Woodlands, Wetlands & Wildlife, August 2017 Cape Cod LIFE | capecodlife.com

This map created by The Harwich Conservation Trust points out 10 different walking and hiking trails in Harwich as well as beaches and bike trails. In this article, we describe eight of the 10 trails—and the numbers in the text correlate with the numbers on the map.

The town of Harwich has 12 miles of nature trails

The walking and hiking trails located across the town of Harwich offer some of the best of Cape Cod’s landscapes—from forest and meadow, to wetlands and bogs, all teeming with wildlife. If you’re looking for a lengthy path to put in some rigorous exercise, a scenic spot to bring the dog for a walk, or just a quick stroll to take in the scenery, Harwich has a trail for you.

“There are two ways of looking at walking the trails,” says Peter Trull, a science teacher, wildlife specialist and author who leads walks in Harwich on behalf of Harwich Conservation Trust. “There’s walking to find and see wildlife—say, if you’re a naturalist or a birder—or there’s walking just for the sake of going for a walk.”

Harwich has several hundred acres of conservation land, which in total feature more than 12 miles of designated nature trails. The trails can be found at 10 different locations around the town and are managed and overseen by the trust and the Harwich Town Trails Committee.

One of these properties is Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands (2), a 259-acre swath of land in North Harwich, near the Dennis line. The area has about three miles of trails, which pass through woods and by marshes and the scenic West Reservoir. “Everyone likes Bell’s Neck,” says Trull, who lives in Brewster. “The area offers great views of so many diverse landscapes.” The main trail is a one-mile loop around the reservoir, and the loop was “completed” recently when the Hall family of Harwich sold just over four acres to the trust to be preserved as conservation land. “We are lucky here on the Cape that so many people want to preserve the land,” says Michael Lach, the trust’s executive director. Lach, who studied environmental policy at Cornell, says conservation efforts in Harwich have made it possible for wildlife to nest and find shelter in a wide range of habitats—and Bell’s Neck is a striking example. “The West Reservoir has great blue heron and osprey soaring overhead, and kingfisher zipping back and forth,” Lach says. “Often you hear their chattering call before you see them.”

Bell’s Neck also features four smaller trails that wind through the woods, including one that runs along Herring River, where visitors in spring can see the fish making their journey up the herring ladder to spawn. This particular area is a favorite of Stephanie Foster, a gardener and former trustee who lives nearby. “Herring River is a gem of the natural world,” Foster says. “It’s serene and rich with wildlife. I’ve watched the same swan family nest there for decades and mallards parading their young on the way to their first swim.”