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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Castle Neck Hike in the Dunes

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Wolly Hudsonia on Castle Neck (photo credit T. Barrieau)

About Castle Neck Hike in the Dunes

While just about everybody on the North Shore has probably been to Crane Beach, the dunes of Castle Neck are a much less explored world unto themselves. Offering one of the most accessible dune ecosystems north of Cape Cod, Castle Neck has over six miles of trails, traversing the dunes, maritime scrub forest, and beautiful beaches on both the Ipswich Bay and Essex/Castle Neck River estuary sides of the peninsula. These trails take you through Pitch Pine forests, up huge dunes offering stunning views of Choate Island, and by the varied landscapes of Castle Neck, including naturally occurring cranberry bogs.

This hike explores the heart of the Castle Neck trail system, giving you a taste of all it has to offer. It covers approximately four miles, but it will feel like more given the hills and added rigor of hiking in the dunes. Along the way, your CraneOutdoors guide will point out the flora found on Castle Neck, including the abundant Woolly Hudsonia (a.k.a., False Heather), which covers the dunes in a carpet of yellow when it blooms in late spring; the unusual dune mushroom known as the Earth Star; and the wildly fragrant Bayberry, whose berries were historically used to make candles. Your guide will chose the exact route the day of the hike based on current weather conditions and prevailing winds, but it typically covers the green and red trail loops on the Crane Estate trial map. Guests can expect to leave with a basic understanding of the Castle Neck trail system–more than enough to whet your appetite and give you the confidence to come back and explore on your own.

Due to soft sand and many hilly dunes, trail difficulty is Moderate.

Please be aware that for public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, we require all staff, volunteers, and guests (over 2 years old) to wear a mask at all times during this event, including while hiking. We have reduced our event capacities to better facilitate social distancing. Please do not attend if you have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, have traveled out of New England in the last 2 weeks, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Thank you!

Weather cancellation policy: All trips will take place rain or shine with the following exceptions: If there is a high confidence that thunder and lightning will be present, we may cancel a trip up to one hour in advance. If the forecast is for steady and heavy rain all day, we may decide to cancel by 3pm on the day before the event. If either of these happens, all registrants will be notified by email and/or phone with as much notice as possible and issued full refunds.

The starting location and other relevant details for all hikes, kayak paddles, and river boat trips will be emailed to registrants before the event at the address provided upon registration.

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