orv trails allow beach access for four wheel drive vehicles

Oversand Beach Driving: Beach ORV Trails on Cape Cod

Tired of lugging all your stuff out to an overcrowded beach? These tips will prepare you to drive on the oversand trails at some of the most beautiful beaches on cape cod.

Learn about the beaches on cape cod with ORV access, how to get an ORV Sticker, and what equipment you’ll need.

Beaches with ORV trail driving access

Nauset Beach

Nauset beach is a thin stretch of land extending from the elbow of the cape in Orleans and Chatham down towards monomoy. when the trails are opened, much of the beach is accessible using orv trails.

map of nauset beach in orleans, ma

The town of Orleans resident orv trail section sits north of the public parking lot for Nauset. The non-resident overland driving trails section sits to the south of the lot and extends into Chatham.

Visit nauset beach’s orv website to order your sticker, review vehicle requirements, and access more information. orv permits at nauset purchased from the town of Orleans are good from may 1 through april 30 the following year.

nesting shorebirds frequently affect orv access at cape cod beaches
nesting shorebirds frequently affect orv access at cape cod beaches

The water at nauset beach is extremely cold, and the surf can be rough. Seals love the place. As do sharks. Be smart and don’t get bit.  Some of the biggest great whites seen on cape cod have been tagged off nauset, and every year the numbers go up. surfers be warned.

ORV trail access at nauset is deeply impacted by nesting piping plovers. As in the beach access is typically shut off for ORV trail users. Years ago the beach would be open access all summer long, and then plover closings began closing the beach from roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day.

it’s worth a quick check online or calling over to the beach to ensure that the beach will be open if you’re planning to get an orv sticker at nauset on your vacation.

Learn more about Nauset Beach, or check out the dog rules for beaches in Orleans.

caesar hanging out at south beach in chatham

leashed dogs are allowed at nauset’s orv beach, but not on the main public beach. dogs are allowed offleash by the water if under voice control. make sure your dog is a strong swimmer, big waves and strong undertows are the norm here.

camping is allowed at nauset beach with an orv sticker.  be sure to double check that access for campers is being allowed before planning your vacation around it though.  all campers over age 12 are required to have a fishing pole.

a tall ship passes the orv trails on the north side of race point beach in 2015
a tall ship passes the orv trails on the north side of race point beach’s ORV trails.

Cape Cod National Seashore ORV trails

Cape Cod National Seashore has the most extensive oversand driving trails on cape cod. And sometimes they’re even open for vehicles to drive on. [insert sarcasm here]

nugget the puggle jumps after a bad cuz on the cape cod national seashore's oversand driving trails
nugget the puggle jumps after a bad cuz on the national seashore’s oversand driving trails

much of the access is often limited by erosion and nesting shorebirds, but in theory you can travel nearly the length of provincetown on the trails. truly epic.

visit the national seashore orv sticker page to get all the details on getting a sticker. and other regulations.

Check the Seashore’s updated ORV Trail Map for the latest news on beach closings due to piping plovers.  Most summers access is severely restricted in June and then closes off completely in July. 

Race point beach sells both weekly and annual ORV passes for all of the Seashore beaches listed below, as well as annual and yearly stickers for self-contained campers.

Race point beach's orv trails provide access to long open stretches of beach, perfect for a peaceful sunset.
Race point beach’s orv trails provide access to long open stretches of beach, perfect for a peaceful sunset.

Race Point Beach, Provincetown

race point beach in is one of the premier beaches in the united states, and one of the 5 best places for dogs in provincetown.

situated at the top of cape cod when looking at a map, the orv trails extend to the north and south sides of the main beach.

orv trail access at Race Point is affected by piping plovers, but the national seashore does a good job of maintaining some beach access most of the time.

But make sure to check the national seashore site’s ORV trail map and their dogs page to see the latest news on what parts of the ORV trails are closed and whether there are restrictions on dogs.

Typically if the ORV beach access at Race Point is less than a half mile then ORV stickers give you access to the main Race Point beach parking lot as well as Herring Cove beach and Head of the Meadow beach. For dog owners the best nearby option of these is usually Herring Cove, in recent years the south side (to the left of parking lot) has remained open for dogs throughout the summer.

when beach access is very limited at race point  then cars will be parked on top of each other like a walmart parking lot.  but typically when things are more open, you’ll have a lot more room between parked vehicles.

Hatches Harbor is a section of Race Point Beach available from the oversand driving trails, but it's closed to dogs.
Hatches Harbor is a section of Race Point Beach available from the oversand driving trails, but it’s usually closed to dogs.

