Great Island Trail- Wellfleet, MA

We enjoyed this trail hike on a weekend trip to outer Cape Cod, which in our opinion is one of the nicest places to visit in the United States during the summer months. While we went to a number of beautiful outdoor places throughout the weekend, the Great Island Trail was one of the most memorable.

Great Island Trail Marsh View - Wellfleet, MA - Travel the East
Great Island Trail Marsh View
What started off as your run of the mill hike along a marsh by the water quickly felt like we were on assignment for the National Geographic Channel. The place was absolutely loaded with Sand Fiddler Crabs. These crabs(the males) are an inch or two in length and feature one giant claw that is over half the size of their body. They live in small holes in the marsh sand and were lined up on the trail by the thousands. They were quite the spectacle to observe, and we found ourselves trying to capture one picture after another of this giant clawed army.

Great Island Trail Sand Fiddler Crab Claw - Wellfleet, MA - Travel the East
The Sand Fiddler Crab with its giant claw. If it loses this
claw, its small claw grows to become the new giant
The hike itself had a lot of variety to it and that’s what made it so enjoyable. There are a couple of different routes you can take ranging from around 4-7 miles depending on how long  you’d like to hike for, but in any case it’s a loop hike with one half spanning through a salt marsh and the other half down a beach. Be sure to check the tides before venturing out on this hike as the cape is known to have a large fluctuation between the low and high tide. On a big high tide the marsh trail could be flooded. USHarbors is our go-to site for tide info.

Great Island Trail Sand Fiddler Crab Army - Wellfleet, MA - Travel the East
Fiddler Crab army
We chose to do the marsh as the first half of the loop and then walked back on the beach.  The marsh portion featured a great hiking dynamic with parts having a more open view and of course, Sand Fiddler Crabs, while other parts were more woodsy and winding. The beach was a secluded and vast stretch of coastline featuring great views of the cape Cod Bay, spanning all the way to Provincetown.

View through the marsh woods
We’d recommend bringing plenty of water to drink as you’re exposed to a lot of sun throughout the hike. Additionally there were some pesty horseflies when we went.  So  if there’s no wind to keep them away, be sure to wear some bug spray. For footwear, remember you’ll be walking back on a beach and will probably want to take off your shoes, but also have to walk through a marsh. We both wore a pair of old boat shoes and it worked out perfect as we were able to easily throw them in a backpack once we got to the beach.

Enjoy this beautiful loop trial on Outer Cape Cod—And beware of the Sand Fiddler Crabs!

Great Island Trail Return hike on beach
Return hike on the beach

Kristy Albano & Matt Pickering                                                      

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