This New Year, when it comes to resolutions, take a hike!

Wildlife Sanctuaries and state parks are the perfect place to get in shape and reconnect with family, friends and the great outdoors


   The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail in Wellfleet on the Cape Cod National Seashore. cctoday photo.

This previous weekend withstanding, Cape Cod winters tend to be mild for the most part. On Cape state park, sanctuary and town run trails are still open for business during the daylight hours and with the proper clothing to combat the cold, a hike through the woods or along the beach can be most enjoyable this time of year.

Massachusetts State Parks

Once again, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation will be hosting several "First Day" hikes throughout the Commonwealth.  Here on Cape, a "Ramble through the Reserve" will take place on Friday, January 1st from 1pm and 2:30pm at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Falmouth.  The 1.5 mile, reserve staff-led hike will begin at 1pm at the Visitor Center (149 Waquoit Highway, Waquoit).  Treat yourself to the beautiful panoramic view of Waquoit Bay, learn some interesting facts then warm up in the Visitor Center while enjoying refreshments.  Anyone interested should contact the DCR at 508-457-0495 x 125 for information, to register or in the event of inclement weather.

For those looking to explore on their own, the DCR offers several self-guided family hikes at Waquoit and the other two state parks on Cape Cod, Nickerson State Park in Brewster and South Cape Beach State Park in Mashpee.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, walking trails, biking trails and roads are open year-round.  Brief closures may occur during the winter due to inclement weather. The Provincelands Visitor Center is closed until May 1st, but the Salt Pond Visitor Center off Route 6 in Eastham remains open throughout the year (daily from 9am to 4:3opm).

If you get some new gadgets or gear this Christmas, check out Trail Hound, the blog by our favorite geocacher and outdoors-woman, Susan Spencer.

Rangers have one guided walk scheduled for Wednesday, December 30th at 1:30pm. The 1 hour, 1 mile (in sand!) walk is free and begins at the Coast Guard Beach parking lot area in Eastham. Those interested in taking part should call 508-255-3421 in the event of bad weather.  While no other guided tours are planned for right after the New Year, rangers are planning plenty of interesting indoor programs.

Self-guided information for trails like the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail in Wellfleet and the Beech Forest Trail in Provincetown (just as interesting in the winter) are available here.

Natural history museum & the sanctuaries

The John Wing Trail and the South Trail at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster are open during the off-season as well. Tour salt marshes and woodlands in search of birds that don't take the flight south each year.  If you're looking to get out and tour the Cape, check out the Wednesday Walks with Connie Boyce. Visit the museum's site for more information about events, exhibits and hours of operation.

The trails at the Cape Audubon Sanctuaries, Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet and Long Pasture in Cummaquid are also open throughout the year.  The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (WBWS) is offering two unique end of the year guided walks: the "Holiday Purge Hike" on Saturday, December 26th from 10am to 1pm and the "End of the Year Hike" on Thursday, December 31st from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. Both hikes require registration.  WBWS has five main trails all offering unique Outer Cape views and habitats with courses you can tailor to your own liking.  Read an editorial about the sanctuary from earlier this September.

Be sure to check the sanctuary sites for upcoming events and the hours of operation for each of the visitor centers.

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