Race point offers a variety of beach conditions. Hatches harbor, accessible from the ORV trail near race point lighthouse, has unusually warm water compared to the other sections of this beach. it’s also very packed due to this.  big groups of people frequent this area, can be a pretty lively scene.

as you drive along hatches harbor towards herring cove, dogs are restricted. there are some amazing views in this area worth checking out.

other sections of race point offer sandbars with pools for children and smaller dogs.  The waves at this beach aren’t usually big at all compared to beaches further down the bend of the outer cape.

A whale swimming past Race Point Beach's ORV trails.
A whale passing by race point beach’s ORV trails.

Whales can be seen most of the summer off of race point beach. Just look for spouts, occasional breaches, and stopped whale watch boats.

You’ll also get a close up look at Race Point lighthouse as you drive out on the beach trails.

The ORV Trails on Race Point beach drive right by historic Race Point Lighthouse.
The ORV Trails on Race Point beach drive right by historic Race Point Lighthouse.

if you don’t have the appropriate vehicle for the beach but still want to see race point beach, you can get guided beach tours from Art’s Dune Tours in provincetown. They even offer lobster dinners at sunset.  They get access that normal people don’t get including some fire trails located over the dunes.

sunset at race point beach as seen from the orv trails

Coast Guard Road Beach, Truro

THe orv trails at coast guard road beach are open for night fishing only. No daytime access. The oversand driving trail goes right through the public beach area, so this restriction makes a lot of sense. it also means the orv section of the beach doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

It’s a great place to cast in a line, drink a beer, and watch seals swim by with fish in their mouths while you don’t catch a thing. Make sure you get your saltwater fishing permit, it’s only $10.

Coast guard road is popular with vacationers from several nearby dog-friendly campgrounds, so there’s usually lots of cool dogs to sniff.  There’s a few parking spots for truro residents with stickers, and the parking lot is narrow, so use caution when driving through the lot and accessing beach.

At night you’ll pass bonfires at the bottom of the trail onto the beach, and those folks occasionally are having a beer or two or ten so be cautious.

Note that Coast guard road beach in truro is not the same thing as coast guard beach in eastham (another national seashore beach, but without orv access).

The ORV trails at Coast Guard beach are only open in the evening to allow access to fishing.
The ORV trails at Coast Guard beach are only open in the evening to allow access to fishing.

Want to learn more about the beaches of the National Seashore?

Walking on a sandbar on cape cod

High Head Beach, Provincetown

High Head Beach’s ORV Trails are accessible off of route 6 on high head road. Typically only a small part of high head’s orv trails are open. but it’s really beautiful here, and most people are thankful for what they can get.

there are no air pumps at high head, and no nearby gas stations. so make sure you plan accordingly before airing down, unless you feel like entering back onto busy route 6 in four nearly-flat tires.

The parking area at high head can get pretty busy, it seems very popular with dog walkers and nature enthusiasts.

the orv trail at head of the meadow beach is often closed. note the footprints and lack of tire prints
the orv trail at head of the meadow beach is often closed. note the footprints and lack of tire prints. poison ivy surrounds this trail, beware.

Head of the Meadow Beach, Truro

Head of the meadow is a beautiful beach. soft, delicate sand that rivals any beach on cape cod. but the oversand driving trails haven’t been opened the past few years. Call or check the National Seashore’s dogs news page before making plans to visit.

There isn’t an air filling station in Head of the Meadow’s parking lot, but there is a gas station at the end of the street by route 6 that can help you air up.

When we visited the last time it was open (many years ago) the trail to exit the beach was extremely steep and was difficult to exit for a number of vehicles. Lots of shoveling and dropping more air. Not very fun. not recommended for inexperienced beach drivers. Likely the reason why this stretch or orv trails isn’t open any longer.

even if orv access isn’t available, consider visiting the main public beach at Head of the Meadow. It’s one of the best on the cape and not as busy as most of the other seashore beaches. But there usually are big restrictions on dog access during the summer here, as piping plovers seem to love this place too.

driftwood bleaching in the sun at head of the meadow beach in truro, ma
driftwood bleaching in the sun at head of the meadow beach in truro

Sandy Neck beach in Barnstable

ORV passes are sold at the Sandy Neck gatehouse for 4wd and AWD vehicles, as well as 2wd campers.

Camping is available for non-residents in self contained campers (orv stickers are also needed to camp). You can camp in a tent in a designated area. Campfires allowed after sunset or 7pm.

View the sandy neck beach website for vehicle requirements and other regulations. note that glass bottles are not allowed!

