The Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a protected area located on the eastern coast of Massachusetts. The park features 40 miles of pristine beaches, dunes, and wetlands, as well as a variety of recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, hiking, and bird watching.
The park is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, including the endangered piping plover and the threatened roseate tern. Visitors can also explore the historic lighthouses and learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage, including the Wampanoag tribe and the early European settlers.
One of the most popular activities at the park is swimming at one of the six lifeguarded beaches during the summer season. Beachgoers can also enjoy sunbathing, picnicking, and beachcombing. The park also offers several hiking trails, including the Nauset Marsh Trail, which takes visitors through a unique coastal marsh ecosystem, and the Province Lands Bike Trail, which offers stunning views of the dunes and ocean.
Fishing is also a popular activity at the park, with opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. The park’s freshwater ponds are stocked with trout and bass, while the saltwater areas offer opportunities to catch striped bass, bluefish, and tautog.
The Cape Cod National Seashore also offers a variety of ranger-led programs and events throughout the year, including guided beach walks, campfire programs, and bird watching tours.
Visitors can also explore the park’s historic sites, including the Highland Light, the first lighthouse on Cape Cod, and the 18th-century Salt Pond Visitor Center, which offers exhibits and a bookstore.
Overall, Cape Cod National Seashore offers a wide range of activities and natural beauty for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach or an adventurous hike, the park has something for everyone.
Visiting Hours andParking Areas:
The following areas are closed to vehicle use/entry during the dates and hours indicated:
Parking in the ponds area will be limited to designated areas. The maximum capacity of designated parking areas at each pond is:
Public Use Limits:
Hiking and pedestrian use, in primary/foredune and beach cliff areas, is restricted to limit environmental damage to sensitive dune vegetation and stability, which if damaged would contribute to severe erosion. These areas are also restricted to maintain public safety, as dune heights may reach up to 150’.
Round Pond (East)
Round Pond (West)
Clapps Round Pond
East Harbor (Pilgrim Lake)
Great Pond (Wellfleet)
Ponds on Cape Cod and particularly kettle ponds within Cape Cod National Seashore are unique and sensitive resources with significant ecological, aesthetic and recreational value. Pond systems are directly connected to the groundwater aquifer and are one of the most fragile environments administered by the National Park Service and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Petrochemical releases into these systems would severely degrade the quality of the water system.
The following activities are prohibited at all fresh water ponds:
The possession of glass containers and building of fires are concerns which threaten the safety and well being of individuals walking barefoot in these areas.
Closures and Public Use Limits:
Park management reserves the right to implement emergency road, trail, or area closures on a temporary basis any time public safety concerns arise.
Ground nesting, staging, and roosting terns and shorebirds are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and predation by pets. Pets, especially dogs, may chase, harass and kill nesting shorebirds, their eggs and chicks as well as disturb roosting and staging shorebirds if not restrained. In late summer, thousands of migrating shorebirds and terns congregate on the mudflats and beaches of Cape Cod National Seashore to feed and rest. To reduce disturbance to, and the potential for take of, nesting shorebirds, terns, and their chicks during nesting season; and to allow these and other migratory birds to accumulate the energy reserves needed for migration, it is necessary to prohibit pets from Nauset Marsh/Coast Guard Beach, Eastham; and Jeremy Point, Wellfleet; and Hatches Harbor Marsh, Provincetown, and other shorebird and tern higher use areas intermittently.
Shorebird and tern nesting areas are posted to prohibit public entry during the breeding season to prevent the loss of eggs and chicks through disturbance or destruction by persons, vehicles, and pets. Visitors, vehicles, and pets entering a breeding area could cause the parent bird to leave their nests or chicks. When the adults stop tending to the eggs or young, the offspring may be injured or killed by exposure to high temperatures, blowing sand, and predators. Additionally, eggs and chicks are camouflaged to avoid detection making them susceptible to being crushed.
(a)(2) The following areas have been designated for a specific use or activity, under the conditions and/or restrictions as noted:
Swimming Beaches/Areas (as posted):
The following restrictions and/or conditions are in effect for the specific uses or activities noted:
Regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels, all individuals over the age of two must wear masks, except when actively eating or drinking, in all common areas and shared workspaces in federally owned buildings administered by the National Park Service and in office space leased by the National Park Service.
‘Federally owned buildings administered by the National Park Service’ include, but are not limited to, visitor centers, administrative offices, maintenance facilities, and shared government quarters; buildings assigned to concessioners or other park partners; and buildings leased for commercial purposes to individuals or entities other than the National Park Service.
All individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels must wear masks in the following outdoor areas when others are present, except when actively eating or drinking, where the superintendent has determined that physical distancing (staying at least six feet apart) cannot reasonably be maintained:
Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.
Regardless of vaccination status, all individuals must comply with all orders regarding masks issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC prevention measures continue to apply to all travelers on public transit (e.g. Coast Guard Tram system), regardless of vaccination status. Masks remain required on all forms of public transit that operate within parks, including busses, trains, and boats/ferries, and in transportation hubs.
The following restrictions and/or conditions are in effect for the specific uses or activities noted:
The purpose of this regulation is to reduce the amount of injurious trash in the Park and to prevent Park visitor injuries. Glass containers break and linger on the beach/dune area.
Kites and other airborne devices disturb breeding, staging and migrating birds. Adult birds view them as birds of prey. This may cause the adult to flee the area, leaving nest and chicks exposed and unprotected from the environment and threats. Kites and airborne devices present undue hazards to visitors in crowded lifeguarded beach areas.
Kite surfing is prohibited at the following locations and during the following times:
Kite surfing is prohibited March 15 through October 15 on all open waters on ocean and bayside beaches within the Seashore other than at the following specific locations.
