The Hellcat Interpretative Trail, often referred to as the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail for its planked pathway, is located in Plum Island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The trail, which is handicap accessible and appropriate for kids and adults alike, offers a guided experience and breathtaking views.
The 1.4 miles long Hellcat Trail is divided into two different paths on either side of the road that runs through the refuge— a 0.6 mile Dunes Trail and an 0.8 mile Marsh Trail. Each section features lookout points and interpretive stations along the way to learn fun facts about the refuge and habitats. Visitors can choose to do just one of the paths or the entire loop. To reduce disturbance to wildlife all hikers must stay on the boardwalk at all times. Maps are available online and at the ranger station when you enter the refuge.
The Hellcat Interpretative Trail was originally built in the 1970s by high school students in the Youth Conservation Corps but recently got a big upgrade in the fall of 2020. The wooded boardwalk was replaced with synthetic plastic planks and widened to make it more accessible. Along with upgrades to the trail, The Marsh and Dune loops, which were previously two separate paths, are now connected with a new portion of the trail.
Ready to head out on a hike? Here’s what you need to know before you go. All visitors must pay $5 per car to enter the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, unless they have an annual parking pass. Once on the refuge, the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail is about 3.5 miles from the entrance and closest in vicinity to parking lot 4 (the same lot you would also find the lookout tower from). And while your pup may love a good hike, you need to leave all four-legged family members at home—pets are not allowed anywhere on the refuge.
The Hellcat Trail is open year-round but make sure to keep tabs on when the greenheads arrive in mid-July. These pesky horseflies are prevalent on Plum Island and make for a less than ideal hike. Another environmental factor to keep an eye out for is poison ivy, which is present on parts of the trail. When possible wear pants and a long shirt to protect yourself. If you’re hoping to cool off with a swim after your hike, be aware there is no beach access available from the Hellcat Trail. You will have to exit the trail and walk or drive to a parking lot that offers beach access.