Sandy Neck Beach dog rules
  • Dogs are allowed on the orv area of sandy neck year round
  • Dogs are not allowed on the main public beach from May 15—sept 15.
  • Dogs must be leashed on the sandy neck corridor and trails from March 1—sept. 15 unless in cape cod bay.
map of the trails at sandy neck beach in barnstable
map of the trails at sandy neck beach in barnstable

Equipment needed to drive on cape cod’s ORV beach trails

Different beaches on cape cod have different regulations, so make sure you check to make sure you’re correctly equipped. but in general the requirements are the same.  You’ll need:

  • A shovel (equivalent of folding military shovel or better)
  • A towing device: 1.5″ tow Strap, 3/4″ Rope, 5/16″ Chain, or a 1/4″ Cable
  • Vehicle tire jack (the one that came with your car works)
  • Wooden board to support your tire jack. Must be at least a 10″ x 12″ x 1.5″ wooden board, or a 10″ x 12″ x 3/4″ piece of plywood
  • Tire gauge measuring 5psi or lower. Be aware many cheapo tire gauges sold at gas stations and convenience stores don’t go down to 5psi, make sure to buy one that does.
  • full-size spare tire. No donuts! Sizes vary by beach but most midsize SUVs and truck tires are large enough. Always make sure to check with the beach regulations first to make sure yours are big enough.
  • If you’re driving a camper or slide-in truck camper on the beach, you’ll need a fire extinguisher and permanently mounted tanks for grey and black water.
When you're on the ORV beach trails on cape cod you need to air down your tires to 11PSI or lower to avoid getting stuck!
Make sure to check that your tires meet minimum size requirements. Spare tires too!

The beach etiquette of oversand driving

The biggest rule: be considerate.  To the beach, other people, wildlife, and to nature in general.

The vehicle traveling with the ocean on their right side has the right of way when oncoming vehicles meet on an oversand driving trail. But don’t be afraid to pull off if you have an easier place to do it, even if you have the right of way. Be sure to wave at drivers who pull off the trail to let you pass.

Never walk on sand dunes at the beach!!!
Never walk on sand dunes at the beach!!!

Never walk or drive on the dunes. The vehicle trails are located above the high tide line for a reason. Never drive in the water, or even near it!

be respectful. pick up your trash, and don’t be afraid to pick up trash you find. help keep these beaches beautiful!

Often sections of the beach are closed due to tides or nesting shorebirds.  While this can be annoying to vacationers, please abide by the signs and don’t travel in prohibited areas. Doing so jeopardizes oversand driving access for everyone.

sunset as seen from an oversand beach trail on cape cod

How to not get stuck

don’t want to get stuck? The biggest rule is to make sure to air down your tires to recommended levels, typically 11 PSI or lower.  This increases the size of the tire that comes in contact with the sand, keeping your vehicle from sinking in.

the beaches are filled with tough guys who don’t air down enough (“I don’t need to in MY truck!”) but this just chops up the trails for everyone else.

observe speed limits, which often are 15 mph unless otherwise noted.  When passing camping areas, speed limit is 5 mph.  Slow down around kids, often they dart out between parked cars. Be safe.

If you do start to get stuck, Do not gun the engine to get out! This will just bury you further. Best bet is to reduce air in your tires, and slowly try to get out.  If need be, use a shovel to fill in any big holes you left. Worse case someone can use the tow strap to pull you out.

A favorite activity of all oversand beachgoers is to stare at vehicles that do get stuck and offer their perspectives to each other on what the driver did to bury themselves. “Too much air i bet!” “they cut the wheel too hard!” “shouldn’t have hit the gas so hard!” “Never woulda happened to me ya know!”

So to avoid being the subject of 100 “told you so” conversations at once, air down to 11psi or lower in the parking lot.

nugget scans the horizon at the national seashore

Considerations for dogs

Dogs are allowed at all of the oversand beaches above, but there are limitations. Leashes are required unless dogs are swimming. always clean up after your dog. observe posted signs for restricted access due to piping plovers and other shorebirds.

some things to be aware of

Beach access on some trails may be limited by high tide.  Be sure to park above high water line. beach conditions constantly evolve, and the national park service does a good job letting you known when there’s an area of concern.

booze is allowed on beaches, but not in moving cars. open containers are felonies. smarten up. and remember the national seashore beaches are federal property and subject to federal (not state) laws. Thinking of you there, cheech.

Race point’s north beach has a portable toilet at hatches harbor near the lighthouse, but the other beaches don’t.  plan accordingly. the water is pretty cold around here.

THe most important rule: help keep these beaches beautiful. pick up litter. clean up dog poop.  cover up pee spots with sand.

and remember that in a single day the many thousands of seals poop and pee a whole lot more than all the dogs and people on the beach combined, so the water isn’t as clean as it looks.

like most cape cod beaches, pesky greenheads, black flies, no seeums, and many other insects will bite you.  keep insect repellent in your car or beach bag. ticks are plentiful too, so check dogs and kids closely.

A dragonfly cruises near sand dunes at race point beach
A dragonfly cruises near sand dunes at race point beach.