The trees are budding and birds are returning from their sojourn in the south. In Maine, it’s a great time to get outside and enjoy nature as it springs to life once again.
Spring hiking can be tricky, with the mud and blackflies, which inevitably make their appearance around Memorial Day. But it can also be exciting and refreshing to get outside and search for Maine’s early blooms after a long winter.
I always enjoy exploring trails near the coast in the spring because, in general, the snow melts away there first. It often less muddy on the rocky coast, and the wind coming off the water tends to drive away the blackflies. Also — during this time of year, the landscape can look bleak because there are so many trees bare of leaves, but on the ocean, I always find beautiful scenery. And lastly, while many birds have yet to Maine in early spring, there’s usually an opportunity to see some wildlife if you’re by the ocean, no matter what time of year. Just look off shore and I bet you’ll find loons, gulls and a variety of sea ducks.
Just one word of caution: Watch out for ticks, which are most common along the coast and in southern Maine but can be found throughout the state. Check yourself and your pets for ticks after each hike with your hands and eyes. Wash your clothes when you get home and take a shower (ticks don’t like water). Then conduct another tick check later in the evening. To learn more about ticks and how to deal with them, click here.
The following are a few of my favorite coastal Maine hikes to enjoy this spring:
Description: Located in the Petit Manan Point Division of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the Hollingsworth Trail travels through a variety of habitats, including a blueberry field and a fragile cedar swamp, before reaching cobblestone beaches and rocky outlooks on the ocean. The trail was named for writer and photographer John Walker Hollingsworth, Jr. (1942-1995), who with his wife, Karen, devoted a decade to photographing more than 400 national wildlife refuges in support of wildlife conservation. The entire hike, out and back, is 1.8 miles.
Pets: Permitted if kept on leash (no longer than 10 feet)
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/08/11/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-hollingsworth-trail-in-steuben/
Description: Tracing the rocky coast of Mount Desert Island, this 1.4-mile loop trail offers stunning views of Frenchman Bay and nearby islands as it leads to the highest point of Great Head, a cliff that rises 145 feet above sea level. The trail also visits Sand Beach, one of Acadia National Park’s most popular destinations, as well as the ruins of an old tea house that used to stand by the shore. Beware that this trail is rocky and uneven.
Fee: All park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Admission varies from $12 for a bicyclist or pedestrian to $25 for a vehicle. The pass is valid for 7 days.
Pets: Permitted if kept on leash (no longer than 6 feet)
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2014/01/14/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-great-head-trail-in-acadia-national-park/
Description: This 145-acre preserve contains a network of about 3.5 miles of walking trails that travel through a shaded, mossy forest, over hills and along steep slopes, to the rocky coast, which it follows to a number of small beaches. Trails also lead to an old family cemetery and the foundations of two farms and homesteads.
Pets: Permitted if kept on leash.
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/09/15/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-edgar-m-tennis-preserve-in-deer-isle/
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Description: At the head of the Penobscot Bay, Sears Island is 2 miles long and 1 mile wide, with approximately 5 miles of shoreline. Closed to motorized vehicles, the 936-acre island features public trails that explore the island’s sandy and rocky beaches, rugged cliffs, mixed woodland, wetlands and streams. The trails vary in ruggedness and length. For example, the narrow 0.67-mile Homestead Trail travels over rough forest floor, while the 1.5-mile Jetty Road is mostly paved.
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2013/04/02/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-sears-island-searsport/
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Description: Named after the last family to farm the property in 1940, Curtis Farm Preserve is owned and maintained by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, which purchased the bulk of the property in 2011 with donations from more than 160 contributors. The trail network on the property is made up of 1.25 miles of trails that travel over mowed grass, forest floor and narrow bog bridges. A trail travels around the perimeter of the 6-acre Williams Field, where nesting boxes and underbrush attracts a variety of birds. At the edge of the field, a short side trail leads to a glacial erratic (a boulder left by a receding glacier) that is called “The Pebble. A trail also leads to a rocky beach on Curtis Cove.
Pets: Dogs are permitted, but they must be on leash during bird nesting season: April 15-July 31. Dogs must be under voice control the rest of the year.
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/06/09/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-curtis-farm-preserve-in-harpswell/
Description: Just minutes from the downtown Freeport, this state park features 4.5 miles of intersecting walking paths that lead visitors through a variety of habitats to the rocky coast on Casco Bay and the mouth of the Harraseeket River. Ten colorful interpretive signs located along the trails help visitors learn more about the surrounding environment and local wildlife. One of the most popular trails is the 0.5-mile Casco Bay Trail, which traces the coast to viewpoints of islands such as Eagle, Googins and Cousin. Side trails provide access to rocky beaches, where herons are often found wading in the shallows of the bay.
Fee: $4 for adult Maine residents; $6 for adult non-residents; $2 for senior non-residents; $1 for children ages 5-11; free for children younger than 5 years old and seniors Maine residents.
Pets: Permitted if kept on leash (no longer than 4 feet)
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2013/10/15/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-wolfes-neck-woods-state-park-in-freeport/
Description: Named in honor of a local fisherman who died in 2002, this 130-acre preserve covers Ripley Neck, as well as three small nearby islands. Owned and maintained by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the preserve features a narrow, worn footpath that winds through a beautiful mossy forest, under trees more than 100 years old, over hills and across a brook, to the rocky coast. After about 0.7 mile, the trail splits into a 1-mile loop with a 0.1-mile side trail. This makes for a 2.6-mile hike, out and back.
Pets: Permitted but must be kept under control
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/07/28/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-frank-e-woodworth-preserve-in-harrington/
Description: The 117-acre park features a long sandy beach, a mixed forest, Long Pond and a boardwalk through a tupelo swamp, a rare habitat in Maine. Connecting all of these natural features is a network of easy forest trails that totals about 1.5 mile of walking. Interpretive signs located along the trails help visitors learn more about the history and wide variety of habitats found on the property.
Fee: Admission varies from free to $6 depending on a visitor’s residency and age.
Pets: Permitted on the trails but must be kept on leashes not exceeding 4 feet in length. Dogs are not permitted on the beach from May 1 through Sept. 30.
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/12/09/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-ferry-beach-state-park-in-saco/
Description: The Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area is a private conservation area that was created in 1978 through a partnership of the St. John family and Bates College. Located in Phippsburg, the 600-acre property lies on the coast between the banks of Sprague River and Morse River, and extends to the edge of Seawall Beach. The walk on the property is about 2 miles, one way, and travels to the summit of Morse Mountain — just under 180 feet above sea level — then down to the beautiful, sandy Seawall Beach. The entire walk is on an old road that is closed off to public traffic (barred by a locked gate) but used by property owners on Morse Mountain. Keep an eye out for the endangered piping plover, a small bird that nests in the sand dunes at the edges of the beach. Give them plenty of room, and keep in mind that they lay their eggs on the ground!
Dogs: Not permitted.
Find detailed directions, as well as photos, a video and more information about the trail here: http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/05/12/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-morse-mountain-and-seawall-beach-phippsburg/