Many people think summer isn’t complete without a trip — or several trips — to Cape Cod. It’s easy to understand 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 numerous walking and biking trails.
On the other hand, Cape Cod National Seashore isn’t exactly a secret. The area has always drawn crowds, and this year is no different. In fact, now that coronavirus pandemic restrictions are easing and vaccination rates are climbing, record numbers of people are traveling to all national parks.
Fortunately, the National Park Service (NPS) is well aware of the trend, and its rangers want to share their advice so you can make the most of a trip to Cape Cod. That’s why NPS recently released its “Top 10 Tips for Visiting Cape Cod National Seashore” — written by the park rangers who work there.
Let’s get right to it. Here’s the inside 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 to, as rangers note, “Plan ahead, plan ahead, and did we mention: Plan ahead.”
Here’s how to find all the information you need about park regulations, beaches, and best practices. First, use the Cape Cod National Seashore trip planner, which can be found here. Secondly, be sure to check here for current conditions about everything from high tide advisories to construction that limits beach parking.
2. Recreate Responsibly And Leave No Trace
There are three pillars to the National Park Service’s Recreate Responsibly initiative. The first is “Protecting You.” Since more than 300 million people visit national parks each year, it’s important to protect your own health at all times.
“Protecting Us” is equally important because the tens of thousands of NPS employees, plus volunteers, partners, and others who keep the parks and facilities operating, want to stay healthy as well.
The final part of Recreate Responsibly is “Protecting America’s Treasures.” As the National Park Service explains, “National parks are home to some of the nation’s most treasured and irreplaceable resources, including wildlife, scenery, and historic places.”
Finally, be sure to dispose of trash properly and follow Leave No Trace Principles by packing out what you bring in. As you expect, recycling is available at beaches throughout the park.
More details about the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace may be found here.
3. Respect Wildlife
Rangers stress that it’s important to view wildlife from a distance. If possible, they recommend leaving a space equivalent to three school buses between you and wildlife in the park.
Pro Tip: When taking pictures of wildlife, rangers use the “rule of thumb.” Here’s how they do that: Hold your thumb up and out at arm’s length. If you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb, you’re probably a safe distance away.
4. Recreate Responsibly With Your Pet
We all love our pets, but that doesn’t mean that national parks are the best places to visit with dogs. Rangers explain that dogs are not allowed on park trails or at several beaches because shorebirds nest there.
There are, however, locations at Cape Cod National Seashore that you can enjoy with your pets. Keep in mind that where they are allowed, pets must be on a six foot leash at all times. You’ll also need to be prepared to clean up and pack out all pet waste.
More information about 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 typically are “late to rise and early to set,” rangers explain. That means it can be difficult to find parking spots at the park during peak hours.
If you do plan to visit beaches, you’ll want to learn about fees and accessibility in advance. That 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. Catch A Park Flick
“Learn a little history before your visit,” rangers recommend. “While the visitor centers remain closed, the park film, Standing Bold, is available to watch on the park website.”
You can find Standing Bold here.
7. Be Wave Wise And Shark Smart
Let’s face it: If you’re visiting Cape Cod National Seashore, you’ll most likely go into the water.
“The ocean may look calm and peaceful, but it can become deadly in an instant,” rangers explain. “Be wary of rip currents and other risks on the beach. Sharks are also prevalent near Cape Cod beaches in the summer. Plan ahead and know before you go.”
You can learn more about beach and ocean safety here.
“Great White Sharks swim in the waters of Cape Cod,” rangers explain. “There is always a risk of an interaction with sharks when you enter the water. Be aware of your surroundings.”
You can find more information about shark safety at Cape Cod here.
Pro Tip: Look for the purple shark flags at the beach. These flags indicate there has been a recent shark sighting.
8. Put A Ranger In Your Phone
Rangers suggest downloading the NPS App before arriving at the park. The free app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, provides interactive maps, tours of park places, and on-the-ground accessibility information about more than 400 national parks to make trip planning easier.
Pro Tip: You can also follow Cape Cod National Seashore on Twitter to keep up with the latest alerts and information.
9. Get Off The Beaten Path
There’s more to Cape Cod than the beach and ocean. In fact, the park has 11 designated walking trails that rangers suggest you use.
You can find information about everything from the various trail lengths and amount of time they take to complete to directions, conditions, and features here.
Pro Tip: Remember: Pets are not allowed on any park trails.
10. We’re All In This Together
Rangers ask you to follow the latest public health guidance to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. That means if you are fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask inside park facilities or outdoors. On the other hand, if you are not fully vaccinated, you must wear a mask indoors and while at crowded outdoor spaces if physical distancing is not possible.
You can find more information about protecting your health as well as park employees here.
Finally, as you plan your trip, be sure to read all of our Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket coverage. Plus, all of our National Parks coverage is here.