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BEECH FOREST TRAIL, PROVINCETOWN

By David Weintraub

HEALTH STATS NUMBER OF STEPS – 2,475 | ESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED – 128*

*Number of steps based on approximately 2,250 steps per mile; average stride 2.35 Feet. Calories burned based on 160 lb. walker, from walkmeter app.


This classic stroll, which loops around a freshwater wetland and visits a secluded American beech forest, is perfect for nature lovers. Plant enthusiasts will enjoy the variety of trees and shrubs, some of them identified by trailside markers. Birders visiting in spring and fall should be on the lookout for migrating warblers and other songbirds. There is a brochure with a map available at the trailhead. Note: mosquitoes are plentiful here in spring and summer.


To begin, take an elevated boardwalk through a shady, swampy area that is part of a large freshwater wetland made up of several ponds and marshes. The ponds host a variety of vegetation, including pickerelweed and white water lilies. A chorus of frogs may greet you. This forest is one of the few wooded areas on the Cape’s otherwise exposed tip and serves as a haven for migratory birds.

After about 100 yards, leave the boardwalk and access a sandy trail that skirts a vast system of sand dunes. The large pond to your left is screened from view by trees and shrubs. In places, the sand is soft and the trail is exposed to the sun. Soon, however, regain shade and find the first American beech trees, identified by their large papery, serrated leaves with prominent veins, and smooth light-gray bark.

Now beside a second, smaller pond, reach a junction at about 0.4 miles. (To shorten the walk, turn left here and follow the route description from the next junction, below.)

Continue straight, now in a deep ravine filled with American beech. Before European settlement, forests of beech and other hardwoods were common on the Cape. By the mid-1800s, when Thoreau visited, many of the trees had been cut, leaving large swaths of land subject to erosion. Reforestation and natural forest succession have returned the Cape to a mostly wooded state.

At about 0.5 mile, turn sharply left and climb a steep set of dirt steps braced by logs, leaving the beech trees behind. Briefly atop a ridge, turn right and descend. A rolling course soon brings you to the trail you recently left. Bear right and enjoy a fine view of the pond to your left. Wooded hillsides rise steeply to your right.

With the larger of the two ponds now on your left, an unsigned path, not part of the trail system, joins from the right. Continue straight and soon reach a path, also right, that leads a few hundred feet to a boardwalk that extends over a third pond. From here, you can examine pond and wetland plants up close, study dragonflies and croak to the frogs. Back on the main trail, cross a swampy area on a boardwalk and then reach a paved path, which immediately forks. Restrooms and water are to your right; the parking areas are several hundred feet to your left.

Beech Forest Trail map

DETAILS
TRAIL USE
Distance: 1.1 miles Exposure to sun: Partial Bicycles not allowed
Type of Walk: Loop Trail Surfaces: Dirt, sand Dogs not allowed
Difficulty: Easy Trail traffic: Moderate Hunting not allowed
Time to walk: 1 hour or less Fees: None
Scenery: Dunes, forest, ponds, wetlands Facilities: Restrooms, water, picnic tables
DIRECTIONS

From Route 6 in Provincetown, take Race Point Road northwest 0.5 miles, then turn left on the Beech Forest entrance road. Go several hundred feet to a fork and bear right. There are two parking areas: one just past the fork, the other