Peaked Hill Bars Historic District: Dune Shacks Trail
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. The dune shacks trail will lead you to the nineteen rustic shacks that teeter on the ever-shifting hills and valleys of sand.
These historic dwellings are homes or past and present 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. The dune shacks trail in the shifting sand will lead you within view of many of these homes.
Prepare to Walk the Dune Shacks Trail
The dunes are best viewed on foot, following the dunes shack trail 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!
Dress appropriately for the weather and terrain, and wear comfortable, sturdy footwear for hiking. Bring essentials like water, snacks, a map or GPS device, sun protection (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses), insect repellent, and a backpack to carry your belongings.
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 dune shacks trail starting from the trailhead on Route 6 (opposite Snail Road). You will be rewarded with 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 dune shack trail in the cooler temperatures of the morning and evening is a great way to avoid scorched toes and sunburns.
Respecting the Dunes and its Inhabitants
When walking on the dune shacks trail, 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.
Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles by respecting the natural environment. Pack out all trash and avoid disturbing wildlife and vegetation
The Dunes Shack Trail in Provincetown offers a serene and picturesque hiking experience in a unique coastal environment. It’s a perfect opportunity to explore the natural beauty and history of Cape Cod’s dunes.