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Exploring Prince Edward Island One Hiking Trail and Beach at a Time

Singing Sands Beach, Basin Head Provincial Park

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Greenwich Dunes Trail


Quick Facts

Difficulty wheelchair - easy
Trail Type linear
Distance 1 km
Estimated Time 45 mins
Surface Type crushed rock, boardwalk
Elevation Change 9 meters
Features dunes, beach
Trail Markers signs
Scenery Rating must see
Maintenance Rating well maintained
Cell Reception not checked
Dog Friendly on a leash, not on beach
Fees yes


Greenwich Dunes Trail gallery


The Greenwich Dunes is a marquis trail in the province. If you have seen tourism brochures on the island you have probably seen pictures of this trail.

The trail starts by entering a small patch of woods. The woods soon thin out and the wide crushed rock trail turns into a meandering boardwalk. The boardwalk crosses the grey dunes (see From the Sign below) and then emerges onto a floating boardwalk that crosses the cattail lined Bowley Pond. This is where the amazing views start.

At the other end of the floating boardwalk you will see a small mountain. This is actually a giant sand dune and interpretive signs explain how this sand dune was formed. The boardwalk ends next to the giant sand dune. A small climb over a long narrow sand dune will take you to an amazing beach. The beach goes in both directions as far as the eye can see.

The sand dune on the Greenwich Dunes Trail

A short distance to the left of where the trail emerges on the beach there is a small trail that climbs back up on the dune and overlooks the giant dune. Here you will learn more about how the dune and the surrounding area was formed.



Hiking Trails of PEI Book

From the Sign

A Forest Coummunity

This forest supports a greater diversity of wildlife than the forest through which you just walked. Red maple, white birch, yellow birch and other trees grow here. This mostly hardwood or deciduous forest allows more light to reach the forest floor and the soil has more nutrients and is less acidic. These factors allow more plants and shrubs to grow. The greater plant diversity here creates a habitat for insects, birds and mammals that would not be found in a dense, shaded forest. If you look carefully you may see some of the species illustrated below.

A Forest Community


For directions to this part of the park go to the Greenwich Section - Prince Edward Island National Park page.

From the visitor center turn right on Wild Rose Road. At the end of the road turn right. After a kilometre you will come to a parking area. The Tlaqatik Trail enters the woods on the left of the parking area. After walking for a kilometre on this wide, crushed rock trail you will find the Greenwich Dunes Trail on the right.

From the Sign

Life in the Shade

At one time, the Acadian forest, with its great variety of hardwood and softwood trees, covered Prince Edward Island. Most of the original forest has since been cut to provide farmland or fireweed. When farm fields are abandoned, the forest that grows up will often be mostly composed of white spruce like this one. This stand will gradually evolve into a more diverse habitat as other, more shade-tolerant species, such as yellow birch, red maple or balsam fir, fill in the gaps created by fallen spruce trees.

From the Sign

A Fragile Community

The greater variety of plants in a stabalized dune creates habitiat for insects such as ladybug beetles or leafhoppers. The presence of seeds and insects will encourage the nesting of birds like savannah sparrows. As the dune community grows, small mammals such as meadow jumping mice and meadow voles also move in. These small mammals and birds in turn attract predators such as red fox and northern harrier.

The marram grass, at the root of this fragile ecosystem, is susceptible to damage by trampling. Footpaths through the dunes let strong winds create "blowouts" that weaken the dune habitat. Please allow this beautiful place to evolve naturally by not walking on the dunes.

From the Sign

It's a Tough Life

Sand dunes are constantly being reshaped by the wind that formed them. In addition to being a beautiful and ever-changing landscape, dunes are an important and unique habitat for wildlife.

The anchor that allows this ecosystem to exist is marram grass, a tough grass with special adaptations that allow it to survive in this hard environment. It is able to grow up through the sand as it accumulates and spreads mainly by a system of underground runners called rhizomes. The roots and rhizomes of this plant form a living net, which helps to slow the movement of sand.

When a dune is stabalized, other species of plants, such as bayberry and wild rose, may begin to grow there.

From the Sign

Grey Dunes

These dunes are far enough inland that sand accumulates and erodes more slowly. The less wind-blown environment allows plants unsuited to growth in shifting sands to survive. This stability allows large mats of lichens to grow which, in turn, help to further stabalize the dune. As it takes a long time for lichens to become established, their presence is an indication of a more stable dune. However, this special plant community is fragile and very susceptible to damage from trampling.

Grey Dunes

From the Sign

Life in the Shallows

This freshwater pond manages a fragile existence. It is at risk of being flooded by salt water during the highest tides, it often goes nearly dry during the summer and it is surrounded by migrating dunes. Bowley Pond and others of its type are an important habitat for many species of plants and animals. The extensive area of cattails on this side of the boardwalk is an excellent place for American bitterns, red-winged blackbirds, and other birds to live.

Bowley Pond is shallow, sandy and becomes very warm in summer. While these conditions make it difficult for fish to live here, they provide good habitat for rare plants such as waterwort.

A Forest Community

From the Sign

A Special Place

Greenwich is home to some rare dune formations. The massive, crescent-shaped dune before you is known as a "parabolic dune" because of its half-bowl shape.

Another uncommon aspect of the Greenwich dunes, Gegenwalle, or counter-ridges, can also be viewed from here. Counter-ridges are long, vegetated ridges occasionally found in the path that a parabolic dune as travelled. Some of the more rare plants found at Greenwich grow in the the wet dune slacks that occur between these ridges.

These very sensitive features are among the reasons why this area was added to Prince Edward Island National Park. To ensure their protection, please appreciate these dunes only from this vantage point.

A Special Place

Trail Last Hiked: July 23, 2017.

Page Last Updated: April 18, 2020.