On my recent visit to Massachusetts, I did at least a dozen different hikes. Of all of these hikes, the Dunes Shacks Trail stood out the most. It wasn’t the hardest, or even the prettiest, I think what stood out about it was how small you felt in the vast open space around you. With few trees and not much else to block the view, it seemed like the trail went on forever. Rest assured, your legs will feel the same way after climbing giant hills of sand where for every foot you climb, your feet descend at least half way back down.
We didn’t know what to expect as we hadn’t planned this hike and only decided to go when our waiter from Liz’s Cafe (which had amazing food) suggested we hit this trail and we simply drove to “where all the cars were pulled off and parked on the side of the road.” This would be about 2.5 miles past the Cumberland Farms if you are coming from the South, where Route 6 meets Snail Road, on the north side of the road.
As we got out of the car, we got our first hint of what was ahead from someone walking out. “It was really hard.” Then a sign warned us not to attempt this hike without water. Luckily, we did not attempt this hike on a hot summer day, but rather an unseasonably warm winter day so we weren’t worried about that, or sunscreen and bug spray, which you would need in other seasons.
After completing our first giant dune, I knew she wasn’t lying, but not knowing how far it was to the end, I joked to my daughter that this hike was known as the seven hill hike. Little did I know at the time, it really did go on a long time. In reality, it was only about a mile each way, but in hills of sand, a mile is a lot more intense. At the top of every hill, when I expected to be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Gulf of Maine, I continued to simply see another hill. But each time, the new view did not disappoint.
Finally, near the end, another nice hiker left a note, telling us to follow that path to the beach and I knew we were close. As we made our way through the last little path, the view from the secluded beach was reward enough. We hung out on our own personal beach for about 20 minutes before there was another person in sight. Even in February, after that long trek to the beach, i had to at least dip my toes into the water. My daughter though, wouldn’t even consider it.
On the way back, we knew what to expect. But by the end, my daughter was done and decided that she was going to use gravity and slide down the hills. We did see more people on the way back using this method, even though we didn’t see any people at all on the trail on the way there. I think there are several paths you can take across and we chose a more populated one to get back.
Have you visited this trail? What season did you go? What did you think?