Hiking the Beach to Beacon

Hiking the Beach to Beacon

Exploring the Cape Elizabeth Cross Town Trail

If you're one of the many that couldn't get in to the Beach to Beacon this year, try hiking the Cape Elizabeth Cross Town Trail instead! It takes the wooded route from Kettle Cove and Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light at Fort Williams. Mostly avoiding roads, the Cross Town Trail connects nearly 8 miles of the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt, creating a great alternative to the classic Beach to Beacon race course…

I recently traversed the Cape Elizabeth Cross Town Trail and I would strongly recommend taking your time for this race - there’s no placement on this route anyway. Keep a good pace and enjoy the amazing scenery and abundant wildlife on this trek.

Most importantly, you’ll want to plan for transportation back to Kettle Cove from Portland Head Light, unless you’re willing to trek the 6 miles back along the actual B2B race route. 


The Start

Kettle Cove is a small State Park nestled between Two Lights State Park and Crescent Beach State Park. Parking and entry is $3 which is a half the price of Crescent - or free if you get a State Park Annual Pass for $55. This beautifully quaint beach draws crowds even on cloudy days so get there early for parking. If nothing is available, you could head to Crescent and do the proper Beach to Beacon. 


The Route

Walk along Kettle Cove Road for 3/4 of a mile until you get to the Kettle Cove Creamery and Shack and if it’s a hot day, fuel up with an ice cream cone. As you cross Route 77, you’ll see signage for the Greenbelt and Great Pond Trail. The trail leads down a wooded path until you reach an opening and a great view of Great Pond. 

By now, you should have seen the Cross Town Trail markings pictured above. You’ll want to keep an eye or for these from this point forward, as the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt is a huge network of trails. The path continues around Great Pond and down into the wetlands on a walkway.



As the Great Pond Trail comes to an end, you’ll reach Fenway Road. Follow this until you get to Fowler Road and take a left. You’ll see signage for the Gull Crest Trail - stay to the left of that signage and the trail continues at the tree line. Much of the trail will be a comfortable walk along a boarded walkway. 


After meandering along the shaded woods for a mile and a half, the trail opens up to Spurwink River and the beautiful marsh alongside it. This river eventually empties out at Higgins Beach in Scarborough.



After Crossing Spurwink River, our path continues along the Town Center Trail, which is essentially just walking through the Cape Elizabeth High School fields and along Ocean House Road to the Methodist church, where the trail continues at the back of their parking lot. 

This path will lead to Pond Trail which is part of Robinson Woods. Pond Trail will cross over  and go along Long Pond, a pond built by beaver dam that is usually teeming with wildlife. If you brought a camera with you, you'll want to make sure to keep it out through here. 




Keep your eyes and ears alert for woodpeckers in these forests - I almost always spot one when I’m taking my time. The trail continues along Robinson Woods outer loop until it connects to Stonegate Trail. You might see more bikers and trail runners in this area - most likely due to the fact that you’re getting closer to Portland Head Light. 

Stonegate Trail eventually ends at Shore Road with a crosswalk leading to Fort Williams Park. If you head right, that will take you along the Beach to Beacon route, ending the trail on the southern side of Portland Head Light.​​




The Finish

If you're alright with adding an extra half mile to the trek, I'd recommend going left at the entrance of Fort Williams rather than the right that brings you along the traditional route. If you go left, you can go through the gardens to the Cliff Walk and approach Portland Head Light from the north. Either way, you'll end your route at this iconic beacon that's always worth snapping a photo - even on a cloudy day. 

At Fort Williams, you can get a lobster roll at Bite into Maine or check out the maritime museum in the old light keeper's house.



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