Cape Cod National Seashore | PAMET AREA TRAILS

Pamet Trail

Pamet Trail


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


Length: 4 miles, round trip (includes all side trips)
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate, very hilly

The Pamet Area Trails refer to a system of trails that run through the Pamet River Valley, a hilly section of Cape Cod National Seashore in Truro. The main trail, which I will call the Pamet Trail, leads to an overlook of the ocean and valley and is 1.5 miles in length (one way). There are short side trips to both the eastern and western summits of Bearberry Hill and to the Pamet Cranberry Bog House. In total, if you hike every foot of each trail you will have walked 4 miles, making this the second longest established hiking trail in the park. Some of the sections are out in the open, so wear a hat and apply sunscreen if avoiding the sun is important to you.

Pamet Area Trails map--south end (click to enlarge)

Pamet Area Trails map–south end (click to enlarge)

There are sections of the trail that are very narrow and overgrown—great places to pick up ticks or rub against poison ivy. Because of this I highly suggest wearing long pants. You may also encounter mosquitoes at the Bog House, so carry insect repellent with you and apply it as needed. I didn’t have any problem with another Cape Cod culprit, the biting fly, and that alone made this hike much more pleasurable than some of the others within the Cape Cod National Seashore. For the record, I did the hike in late July, so your bugs may vary.

Parking for the Pamet Trail is at the Environmental Education Center on North Pamet Road (the driveway comes before the building if you are traveling east). The building was originally a Coast Guard Station. Today, in addition to being used as the Education Center, it serves as a youth hostel in the summer. The parking lot only has room for about eight vehicles, and these may be hard to come by when the hostel is operating since guests use this parking lot as well. A sign states that no parking is allowed for beach access, but this does not apply to hikers. You can also park along the road if you have a town of Truro parking permit, but without one you are limited to the Education Center parking lot only.

Environmental Education Center at Cape Cod National Seashore

Environmental Education Center at Cape Cod National Seashore

Parking lot for the Pamet Area Trails at Cape Cod National Seashore

Parking lot for the Pamet Area Trails at Cape Cod National Seashore

Unlike all other trails at Cape Cod National Seashore, there is no large sign that identifies the Pamet Trail. It technically begins at the parking lot, but the real trailhead is across the street—look for a set of concrete stairs. There is a trail guide available in a brochure box. I hiked every trail in the park, and this is the only trail guide worth getting. It not only has a map, but it also tells about the history of the Pamet River Valley.

Trail guide brochure box and trailhead in the background

Trail guide brochure box and trailhead in the background

The hike begins with a moderate ascent as it spirals its way up Bearberry Hill. There are numbered posts along the way, and these correspond to descriptions in the trail guide. The last post is on the western summit of Bearberry Hill.

Typical terrain on the hike up Bearberry Hill

Typical terrain on the hike up Bearberry Hill

After .2 mile you will get a nice view of Ballston Beach, which is managed by the town of Truro. The public is welcome, but you’ll need a Truro Beach Parking permit.

View of Ballston Beach

View of Ballston Beach

The first intersection is the spur to the east summit of Bearberry Hill. Turn right at the fork to take this detour, a .2-mile round trip. The trail leads to another good view of Ballston Beach, and you can also see the Environmental Education Center.

View of Ballston Beach from the eastern summit of Bearberry Hill

View of Ballston Beach from the eastern summit of Bearberry Hill

Environmental Education Center

Environmental Education Center

Once you get back down to the Pamet Trail, the intersection with the western Bearberry Hill summit trail is less than twenty-five yards ahead. The Pamet Trail branches off to the right, so just keep straight to get to the summit. The detour is only a tenth of a mile round trip, and at this point you are pretty much at the same altitude as the summit, so there’s not much of a climb. The view is of the hills and a valley that was once a cranberry bog. The roof of the house to your 2 o’clock position is the Pamet Cranberry Bog House, the next side trip on the hike.

View from the western summit of Bearberry Hill

View from the western summit of Bearberry Hill

Once back on the Pamet Trail you will be heading down the other side of Bearberry Hill. At the bottom is a T-shaped intersection and a sign directing you to turn left. This is Higgins Hollow Road (aka Old Kings Highway). From here on out the road and the Pamet Trail are one and the same.