A total of approximately 1 ¾ miles of beach between the north end of the lifeguarded section of Coast Guard Beach, and a point north of the lifeguarded section of Nauset Light Beach will be open to kite surfing. The designated kite surfing boundary area will be marked on land by a post on either end. The ocean boundary around Nauset Light Beach lifeguarded section will be marked by a bright orange swim buoy.
Land and water access for takeoff and landings is allowed north of the lifeguarded area on Coast Guard Beach and at the north and south ends of Nauset Light Beach. Kite surfers must stay outside of, and may not launch from, the Nauset Light Beach lifeguarded area when lifeguards are on duty. The land boundary will be either end of the lifeguarded beach which is designated by large brown posts signed as “end of lifeguarded beach”.
The town of Wellfleet’s Duck Harbor Beach on Cape Cod Bay is open to kite surfing all year long. This specifically applies to the corridor the width of the town owned property and extends off shore through the extent of the ¼ mile jurisdiction of Cape Cod National Seashore.
The following conditions also apply:
Kite surfers must stay clear of other recreational users and at least 150 feet from seals which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
Kites for kite surfing are subject to the general prohibition of any airborne device above or within 200 meters of any section of beach designated by signs as a “Closed –Bird Use Area”. This prohibition extends off shore as well as on shore.
All existing beach access parking restrictions apply.
The area is based on a determination made by the Superintendent that such use is consistent with the protection of a park area’s natural, scenic and aesthetic values, safety considerations and management objectives and will not disturb wildlife or park resources.
Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Cape Cod National Seashore is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent. 36 CFR § 1.5(a)(1); 36 CFR § 1.5(f)
Definition: The term “unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g. model airplanes, quadrocopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including recreation or commerce.
Determination: While park managers understand the benefits of limited use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for research, for administrative use, and to provide for the public’s safety and welfare, the closures implemented are necessary to maintain public health and safety and to protect park resources and values until the NPS can determine whether specifics uses of unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the NPS are appropriate and will not cause unacceptable impacts on park resources and values. Cape Cod National Seashore protects a variety of threatened and endangered birds and other species, and hosts thousands of visitors to our beaches, trails and remote areas each day. Until evaluations of these issues are analyzed, the Seashore will prohibit unmanned aircraft use except as authorized, including research and administrative use, by the superintendent.
The closure is a necessary, interim measure until the NPS considers how to address this use on a long-term basis, since use could result in unacceptable impacts to park resources, park values, and visitor safety.
Above required closures do not apply to the following established use:
Electric powered model aircraft, as defined by FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 and section 336 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2013, are excepted when operated for recreational or hobby purposes and within the unaided visual line of sight of the operator. The electric powered model aircraft is prohibited from containing a camera or any other recording device, and it cannot be operated within 200 meters of any area designated by signs as a “Closed –Bird Use Area”, or on swimming beaches when lifeguards are on duty.
Model aircraft may not disturb or harass wildlife, be operated in a reckless manner and must avoid flying directly over people, vessels, vehicles, or structures, and must avoid endangering the life and property of others.
When a near closure (less than ½ mile), or total closure of the Seashore’s Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) corridor exists, the Superintendent will be able to relax time and date restrictions entered in Part 7 – Special Regulations, in accordance with the 2007 ORV EA. This will enable management to consider:
The purpose of the 2007 ORV Environmental Assessment was to afford the Superintendent flexibility to open areas of the beach to ORV traffic where piping plover and least tern nesting activity would not be impacted by such use.
The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:
The organizer of any other type of filming activity must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. Based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary to:
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request.
The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. If the organizer provides the required 10 day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a written response from the NPS that a permit is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.
The following are prohibited:
Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under to this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.
Determination: Restrictions on filming are based on the above language and visiting hours, public use limits, closures, and related written determinations located in section “I.” of this document, “36 CFR §1.5 – VISITING HOURS, PUBLIC USE LIMITS, CLOSURES, AND AREA DESIGNATIONS FOR SPECIFIC USE OR ACTIVITIES.”
CCTV Policy Statement
In accordance with National Park Service Law Enforcement Reference Manual 9 (RM-9), notice is hereby given that Cape Cod National Seashore uses Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) security camera monitoring.
The park’s use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) for law enforcement and security purposes will only be to visually monitor public park areas and public activities where no constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy exists. Such CCTV use – which will have adequate privacy and First Amendment safeguards – will be to help ensure public safety and security; facilitate the detection, investigation, prevention, and deterrence of terrorist attack and crime; help ensure the safety of citizens and officers; help assist in the proper allocation and deployment of law enforcement and public safety resources; and help facilitate the protection of the innocent and the apprehension and prosecution of criminals. (RM-9, 26.1)
This policy does not restrict the official use of CCTV in government administrative areas, including administrative buildings, jail holding facilities (RM-9, 26.3.7), revenue collection sites, etc., where the government may record/monitor its facilities. For example, the government may perform unrestricted video/audio recording at revenue collection points (entrance stations, visitor center counters, etc.). This policy does not restrict the use of an Audio/Visual Recording Device (AVRD) in patrol vehicles or officer-worn recording devices used by commissioned rangers.(RM-9, 26.1).
Operation of CCTV cameras, maintenance of recorded images and use of recorded images will be in accordance with NPS and Department policy and applicable laws and regulations. (RM-9, 26.1-26.4) No person will be targeted or monitored merely because of race, religion, gender, sex, disability, national origin, or political affiliation or views. (RM-9, 26.4.2)
Nothing in this policy statement is intended to create any rights, privileges, or benefits not otherwise recognized by law.
Last updated: August 27, 2021