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By David Weintraub


*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.

Short in length but rich in history and plant life, this loop around Small’s Swamp, at the bottom of a glacial kettle hole, is a rewarding walk back in time. Native Americans, the newcomers aboard the Mayflower, and 19th-century farmers all had a stake in this little plot of ground, which is now preserved for us to enjoy.

Before starting your walk, visit the shelter beside the trailhead and view the interpretive panels describing the three discovery trips by parties from the Mayflower, which anchored on November 11, 1620 in nearby Provincetown. The kettle hole in view to the northwest was used by the Native Americans, and artifacts found there are more than 7,000 years old. In the 1860s, Thomas Small established a 200-acre farm amid an otherwise barren landscape.

Via a log-bordered trail, descend a moderate grade into a shady, cool pine forest. After about 100 yards, the trail forks. Stay left, following a short section of split-rail fence and descend via dirt steps. The swamp occupies the floor of the kettle hole that is visible from the shelter. A short boardwalk takes you across a possibly wet area.

At a junction with a path to a nearby paved bike trail, turn right. Now climbing on a gentle grade, the trail traverses a shrubby zone and passes three vantage points, where views of the Atlantic Ocean and a freshwater marsh await. The ecology of the surrounding area changed after 1868, when a dike – which is now the roadbed for Route 6 – enclosed Provincetown’s East Harbor and created Pilgrim Lake, cutting off tidal flow from Cape Cod Bay. A restoration project begun in 2002 has returned saltwater to the lake.

If you hear voices in the distance, they’re not from Pilgrim ghosts. A popular bicycle trail, which runs between High Head and Head of the Meadow, is between here and the dunes to the east. About 100 yards from the first vantage point is another overlook – an interpretive panel, once here but now gone, told the story of the British man-of-war Somerset, which in 1778 went aground on Peaked Hills bar, a shallow shoal just offshore that has trapped many ships. Now returning to forest, soon close the loop, bear left and retrace your route to the parking area.

Small's Swamp Trail map

Distance: 0.6 miles Scenery: Atlantic Ocean, kettle hole, dunes Bicycles not allowed
Type of Walk: Balloon Exposure to sun: Partial Dogs not allowed
Difficulty: Easy Trail Surfaces: Dirt, pavement Hunting not allowed
Time to walk: 1 hour or less Fees: None
Trail traffic: Moderate Facilities: Restrooms and water (seasonal), picnic tables, interpretive

From the intersection of Routes 6 and 6A in North Truro, take Route 6 north for 2.1 miles, then turn right on an unnamed road signed Pilgrim Heights. Go 0.5 miles to a large, paved parking area on the left side of a one-way loop. Two trails depart from a trailhead at the northwest side of the one-way loop. The trail to Small’s Swamp goes left (northwest) toward the interpretive shelter. The trail to neighboring Pilgrim Spring veers right (northeast).