Cape Cod National Seashore | ATLANTIC WHITE CEDAR SWAMP TRAIL

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail Map (click to enlarge)


See the Hiking Trails web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 1.2-mile loop
Time: 45 minutes
Difficulty: Between easy and moderate with some mildly hilly terrain

The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore circles a swamp filled with rare Atlantic White Cedar trees. The trail is for hikers only—no pets are allowed. It is located at the end of Marconi Station Road at the Marconi Station Site. The road ends in a small loop, with a parking area, restroom, and a few picnic tables on the west side and an observation deck and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side. The trailhead is located on the west side at the very start of the parking area.

Start of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Start of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

A few yards down the trail is a trail guide box and a sign warning of tick infestation. Many of the other trails at Cape Cod National Seashore are home to poison ivy as well, so I recommend wearing long pants on all hikes within the park. In some areas mosquitoes and biting flies can also be a problem, as is the case at the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail since part of its terrain is a swamp. I visited in late July, so different bugs may be nuisances at other times of the year.

Pick up a trail guide in the brochure box at the start of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Pick up a trail guide in the brochure box at the start of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

The loop portion of the hike begins less than fifty yards from the parking lot. It really makes no difference as to which way to proceed, but the map on the trail guide directs hikers to take a left at the fork and hike the trail in the clockwise direction, which is what I did. The trail at this point has a smooth, sandy surface that is free of rocks and roots. Be sure to stay in the middle of the path and away from the vegetation to best avoid coming into contact with ticks and poison ivy. The entire hike is through the forest, so no need to worry about the sun.

Typical terrain on the south side of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail loop at Cape Cod National Seashore

Typical terrain on the south side of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail loop at Cape Cod National Seashore

Since swamps are usually located in a depression at the lowest point on the terrain, it should come as no surprise that the hike eventually heads downhill. The slope isn’t too bad, but it is enough to make an otherwise handicap accessible trail not handicap accessible. At some points there are even erosion control steps on the path.

Hilly terrain on the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Hilly terrain on the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

The closer you get to the White Cedar Swamp, the more the mosquitoes appear. The swamp itself begins at an elevated boardwalk.

Boardwalk on Cape Cod National Seashore's Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail keeps hikers out of the water and mud when passing through the swamp

Boardwalk on Cape Cod National Seashore’s Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail keeps hikers out of the water and mud when passing through the swamp

Not far from the start of the boardwalk is a shortcut to the right that leads over to the north side of the trail, giving hikers the choice to immediately head back to the parking lot and skip the swamp altogether. That would defeat the purpose of the hike, so stay to the left to continue around the swamp.

The white cedar trees that give the swamp its name are the trees with bark that looks like somebody raked their fingernails down it, creating vertical gouges. They won’t be around for long, however, as taller trees such as the red maple are taking over, and the cedars won’t grow in the shade. This process will take a few hundred years.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

When you complete the loop around the swamp you will come to the northern intersection with the shortcut trail. If you were to take a right, you would just end up back on the other side where you first came to the boardwalk. Stay straight / left to start the hike back to the parking lot.

Intersection with the shortcut trail on the north side of the Atlanta White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Intersection with the shortcut trail on the north side of the Atlanta White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

The hike back is along the Old Wireless Road. It is as uneventful as the hike to the swamp.

Hike back to the parking lot at the end of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail on Old Wireless Road in Cape Cod National Seashore

Hike back to the parking lot at the end of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail on Old Wireless Road in Cape Cod National Seashore

There are three swamp trails within Cape Cod National Seashore, the others being Small’s Swamp Trail and the Red Maple Swamp Trail. The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail is by far the best, but even it is not a “must hike” unless you are into botany or happen to be in the area to see the Marconi Station Site. There are plenty of better things to do at Cape Cod.

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Last updated on February 19, 2024
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