Intersection with Higgins Hollow Road

Intersection with Higgins Hollow Road

If you head in the opposite direction, back towards North Pamet Road, Higgins Hollow is wide enough to accommodate a vehicle, but it narrows into a standard hiking trail as it winds north.

Higgins Hollow Road

Higgins Hollow Road

The intersection with the Bog House trail is a quarter mile down the road and marked with a sign.

Bog House intersection

Bog House intersection

The Bog House Trail is even narrower than the Pamet Trail, so watch out for ticks whenever you brush up against vegetation. The terrain is a little hilly towards the end, but it’s no worse than the climb up Bearberry Hill.

Trail to the Bog House

Trail to the Bog House

At the end of the trail, a little over a third of a mile from the turnoff, is the Pamet Cranberry Bog House. If this is your final destination, the round trip distance from the parking lot is about two miles.

Pamet Cranberry Bog House

Pamet Cranberry Bog House

Bog houses were used to process cranberries (bottom floor) and house workers (top floor). After the decline of the whaling industry in the last quarter of the 19th century, many Cape Cod residents turned to growing cranberries, a fruit the Indians had been growing for centuries before them. The house appears to have been left to the elements, and I don’t know if the National Park Service has any intention of restoring it since it is out in the middle of nowhere. Be aware that there are plenty of mosquitoes in this area.

Inside the Bog House

Inside the Bog House

There is a huge path cut through the bushes that makes it look like a hedge maze. This is a dirt road that leads to North Pamet Road, which is only a hundred yards away. If the house is renovated, this is how materials would be brought to the site.

Dirt road to North Pamet Road

Dirt road to North Pamet Road

When you get back to the Pamet Trail, take a left to continue the hike. Just past the Bog House intersection is a fork that is not on the trail map, and there is no sign indicating which way to go. The wider trail branches off to the right, making it the most enticing route to take. However, this just leads to the beach. Stay left at the fork to continue on the Pamet Trail. There is a second fork to the beach just a little farther ahead, so again, stay to the left.

Pamet Trail map--north end (click to enlarge)

Pamet Trail map–north end (click to enlarge)

From here all the way to the overlook, the trail is out in the open or passes through a forest with trees so short that they don’t give much cover from the sun, especially at noon when it is directly overhead.

Typical open terrain on the Pamet Trail

Typical open terrain on the Pamet Trail

Typical forested terrain on the Pamet Trail

Typical forested terrain on the Pamet Trail

The overlook is the highest point on the hike, about 30 feet higher in elevation than Bearberry Hill, so it should come as no surprise to find yourself hiking uphill. However, the ascent runs all the way from the beach turnoff to the actual overlook, a distance of .9 mile, so it is very gradual. There are a few dips here and there along the way.

The north end of the Pamet Trail can get quite narrow. In fact, it got so overgrown in parts that I was convinced I was lost and almost turned around three times. And then, suddenly, there is a sign pointing to the Overlooks (notice this is plural) letting me know that I had been on the right trail all along.

Overgrown section of the Pamet Trail

Overgrown section of the Pamet Trail

Higgins Hollow Road ends at a paved path a short distance from the first Overlook sign. A right leads down to a vehicle road, while a left takes you to the overlooks. At this point, if you took all of the side trips, you have walked 2.5 miles.

Paved path to the Overlooks

Paved path to the Overlooks

The overlook is located at the top of a hill and is surrounded by the ocean on one side and the Pamet River Valley on the other. The views should be great! But what a disappointment. Shrubs have grown tall enough to block the view in every direction. If you stand on your tip toes you might catch a glimpse of the ocean, but that’s about it. Perhaps the second overlook is better, I think to myself, but alas, this is the only one I could find, which makes the trip beyond the Bog House all for nothing, other than exercise.

Overgrown overlook

Overgrown overlook

It’s now time to turn around and head back 1.5 miles to the parking lot. Keep in mind that if you don’t want to scale Bearberry Hill again that you can stay on Higgins Hollow Road the entire way. It comes out on North Pamet Road just 50 yards to the east of the parking lot.

Needless to say, there’s no reason to hike to the end of the Pamet Trail. Bearberry Hill and perhaps the Bog House—if you like old houses—are the only worthwhile destinations, and even they aren’t that exciting. If you are looking for a long hike at Cape Cod National Seashore, try the Great Island Trail or the hike to see two lighthouses on the Long Point Peninsula near Provincetown. These are the best two hikes in the park.

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Last updated on September 28, 2021
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