If you've ever researched the best places to vacation in New England, you're likely to have hit on the name Nantucket more than once. With its beaches, its dunes, and its iconic gray-shingled homes, Nantucket is to New England what turkey is to Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, that's not without its downside. During the summer season, the island can feel overwhelmed with tourists, with its historic cobblestone streets and pristine beaches inevitably losing some of their appeal to the crowds. Fortunately, it's not hard to escape. If you've had the foresight to pack a pair of hiking gloves in your luggage, you'll find plenty of peaceful trails that are as far from the hustle and bustle as it's possible to get. If you want to find out more about the island's best trails, here's our traveler's guide to hiking in Nantucket.
As AllTrails notes, Tupancy Links is a 1.4-kilometer trail that's suitable for a whole array of skill levels. Accessible all year round and with the added advantage of being dog-friendly (although keep yours leashed if you don't want to inspire any dirty looks), it offers a stunning hike through fields of barberry shrubs, roses, and beach plums. Once you reach the end of the trail, you'll be treated to stunning views over the North Shore. According to the Trip Advisor reviewers who've walked the length and breadth of the trail, it's every bit as good as it seems, with one reviewer saying "Definitely a must-do if you're looking for a great sunset with a nice oceanside view. Moms, Dads, and kids absolutely love when we stop here on tours. You will not be disappointed. it's a great little walk," and another offering the praise "The wide-open vistas are beautiful, and you can get a panoramic sea view that's 'just enough' for a daily dose. Bring your dog here, they'll love it!"
As nantucketconservation.org explains, Masquetuck Reservation offers an outstanding opportunity to view and experience Nantucket’s diverse natural habitats within a small, easily accessible area. Despite covering just 13.5 acres, it boasts a huge array of attractions, including hardwood forests, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, grassy meadows, and shrub thickets. The compact reserve is interwoven with a series of walking trails that begin at the parking area and lead all the way to the marsh overlooking West Polpis Harbor.
If your want to experience the wonder of Nantucket's natural beauty, you'll be hard-pushed to find a better place to do it than at Miacomet Preserve's Miacomet Pond. Park at Miacomet Road then cut across the 1.5 long trail to the sea. Along the way, you'll pass by a huge variety of flora and fauna, including inland ducks, sea ducks, snapping and painted turtles, swans and wading birds. The walk is fun, peaceful, and easy enough for all skill levels to enjoy.
Madaket Land Trust Trails
If you're looking for an easy, pleasant trail that takes in some great sights along the way, make sure to include Madaket Land Trust Trails on your itinerary. Blessed with stunning scenery, the 3.2-kilometer trail is peaceful, fun, and ideal for all skill levels.
New Polpis Water Tower Loop
Polpis Bike Path may be popular with cyclists, but it's the New Polpis Water Tower Loop located halfway down the path that's most appealing to hikers. Blessed with a stunning panorama of Nantucket’s plain, clear, easily traversable pathways, and a huge variety of native wildlife (including the New England Cottontail), it's a great place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
Squam Swamp Interpretive Trail
If you're looking for an easy, peaceful hike that's accessible all year round and that comes with a myriad of attractions, don't miss Squam Swamp Interpretive Trail. During the trail, expect to see a huge array of New England flora and fauna. Despite the fact it covers a relatively short distance of just 3.7 kilometers, the hike will take you through a vast variety of ecological and geological wonders, including shrub swamps, hardwood forests of tupelo, red maple, sassafras, and American beech trees, grassy meadows, freshwater bogs, and vernal pools. Dogs are permitted but will need to be kept leashed at all times.
Sanford Farm & Ram Pasture
In the 17th century, Sanford Farm & Ram Pasture was a quiet, peaceful place that resonated with the sound of sheep and cows munching grass. These days, the livestock has been replaced by gangs of bicyclists, runners, and walkers. And yet somehow, it's still as serene and peaceful as ever. Covering 780-acres, the property offers three equally enchanting trails. To enjoy panoramic views of the North Head of Hummock Pond, take the short, 1.7 mile Northern Loop. For a glimpse of the farm's very pretty historic barn, opt for the 3.1 mile Barn Walk. If you want to walk all the way to the beach, the 6 mile Ocean Walk offers fun and challenge by the bucket load.
Gardner Forest Meadow and Marsh Meander Trail
Not all trails are dog-friendly. If you're determined not to leave Fido home alone, head for the Gardner Forest Meadow and Marsh Meander Trail. With minimal crowds, a good combination of fun and challenge, some great views over pastures and scrub pines, and a dog-friendly appeal, the 2.3-kilometer trail is one of the best places in Nantucket to enjoy nature with man's best friend - just be sure to keep your chum on a leash if you want to keep on the right side of the law.
Sconset Bluff Walk
According to periwinklenantucket.com, Sconset Bluff Walk is one of Nantucket’s most stunning footpaths. It's easy to see the appeal. As you follow the trail, you'll pass by charming little houses with cascading flower boxes, see hundreds of songbirds and native wildlife species, and take in the glorious sight of white-topped waves crashing onto the cliffs below. Despite being a local favorite, the trail never gets crowded, guaranteeing you a peaceful, uninterrupted hike. Although there isn't a designated parking area for the trail, you shouldn't have too many problems in finding street parking near the entrance. Do bear in mind that the trail can be slightly challenging at times, with narrow walkways and steep inclines.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson