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README before using our guides to Long Walks on Cape Cod

Long Walks on Cape Cod

Copyright 1996 Cape Cod Trails Conference


Barnstable Hills

USGS Maps:              Sandwich

Sketch Map of Route


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 point.

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.