Winnick Woods is a 71 acre parcel of land owned by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, part of the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt, which has a page with maps and a description. The trailhead is at a small gravel parking area with a map kiosk and space for eight vehicles off Sawyer Road. Be forewarned – the maps, including the ones posted along the trail, are not good ones. I used AllTrails to navigate an easy 3.8-mile Winnick Woods Long Loop that covered most of the preserve, and used the Cross Hill Trails to extend the hike, which took about an hour and forty minutes, with plenty of time to stop and examine the varied flora.
This winds past some adjoining backyards, follows power lines in places, and crosses Cross Hill Road twice, but stays on established trails. Like many trails designed for mountain bikes, there are multiple twists and turns and intersections to maximize mileage and track length, which can be confusing for hikers and bikers alike. We encountered many mountain bikers and stepped briefly off the path to allow them to pass. The trail was also populated by trail runners and dog walkers.
The trail begins with a wooded path (the White Trail), opening on a large meadow, where we saw (and heard) a large red-tailed hawk patrolling the skies above. We then turned left onto the Yellow Trail, which crosses the north side of a small, stagnant pond, and passes behind a neighborhood through a mixed forest. Throughout the early September hike, we saw a wide variety of berries, trees, shrubs, late summer flowers, colorful mushrooms, and birds. Regarding the fern family alone, we identified bracken fern, cinnamon fern, eastern hay-scented fern, Japanese painted fern, and Christmas fern. Nuthatches and brown creepers serenaded the woods and foraged along the tree trunks.
The marshy area to the east of the loop signals a move to higher ground along power lines, and the beginning of the Cross Hill Trails, lined with juniper and wildflowers. Here, a cacophony of catbird sounds greeted us in the lower-lying areas, before turning west and north to return to the Winnick Woods Trails, where the forest opens up to sunlight. A flat, easy walk brought us back to the start of the hike.