Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary
Sample the diversity of Martha’s Vineyard habitats with a visit to Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary, located on the island’s north shore in West Tisbury. Trails here range through woods and wetlands, past small ponds to coastal shrublands and a rocky beach. This property is managed by the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.
The sprawling Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary offers a feast for the senses—sweeping views of Vineyard Sound from a windswept bluff overlooking a rocky beach, the sheltered shore of a tiny woodland pond, lush wetlands bordering a gurgling brook, and forested hills dotted with boulders left behind by glaciers. Visitors can choose to travel through all of these areas, or spend time exploring just one of the many habitats the sanctuary contains.
Cedar Tree Neck owes its existence to legendary Vineyard Gazette editor and Island resident Henry Beetle Hough, who arranged the acquisition of the initial 100 acres of the reservation in the mid-1960s with the Mass Audubon Society. Born in New Bedford, Hough also founded the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, which owns the sanctuary and continues to expand upon its holdings.
The main parking area at Cedar Tree Neck is at the end of Obed Daggett Road, a dirt road that is wide enough for just one car to pass at a time. As a result, drivers should proceed slowly and be ready to use one of the many turnouts along the way. Small parking areas are located along Indian Hill Road, and the Taylor Gate parking area at Norton Circle (the end of Indian Hill Road), offering access to trailheads for the reservation’s longest paths.
Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary offers an extensive network of trails that wind through the hilly glacial terrain of the Island’s northern shore (download trail map). A first time visitor would do well to follow the Bruce Irons Trail, which was designed for field education programs and includes a guide with commentary about the habitats it passes through. The trail, which actually consists of portions of several different paths at the site, can be picked up from the main parking area.
A highlight of the reservation is the Obed Sherman Daggett Trail, which loops around the elevated “neck” of Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. The trail offers splendid views of Vineyard Sound, Cedar Tree Neck Pond, and the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard. It begins on the beach, just past the end of the Bruce Irons Trail.
If you are looking for a more challenging walk, you could park at Norton Circle and explore the Orange trail, which descends steadily over hilly terrain past old cranberry bogs, stone walls, and a small waterfall. Another option is the Elinor Moore Irvin trail, a two-mile path that connects the top of Indian Hill, east of Obed Daggett Road, to the main trail system not far from the main parking area.
Habitats & Wildlife
Tumbling streams, freshwater ponds, rocky beaches, and sandy bluffs are all to be found at Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s woodlands contain a variety of oak, maple, beech, and cedar, of course, along with sassafras and black gum (or in Island parlance, Beetlebung) trees.
Visitors in spring and summer may discover a snapping turtle or a painted turtle sunning itself on a floating log in Ames Pond. The woods abound with the call of birds in every season as well as the knock of the downy woodpecker. Osprey, gulls and other shore birds can be seen soaring above the grassy dunes; piping plover have been spotted here, too. And out on the neck, shrubby heath and wind-sheared cedar and sassafras are home to a profusion of birds and small mammals.
The mission of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is to conserve the natural, beautiful, rural landscape and character of Martha’s Vineyard for present and future generations.