Long Walks on Cape Cod
Copyright 1996 Cape Cod Trails Conference
USGS Maps: Provincetown
Province Lands Visitors Center on Race Point
Road, north of Route 6 in Provincetown.
See the guide for the walk, "Province Lands," for information
about the Visitors Center. The two walks can be combined, as they
start from the same point, but each makes a satisfactory eight to nine
mile hike. Together, the distance will be twelve to fourteen miles.
Walk west to the end of the parking lot, then down to the intersection of Race Point Road and Province Lands Road. Go over to the left side and walk along the edge of the road until you come to the
point where the bike trail comes through a tunnel under the road.
Peel off to the left and join the bike trail as it goes left for
a bit, and then runs parallel to Province Lands Road. In about a mile,
the bike trail goes under the road for a second time, heading west.
Follow it through the tunnel and to the other side, until the bike
trail turns sharply left. On your right will be a wide sandy road
that continues west. It comes from an entrance on Province Lands
Road, just north of the tunnel.
Walk the road through the scrub pine, and then out into the
open area above the tidal flat that is labeled "Hatches Harbor" on the topographical map. On your left, Race Point Lighthouse becomes visible. You cannot walk to it directly. Follow the dike
road as it crosses the flat. At the end is a little solar-powered air traffic control beacon.
Continue walking west through the dunes until you reach the
tidal river. Follow the edge of the tidal river until its end, which
will be almost another half mile. At the end, you come to a pronounced fork. Turn sharply about and walk toward the lighthouse. The sand is soft, therefore the walking will be tedious, but you won't be on it for long.
When you get to the lighthouse, inspect the signs and buildings.
Then continue out to the end of Race Point and pause for the ocean
view. Circle around Race Point and walk northeast. We hope that you
have picked a nice day, because you are open to the North Atlantic
for the next two miles!
For firmer footing, walk the sand on the line between wet and
dry. Ignore the detritus of "civilization" that is washed up above
the high tide line. Look to the ocean, where you may see seal heads
bobbing up during the fall and winter. During the summer and early
fall, a whale or two may "blow" just off shore. A major feeding
area for whales, Stellwagen Bank, is just to the north.
You will walk for a mile and one-half before the Coast Guard
Station comes into view. For that distance, during the off season,
you may experience true isolation. There may be nothing else but
sand, ocean, sea gulls, and you.
You will see the tower of the old lifesaving station just beyond the Coast Guard Station. In contrast to the latter, which is painted the standard white with orange-red roof, the lifesaving station is a weathered old artifact of Cape Cod. Walk up the path that appears to lead to it.
You have passed along one of Cape Cod's most popular beaches,
Race Point Beach. During the summer season, on good days, the beach
will be packed. But it's fun to walk across it when no one is there.
As you get up to the boardwalk, walk left to read the placards which
tell you about whales, shipwrecks, and the lifesaving service.
To return, walk through the parking lot to the bicycle trail.
Initially, it runs along the south side of Race Point Road, then
crosses over in about one-half mile. You will pass by the busy
Provincetown Airport, and be able to see the Visitors Center at the
top of the hill.
When you get to the Center, go up to the observation deck to
see the whole area you have just walked, and all the landmarks around
it. Inspect the displays to read and learn more about the places
you have visited. Of course, it it's winter, you'll have to visit
the Provincetown Museum, which is a good idea, anytime. Be sure to
have dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants in Provincetown.
The distance of this walk is a straight eight miles, with no
scenic detours. A small group can cover it in four hours, including
a lunch stop; but you might find your group spending more time enjoying the views and the attractions.