Long Walks on Cape Cod
Copyright 1998 Cape Cod Trails Conference
Nauset Beach and Pochet Island
USGS Map: Orleans
Note: The long walk comprising Nauset Beach and Pochet Island
has been rewritten as a combination of two short walks.
Sketch Map of Area
Park at Nauset Beach at the end of Beach Road in Orleans.
From the parking lot, walk out to the beach on the boardwalk
near the north end. Walk north on the beach. On your left is a
You are guided by a rope or wire fence, with signs warning you
that the enclosure protects the nesting area of shore birds. In
0.3 mile, a break in the enclosure guides you back to the west.
Soon you get to a sandy track. Walk north on it.
At 0.5 mile, you come to the road to the beach from Nauset
Heights, the settled area on the bluff to the west. Walk east
briefly, then north again on the continuation of the sandy
track. At 0.8 mile, you come to the edge of Nauset Harbor.
Off to your left is the entrance to Mill Pond; further up is
the entrance to Town Cove. Directly north you can see Nauset Light
winking at you, just to the left of the old Coast Guard Station.
The light is actually one mile north of the station. Walk north along the edge of Nauset Harbor, on the high tide
line. As you can see, this whole area has been reconfigured since
the topographical map was last updated in 1974. The storm of l978
piled enough sand on the spit you are on to keep it high and dry at
You will reach the north end of the spit at 1.8 miles. Walking
in soft sand, as you noticed, is slow and fatiguing. If you can
walk the line where the sand is still damp, as the tide goes out,
the surface is almost as firm as a woods path.
At low tide, sand bars will appear to your north. During the
winter months, you may see a colony of harbor seals on a bar. If
they happen to be on the spit, do not approach closer than 100 yards.
Look for grey seals, as well.
Walk south on the ocean beach. The Nauset Beach shacks are
soon visible. When you get back to the parking lot, you can order
lunch, and use the rest rooms, during the season! This north loop
is about 3.6 miles, and will take a small group almost two hours,
because of slow going on the sand.
Sketch Map of Area
Park at the southwest corner of the parking lot for Nauset
Beach, at the end of Beach Road in Orleans. From the parking
lot, a small paved road heads west, turns south, then becomes
a sandy road. Walk south on this track. The trail west
to Pochet Island is one and one-half miles south.
The sand is soft, but vehicle tracks usually offer a firmer
footing. In 0.6 mile, you pass a boardwalk leading to the beach.
That is a private access route from Pochet Neck. The parking area
at its west end is also private.
Soon Pochet Island appears on your right, and little Pochet
Island dead ahead. In 1.5 miles, at the trail intersection, walk
west along the north edge of Little Pochet Island until you reach
the road that crosses the wood bridge (001).
Thanks to Don Heyer, leader of the Eastham Hiking Club,
for scouting Pochet Island and submitting below:
Cross the bridge to Pochet Island (002). The sign on the bridge must be
heeded, for both its warning and its welcome. Remember the warning
in the introduction that you may not camp, build a fire, or cut
anything on Cape Cod unless you are in area where such is permitted.
We hope that you have planned your walk to reach the bridge at
low tide in order to cross dry. At high tide, the wade is a foot
or more in depth. Be sure to check the tide chart for Pleasant Bay,
which has a high tide an hour later than the ocean.
After crossing the bridge, follow the track (003) up the hill and to
the right to the "new house" (004). Circle east around the house to the
north side and follow the trail that leads directly north between the
sheds (005). At a fork a side trail goes north to an overlook of the marsh.
Continue to the west (006) and southwest on the main trail (007-009).
At the next fork, a side trail will take you out to a lookout of Barley Neck.
and the town landing. A boat dock is at the bottom of the bluff.
Continue south on the main trail until you come to a T intersection (010).
Walk west on the main trail (east takes you back to the "new house) and
continue south past a cabin (011) to an overlook of Sampson Island and
Hog Island in Little Pleasant Bay (012). Further south at (013) is a
lookout with a small bench. Return to the triangle on the main road
(013-015) to exit the island, passing the old house near (010).
Cross the bridge, then walk east to the beach. When you get out
onto the beach, you may be lucky enough during the off season to see
the beach stretching for miles in both directions, and absolutely no
one in sight. It is a rarity, and you have to work hard to find it,
but it makes the whole walk worthwhile. You could be in any century,
and the view would be the same!
If the day is nice, walk back to the parking lot on the beach.
If not, you can return on the sandy track. Do not cross the dunes
at any point other than those with marked paths. The path which comes
from Pochet Island is marked number one.
Just north of number one, you may find that the beach is closed
in order to protect the nesting areas for shore birds. They nest
during the late spring and early summer. Then you will have to walk
the road back. From late summer on, you are permitted to continue
north on the beach. Unfortunately, the signs are not removed.
The walk is about five miles. You should allow two and one-half hours
for it, with a small group.