Nickerson State Park is located in Brewster, MA on Cape Cod, a sandy peninsula that incurves out into the Atlantic Ocean. It and the eight freshwater Kettle Ponds in the park were shaped by the movements of the recent continental glacier, the Laurentide, which covered the entire Cape and portions of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The 1,961 acre Nickerson State Park is a town and state-preserved conservation land and recreation area. It encompasses almost all the ecosystems found on Cape Cod from Coastal Plain Pitch Pine and Pine-Oak Forest, Freshwater Marsh and Tidal Flats to Red Maple Swamp and Barrier Beach.
Today, Nickerson State Park is best known for it's historical record, and over ten miles of paved recreational paths and miles of unimproved woods roads and bicycle trails that connect you to park amenities, campground, points of interest, Cape Cod Bay beaches and the eight sparkling diamond kettle ponds embedded in the park landcsape.
Nickerson State Park Headquarters & Operations Center
A unique, mid-century example of a State Park Headquarters and Operations Area. The main building was built in the rustic style, with a central one-story building flanked by connected garages on both sides. The building retains it's original clapboard siding, wood windows with screens and loft doors and arms at the gable end of both garages.
It's here you will find the Nature Center, Park Ampitheater, restrooms and a picnic area. A camp store is located nearby. And . . . a Bike Repair Station (Fixit) is located at the Nickerson State Park / Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) trailhead.
3488 Main St, Brewster, MA 02631
418 standard campsites with enough room to move are set amongst 2,000 acres of unique Pineland-like habitat of Pine-Oak forest and spaced around eight freshwater Kettle Ponds. While there are no hookups, a dumping station is available for Nickerson State Park RV and trailer campers. There are a number of canvas-sided Yurts with bunk beds, chairs and tables available for rent.
All campsites are equipped with fire rings and a picnic table. Modern restrooms include hot showers and are conveniently located throughout the campground.
Nickerson State Park Trail Connections
Cape Cod Rail Trail - Nickerson State Park Access
Mileage / Blaze: 27.5 miles, Easy, Out-and-Back
Paved bikeway that passes through six Cape Cod Towms from Yarmouth to Wellfleet along the path of the former New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.
Northern end of Nickerson State Park at the Nickerson State Park Headquarters. Seasonal parking fees apply.
Nickerson State Park Mountain Bike Trails
Bicycle paths and mountain bike trails travel over an undulating and involuted gentle topography punctuated by eight Kettle Ponds shimmering in bowl-like depressions. As you move south away from the Cape Cod Bayshore tidal flats at sea level, there is a gentle climb of about 50 feet to the Park Office. Within the park, elevations vary from about 100 feet to 130 feet as you move away from the ponds into the park uplands in any direction.
It's mostly smooth and scenic bicycling through forests of Pine-Oak, White Pine and Spruce. You will encounter some short steep climbs on the trails that run along the park's uplands. The carpet of pine needles on the trail surfaces can be slippery when wet.
Disclaimer: Plan ahead and know the rules, bike with a trail buddy or two, stay on the marked trails, wear and bring proper gear, know your ability level and watch out for other trail users. There is no hunting permitted within the park.
Trail Highlights and Nearby Points of Interest
Bikes & Beaches
Crosby Lane & Beach Landing
To the north, the Crosby Landing beach on Cape Cod Bay is within bicyling or walking distance of the Nickerson's State Park's Headquartes / Contact Station. As you approach the beach, you'll pass the historic Crosby mansion on the left side of the road.
If you time it right, you'll arrive at low tide for spectacular bayside views of the marsh and tidal flats. This is an ideal location to watch shorebirds. In August and September, small flocks of Black Skimmers are most often encountered along the sandy beach or open tidal flat.
A large grassy area separates the parking lot from the beach. While it's a calm, bayside beach, there are no lifeguards on duty. There are restrooms, a boardwalk, and a bike rack! Beach wheelchairs are also available for rent.
Access Crosby Lane near the Park Office to Crosby Landing parking lot at crosby Landing.
