Thursday, August 11, 2016

Truro Hills and Ponds: Mountain biking and paddling in the Cape Cod National Seashore

Mountain biking in the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

It's not like we've uncovered all the locals' secrets, but in the nearly 10 years that we've been coming to the Outer Cape we've gotten pretty good at finding the off-the-beaten-path spots that most of the tourists miss. My ride the other day took me to some of our favorites along the Truro / Wellfleet border.

Starting from the house that we rented at Ryder Beach on the bay side of Truro, I followed fire roads and single track trails through pine and oak forests to high dunes overlooking the Atlantic. The Cape is only a few miles wide here, so it can be a quick ride if you want it to be. If you don't, there's a surprising amount of terrain that can be explored.

Trails are unmarked, junctions unsigned, so be ready to explore

Getting close to the Atlantic

Footpath across the high dunes

A deserted stretch of the Atlantic

There's more than one viewpoint from the dunes, but if you've found your way to the highest it's a spectacular view up and down the beach, arguably the finest, most sweeping view in all of Cape Cod. Since it's about two miles from the nearest road you're virtually guaranteed to have it all to yourself. I've been visiting this spot for years without seeing anyone.

Truro singletrack

Round Pond

Hopping back on the bike it's a few more miles on more singletrack through the woods to Wellfleet's freshwater kettle ponds. I looped past seven: Slough, Round, Horseleach, Herring, Williams, Higgins and Gull.

Herring Pond

Higgins Pond

The kettle ponds aren't exactly a secret, but they're not easy to visit beyond the Wellfleet town beach on Gull Pond (town parking sticker required). Narrow, one-lane dirt roads are open to cars, but public access to the ponds themselves is very limited, with parking for just a handful of vehicles at the few legal pull-outs. The best access is on foot or by mountain bike.

I dipped my toes in all seven of the ponds on my ride, but the best way to check out the ponds is by paddleboard, so we strapped our boards to the family wagon the next morning and scored one of the few legal parking spots at the public access between Gull and Higgins ponds.

The Saratoga Skier family paddleboards stashed between Gull and Higgins Ponds

Daniel paddling on Higgins Pond

Carrying between the ponds

A footpath leads to the narrow, sandy channel that separates the two ponds. With swimming and paddling options at either end of the channel, it's an ideal spot to pass a few hours on a hot summer day. By the time we left there were 4 or 5 illegally parked cars at the access. Solitude is unlikely, but you can expect at least relative quiet.

Sandy beach on Gull Pond

Sylvie doing some underwater exploring

If you go: More biking, hiking and paddling information can be found here. The Wellfleet kettle ponds can be accessed from Black Pond road off Route 6. It is a very narrow dirt road with unmarked intersections.

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