Cape Cod Province Lands Trail
Located at the very end of Cape Cod in Provincetown, the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail offers sweeping views of the Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This intermediate 5.45 mile paved trail through pine barrens, cranberry bogs, and sand dunes draws avid bikers, hikers, and skaters to Provincetown throughout the year. Spending a day on the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail should be added to the list of any Cape Cod visitor looking to explore the outdoors and beautiful sights of untouched nature.
Accessing the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail
The Cape Cod Province Lands Trail is a loop that begins and ends primarily at the Province Lands Visitor Center. Parking is subject to fees depending upon the time of year, and the trail is open year-round. The Province Lands trail is the most well-known biking trail in Provincetown and was built by the National Park service in 1967.
The Cape Cod Province Lands Trail may also be accessed from three other access points via trail extensions from the main loop. These three access points are Race Point Beach, Herring Cove Beach, and the Beech Forest Trail Parking Lot. However, most visitors to the trail will access it via the Province Lands Visitor Center as it is the most practical and central parking area to the loop.
Province Lands Visitor Center and Observatory
Whether at the beginning or end of a trip to the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail, be sure to check out the observatory at the Province Lands Visitor Center. The observatory gives visitors a look into the history of the natural Cape Cod dunes and offers brief movie showings about the area narrated by park rangers. It also houses a gift shop for those looking for a memorable souvenir after a great day exploring the trail.
The observatory also has a top deck which gives sightseers a peek above the tree line to open ocean. Some visitors have even been so lucky as to spot spouts and whales breaching from the top observation deck. Also worth noting, those participating in the National Park stamp service may receive a stamp at the visitor center as well.
Race Point Beach
Once on the trail from the Province Lands Visitor Center, trail trekkers will want to start out by going left around the loop. In this direction, the first stop on the trail is Race Point Beach. This area of the trail can be steep and difficult for inexperienced bikers. Some may want to walk their bikes through this area so as not to tire themselves out. Race Point Beach is accessed via a .5-mile trail extension from the loop.
Race Point Beach is well worth the visit, as it offers endless views of deep blue ocean which can be crystal clear especially in the summer months. In the distance, visitors can also spot Race Point Lighthouse, a highly photographed Lighthouse first built in 1816. Also located at Race Point Beach is the Old Harbor Life-Saving Museum. This museum is only open from 2-4pm, and every so often reenactments are held to demonstrate how life saving operations on the Cape and its surrounding waters were carried out in the 1800s.
Herring Cove Beach
Moving further down the trail and closer to downtown Provincetown, the trail extends 1.1 miles off the main loop to access Herring Cove Beach. As this beach is nearest to Provincetown, it is much more populated. Located at the northernmost point of Cape Cod, Herring Cove Beach boasts beautiful views of Cape Cod Bay from a rocky shoreline. On clearer days with high visibility, the Plymouth Highlands may be spotted across the bay.
Herring Cove Beach is very visitor-friendly, offering a concessions stand, outdoor showers, and restroom facilities in the summer and early fall months. Parking is aplenty but can fill up on busier summer weekends. For those looking to start and end their trek here, it is worth sticking around for the sunset. Herring Cove Beach is sometimes even referred to by locals as the best sunset spot in Provincetown.
Beech Forest Trail
Away from the hustle and bustle of beachgoers, the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail continues to loop back further inland through Beech Forest. After spending quite some time in the heat of the sun and dunes, Beech Forest offers travelers of the trail an escape through the shade of trees and quiet hum of nature.
Just before reaching the Beech Forest Parking Lot, there is a .25 mi extension off the main loop through the trees which brings travelers out to peaceful Bennet Pond. After this extension, the trail runs through the Beech Forest Trail Parking Area. This parking area offers tired travelers picnic benches and tables to stop and eat their packed lunches under the cool shade of the forest.
Hikers can travel the .8 mile Beech Forest Trail loop through the forest to Blackwater Pond which is a popular place for bird watching in the spring and fall months. The Beech Forest Trail is soft dirt only, and biking is prohibited on this trail. Most bikers bring bike locks to secure their bikes before trekking into the forest by foot.
Finishing the Trail Loop
After the trail rolls through the Beech Forest, it continues back towards the Province Lands Visitor Center. The end of the loop back towards the Visitor Center can also be steep at times, especially after a long day of biking and hiking. Be sure to take caution in this area, and other steep or washed-out areas of the trail as an accident can surely make or break a great day on the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail.
After returning to the Province Lands Visitor Center, many guests will retrieve their souvenirs from the gift shop and drive back to their accommodations or into downtown Provincetown for some Après biking food and beverages. However, just south of the Province Lands Visitor Center the Pilgrim Monument, a sight that many visitors tend to unknowingly miss. The Pilgrim Monument is a 252-foot monument built in 1910 to commemorate the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620. Most notable about the Pilgrim Monument is the fact that it is the tallest monument in the United States to be built entirely out of granite.
Packing for the Day
It is recommended that bikers, hikers, and all travelers of the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail bring plenty of water for their trip as there are not many stops along the way offering water to visitors. Most travelers planning on completing the full loop also pack lunches and snacks as well.
Helmets are required for bikers aged 16 and under, but all are strongly urged to wear helmets to avoid head injuries. There are multiple bike shops in the area offering bicycle rentals and repairs for those who did not bring bikes along or are in need of a tune-up.
While biking on the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail, the speed limit is no more than 10 mph. All members of each party must ride in a single file line, and shall stay to the right except for when passing on the left. Bikers are to yield to all pedestrians on foot as well as horses. Since the tunnels on the trail can get washed out, damp, and dark, bikers are urged to walk their bikes through each tunnel. There are plenty of trash cans located along the trail, and travelers of the trail are to pack out what they pack in leaving no litter behind. The dunes are untouched and fragile, and everyone must work together to keep them in their most natural state by only viewing them from the trail and not walking on top of them.
Donate to Cape Cod Province Lands Trail
The Cape Cod Province Lands Trail is one of the best kept nature preserves on the Cape Cod National Seashore. Travelers of all kinds return year after year to relish in the ample amounts of nature’s beauty that this trail has to offer. After spending even the shortest amount of time along the sandy seashores of Cape Cod, many visitors feel compelled to do their part to keep the area pristine. Donating to the Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore (fccns.org) can help fund the preservation of the Cape Cod Province Lands Trail as well as wayside exhibits for trail travelers to enjoy.