Long Walks on Cape Cod
Copyright 1996 Cape Cod Trails Conference
USGS Maps: Sandwich
Parking lot on service road just south of exit 5
from Mid-Cape Highway, off Route 149.
One local hiking club calls the trail "Heartbreak Hills," an
allusion to the notorious hill on the route of the Boston Marathon.
We call it Barnstable Hills to indicate that it is one of only two
hilly walks on Cape Cod, the other being "Truro Hills." It is the
only continuously hilly walk on Cape Cod. Experienced hikers from
mountainous areas will find it a pleasant day's excursion.
But residents of Cape Cod who are only used to walking on
flat ground may discover that the continuous ridge climbs along the
way are too strenuous. Be sure that you are up to it. There are
bailout points along the way on flat roads, but far from the starting
You will notice along the way that the town planners have
nailed arrows on trees to indicate the route of the main trail. We
ignore these in describing the hike, because they are missing at
critical points. The sketch map issued by the town is linked above.
You will be moving around in a rectangle formed by Route 6 to
the north, the Barnstable-Sandwich town line to the west, the marsh
and airfield to the south, and Route 149 to the east. These
directions are approximate, as you will see on the map. You will
box the compass on this hike, and also do quite a bit of meandering
and doubling back.
The total distance is thus unmeasurable on the map. A fast
hiker walking solo made it less than four hours. Allow five hours
for a small group. The distance is probably eight to nine miles.
It is the hill climbing that slows a group of even experienced hikers.
From the parking lot, walk west briefly under the power lines
until you see a signboard to your left and a trail leading south into
the woods. At the first fork, turn right, heading west. You will then
be proceeding counter-clockwise around the whole area. The main trail
is well-worn and easy to follow through the woods.
The trail proceeds generally west, with short detours that can
route you around obstacles and steep chutes. These detours were probably carved out by mountain bikers. In a little over one-half mile,
the trail crosses under the power lines and then parallels them on
the north side for another mile and one-half.
You may hear gunfire off to your right. Do not be dismayed.
That is coming from the town shooting range. You will cross woods
roads as you proceed west, and then finally come to a pronounced T
intersection with another. That is the town boundary road. Turn
left and walk south under the power lines to the top of the ridge.
At the top, you will encounter a signboard similar to that at
the beginning of the trail. This might me a good place for lunch.
The view to the southwest is the only hilltop view on the whole hike.
You can just about catch a glimpse of Nantucket Sound to the south.
Trail signs seem to indicate turning to the east, but there is
more trail to the west, into Sandwich. Follow that loop as it doubles
back, and then meanders to the southeast. It makes a longer and more
scenic hike. At a T intersection with a woods road, go left and
follow the trail to the southeast.
At the fork, you have a choice. The left follows the valley
floor; the right goes along the ridge. In a little over one-half
mile, they come together. Then you will cross a wide woods road,
which is Farmersville Road. It is not paved. The topographical
map is erroneous. One of the parking lots for this conservation
area is about one mile to the southwest at the intersection of Race
Lane and Farmersville Road.
Now you will begin to see the marsh to the right that adjoins
the airfield on Route 149. You are also walking along an ancient
stone boundary. Watch carefully as the trail moves away from the
marsh, crosses a woods road heading north, and then begins a long
doubling back to the northwest.
About one mile from where you began doubling back, you will
break out into an open field and see the power lines dead ahead of
you. Just beyond the line of boulders near the power line corridor, the trail turns sharply right and ascends the ridge.
You are now heading southeast, paralleling the power lines.
In about one-half mile, the trail moves away from the power line
corridor, heading south in direction. In another one-half mile,
cross another woods road, heading more easterly. About one-half
mile beyond, after crossing numerous ridges, look for a sharp turn
in the trail to the right, making a real horseshoe bend.
At that point, a connector trail heads due east, whereas the
main trail goes south. In one hundred yards, you come to a T intersection with the main trail. You should hear, and may see, traffic
on Route 149 dead ahead of you. Turn left and walk north back to
the entrance point, another one-half mile. You will hike steep
ridges on the way out, and will come back to the exact point at
which you headed west at the beginning.