America. Nickerson is a popular camping destination, so booking early is suggested.
Fishing For Trout
Nickerson is home to eight freshwater kettle ponds. Some are stocked with trout for your fishing enjoyment. If you have never tasted fresh-caught, pan-fried trout, you are in for a tasty angler’s dinner. Alternatively, the Higgins Pond catch-and-release fishing program may be more to your liking, and you can find a fish and chips dinner at a local restaurant.
There are a large number of bait and tackle shops around the Cape. Cape Days has an extensive list; you will surely find one that has exactly what you need to outfit your fishing adventure at Nickerson State Park.
John Kelley Memorial
Every fan of the Boston Marathon has heard the legendary John Kelley. He ran in the race from Hopkinton to Boston 61 times and won it twice. The Hyannis John Kelley Half Marathon is typically held on Memorial Day weekend in his honor. I have run this race, and you need to know, the Cape is not as flat as you would expect. However, the race has beautiful scenery and is a fun way to spend a day.
Nickerson State Park has a John Kelley memorial plaque to honor his contribution to the art of running. Hopefully, it will inspire you to take to trail as a runner or a walker.
Park Ranger-Led Programs
Ranger and staff-led programs focusing on natural and cultural history and highlighting the environmental features are held intermittently throughout the summer. You will find rangers leading tours, workshops, and presentations around the park and at the amphitheater. A check-in with the ranger on duty will allow you to explore what is happening during your stay.
Camping In Nickerson State Park
Camping at Nickerson State Park allows you to escape the hectic beachgoers buzzing around the Cape in a hurry to get somewhere. The laid-back, nature-driven vibe in this secluded haven is perfect for a camping adventure filled with lazy days sprinkled with bursts of physical activity.
Nickerson offers over 400 campsites for your fresh air enjoyment. Many sites have water views overlooking one of the kettle ponds, and most sites allow pets. In addition to the yurt rentals, there are sites for pop-ups, tents, and back-in sites. You can book your Nickerson State Park campsite at Reserve America. Nickerson State Park is a popular camping destination, so booking early is suggested. There is a 14-cumulative-day occupancy limit at the park.
If you are craving some outdoor relaxation time where you can soak up nature’s gifts, spending some time camping at Nickerson State Park is the perfect prescription.
Pro Tip: Sections of the park can be used for group day use, and the park may be closed to visitors, be sure to check their website or call for closure updates.
If you are looking for other Cape Cod activities, check out our Weekend Getaway To Cape Cod: The Best Things To See And Do. The beaches are amazing, and we have two articles about enjoying additional fun in the sun time: Cape Cod National Seashore: The 7 Best Experiences and The 11 Best Beaches On Cape Cod.