Peaked Hill Bars Historic District: Dune Shacks of Cape Cod
Within the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District encompasses 1,900 acres of sand dunes, small bogs, and serene coastline dotted with weathered and historic dune shacks. Nineteen rustic shacks teeter on the ever-shifting hills and valleys of sand, the historic dwellings of writers, poets, painters, playwrights, and others who came for the solitude and inspiration of this stark and unique environment. While many came for and found solitude, a thriving culture of dune dwellers and community of creativity emerged on the ephemeral edge of the continent, from Jackson Pollock, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, e.e. Cummings, and more. Many of the Dune Shacks still house artists-in-residence and residencies for those seeking the serenity of the sand and sea, and willing to rough it in the primitive structures.
Prepare to Walk to the Dune Shacks of Cape Cod
The dunes are best viewed on foot, following the paths of loose sand up and over hills, past low bogs of cranberries, and on to the Atlantic. On hot days it’s not uncommon to see piles of shoes at the trailhead from hikers who have chosen to make the trek barefoot!
For those who’d rather skip the hike, Art’s Dune Tours guides visitors through the dunes from the comfort of a car, as they have since 1946.
The Logistics of Getting to these Historic Dune Shacks
The Dune Shacks of Cape Cod are a must-see when visiting Provincetown and the Outer Cape. Follow the trailhead from Route 6 (opposite Snail Road) for an otherworldly landscape, beautiful views of the Atlantic stretching to the horizon, and for insight into some of the great artists of the 20th century. The area has limited parking spaces, though visitors tend to park along the road in busy months.
The walk is short but can be strenuous, as the sand is loose and slow-going, and the dunes can be steep. While great in any season, there is no shade to be found on the dunes on hot summer days, so a hat, sunscreen, and lots of water are a must! Many do the walk barefoot, though it’s worth carrying shoes with you, as the sand can get hot in the middle of the day. Checking out the dunes in the cooler temperatures of the morning and evening is a great way to avoid scorched toes and sunburns.
When walking on the dunes, stay on established paths to protect the fragile dune vegetation. It’s customary to give inhabited dune shacks a polite berth, respecting the artists who have chosen the dune shacks for creative solitude.
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