Bike & Fish, Bikes & Kayaks
48-acre Flax Pond is primarily a trout fishery that is stocked in tthe spring and fall with Brook and Rainbow Trout. The pond beach is a popular fly fishing location. Wow! Pecan-crusted trout for dinner cooked on the grill. Cartop boats, kayaks and canoes can be launched after a short carry down a steep slope.
From the main park entrance, hang a left onto Flax Pond Road.
Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops, Scenic Viewpoints
The park is a regular stop on the migration route for many types of birds. Thrushes, Wrens, Warblers, Larks and other woodland birds can be spotted in the park's forests. White-tailed Deer, Racoons, and Skunks can be observed in and around the woods and park.
Cliff Pond Trail
Mileage / Blaze: 3.5 miles, Intermediate, Loop, Natural surface
This 204-acre crystal clear kettle pond is the largest in the park. The bike trail travels over a natural surface around the pond along the Pitch Pine-Oak undeveloped and protected wooded shoreline. Sandy beach areas are located around the pond at irregular intervals. Steep cliffs that encircle the pond add scenic drama. The views are photogenic in all seasons. Tred lightly and it's the perfect Scenic Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops mountain biking experience.
During the summer and fall, wildflowers grow at the pond edges. Turtles, snakes, frogs, newts and salamanders live in and around the pond. In the summer, vibrant fleets of dragonflies and damselflies helicopter across the water and the trail. In the wintertime, the pond becomes a winter wonderland for waterfowl and popular hunting grounds for hawks and Bald Eagles.
There are two major access points on Cliff Pond: a shallow cartop access off of Flax Pond Road, and a fishermen’s landing (with a concrete pad boat ramp) accessible via Deer Park Road to Nook Road.
Ruth Pond - Deer Park Loop
Mileage / Blaze: 2.1 miles, Beginner , Intermediate, Loop, Paved
Enjoy the shady and quiet bicycle ride around Ruth Pond. This route has some steep hills, narrow and twisty cantilevered sections. The high points offer the best views of Ruth Pond.
Family Friendly Bicycle Rides
Biking is a wonderful way to explore Nickerson State Park. There are ten miles of rolling and winding paved bike paths of varying lengths. Use the Deer Park, Ober, Cedar and Ruth Pond trails to create out-and-backs rides or loop rides. Use caution at road crossings.
Deer Park - Ober Loop
Mileage / Blaze: 2.5 miles, Easy, Loop, Paved
Head south on the Deer Park Trail which follows Deer Park Road. The trail will loop around back on the Ober Trail.
Park in Area 1 located 1/2 mile up on the Main Road.
Nickerson State Park Enduring Legacies and Heritage Landscapes
Roland C. Nickerson State Park was the first “State Forest Park” in the Commonwealth of Massachussetts. The 1,900 acres that make up the park today, were once owned by Samuel Mayo Nickerson, born in Chatham, MA in 1830. He made his fortune in Chicago as the founder and president of the First National Bank of Chicago.
Nickerson State Park was established in 1934 when members of the Nickerson family donated approximately 1,727 acres south of Route 6A to the state of Massachussetts. Prior to the donation, the property had been used as Nickerson's private game and fishing reserve.
In 1935 the Civilian Conservation Corps, (CCC) established a camp at Nickerson State Park. Over a period of three years, they constructed roads, camping sites, parking and picnic areas near Flax Pond. CCC workers also engaged in erosion control and planted 88,000 White Pine Hemlock and Spruce trees. The four distinctive picnic pavilions within the park are some of the best preserved collections of CCC-built recreation resources.
Take Route 6 to exit 12, Route 6A West into Brewster. Continue for a few miles. The park entrance is on the left. There are two adjacent parking areas. The larger of the two has restrooms and features a picnic area which is ideal for families who are just planning a day trip.
For More Information
Massachussetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Nickerson State Park
State Park Website: https://www.mass.gov/locations/nickerson-state-park