When I’m not hiking the dizzying mountains of New Hampshire and western Maine, I have an affinity for local walking trails that connect numerous conserved properties in a town or city.

I was searching for a new multiproperty trek when I stumbled on one practically in my own backyard: the 7.5-mile Cross Town Trail in Cape Elizabeth, just over the Fore River from Portland.

The 7.5-mile Cross Town Trail in Cape Elizabeth, just over the Fore River from Portland, travels from Portland Head Light to Kettle Cove.

Maybe “new” isn’t the right term, because the Cross Town Trail has been a goal of Cape Elizabeth and the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust since 1975. Decades of hard work have culminated in a trail that utilizes town land and easements, CELT properties and town roads as it travels from Portland Head Light to Kettle Cove. While there are some ups and downs on the trail, it’s never outright difficult, making it a great choice for a day hike.

The trail begins at Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park, on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth. The park is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset, with plenty of room for parking. The crown jewel of the park is Portland Head Light, one of the most photographed lighthouses in America.

Follow one of the park’s many paved trails away from the lighthouse and back toward Shore Road, then walk along the property fence to the crosswalk at the top of the hill, about a third of a mile south of the park entrance. After a short descent along the edge of private property, you’ll enter the town-owned Stonegate Trail system, and cross a beautiful wooden bridge over a stream. The Cross Town Trail turns left at the first intersection, depositing you on Dyer Pond Road, but you can extend your trip by winding along the easy grades of the 1.5-mile trail system, which passes through bird-filled wetlands before reconnecting with the Cross Town Trail in Robinson Woods.

Robinson Woods is comprised of two parcels of CELT-owned land, whose 145 acres contain ancient trees, fields, ponds and wetlands. The northern parcel features towering white pine, red oak and hemlock trees – some more than three centuries old. The trail passes close to the Pond Cove parking area, then crosses Belfield Road into the southern parcel. Here, open fields and younger trees allow the sun to shine through on the wide, easy trail. Just beyond a wooden stream bridge next to rippling cascades, a small pond offers a great opportunity to spot wading birds and inland waterfowl.

A short distance beyond the pond, the trail leaves CELT land, and meanders through the woods to Route 77 at the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church. Just like that, you’re out of the woods and in downtown Cape Elizabeth.

Continue south on the road. At this point, you’re just about halfway through the Cross Town Trail, so it’s the perfect time to take a rest and refuel. The trail continues through the Cape Elizabeth High School campus. I got a little turned around here when I walked the trail, with all the parking lots, roads and sidewalks – but just make a beeline between the tennis courts and the football field, and you’ll pick up the Town Center Trail on the western side of campus.

The Town Center Trail skirts the edge of homeowner properties before making a hard southern turn into the Spurwink Marsh, where a wooden pedestrian bridge over the Spurwink River offers expansive views to the east and west. Beyond the bridge, you enter the town-owned Gull Crest trail system, with nearly five miles of trail options. The Cross Town Trail markers will lead you straight through the center of the preserve, just along the edge of the Cape Elizabeth Public Works, before taking you to a town easement path onto Fowler Road. If you’d like a short and scenic diversion, I recommend bearing left and taking the easternmost trail in the preserve, where a long boardwalk makes for a pleasant romp through these wooded wetlands.

A quick jaunt across Fowler Road and down Fenway Road takes you to the shores of Great Pond, the largest freshwater body in Cape Elizabeth. You’ll pass the town boat racks, then crest a hill among the tall trees along the edge of the pond. When the trail descends, you step onto an impressive 700-foot boardwalk, which follows the curve of the pond and offers limited views over the water, where you may see birds, beavers or human paddlers.

At the end of the boardwalk, a steep rise brings you into CELT property, where you’ll find the best views of the pond from a lookout on the eastern shore. From here, the trail winds away from the pond and close to homeowner property before following Golden Ridge Lane back to Route 77.

Cross the road at Kettle Cove Creamery and follow Kettle Cove Road for half a mile to gorgeous Kettle Cove. The panoramic views from the point look west at the long stretch of Crescent Beach State Park and south across Seal Cove. The small sandy beach here is a perfect alternative to the more crowded beaches nearby, and a great place to dip your feet after 7.5 miles on the trail.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

[email protected]

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