As deer hunting season gets into full swing in Maine, many people — hunters and non-hunters alike — are looking for places to hike and bike that are off limits to hunting, simply to avoid even the possibility of a mistake or conflict.
Hunters and non-hunters generally are successful at safely sharing the use of properties around the state. The vast majority of hunters in Maine are responsible people who take great care to hunt away from public trails, roadways and dwellings. However, as a hiker, sometimes it’s more comfortable to hike in areas reserved just for this passive recreation activity.
But don’t get me wrong — As a woman who has grown up eating deer meat that my father harvests each fall, I respect the state’s hunting traditions and have directly benefited from these traditions in the kitchen. But I do understand why some folks might prefer to hike in a hunting-free zone.
So I did some digging and realized that there are many public trail networks that are off limits to hunting. Below I’ve listed a few for you, but it’s far from a complete list. There are many additional Maine trails where hunting is prohibited, and that information can often be found online or by calling the organization — such as a land trust — that manages the trail.
That being said, even though the following list of places is off limits to hunting, it’s still important to wear plenty of blaze orange this time of year when spending time outdoors. A small percentage of the population don’t follow the rules, or they don’t make it their business to know them in the first place. Why not be as safe as possible? Wear orange. Be visible.
While most of the trails owned and maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust are open to hunting, the land trust’s 328-acre Fernald’s Neck Preserve is not. Occupying much of a peninsula that juts out into Megunticook Lake, the preserve is home to an old evergreen forest, nearly 4 miles of shoreline, The Great Bog and about 3.5 miles of intersecting walking trails. Dogs are not permitted. For directions and more information, click here.
Donated to the State of Maine in 1971 by a local resident named Anita Harris, the park covers 1,230 acres and features about 7.5 miles of marked hiking trails that visit a variety of habitats, including old fields, a pond, an estuary and saltwater marsh, the mossy evergreen forest covering Backwoods Mountain, a beaver flowage, and rocky beaches on the Penobscot Bay. The park also features a number of old family cemeteries, old foundations and impressive stone walls that remain from people who used to live and farm on the land. Dog are permitted on leash.
Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park is one of Maine’s 48 State Parks and Historic Sites. Some of these sites are open to hunting, some are not. According to the state website, hunting is not permitted at any time at State Historic Sites of Memorials, or at any of the following state-owned properties: Andrews Beach State Park; that portion of Bradbury Mountain State Park west of State Route 9; Cobscook Bay State Park; Crescent Beach and Kettle Cove State Parks; Damariscotta Lake State Park; Ferry Beach State Park; Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park; Mackworth Island; Nickerson Lake State Park; Owls Head Light State Park; that portion of Quoddy Head State Park within 1,000 feet of the lighthouse; Reid State Park; Sebago Lake State Park; Shackford Head State Park; Two Lights State Park; and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park.
For directions and more information about Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park, click here.
A narrow strip of forestland on Hancock Point, the preserve was conserved by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy for public recreation. A 0.5-mile walking path, marked with blue painted blazes, winds through the 18-acre property, spanning from a cobble beach to Hancock Point Road. The preserve is named after a salt pond that is located at one end of the trail, separated from the ocean by a cobble beach littered with rocks, seashells, driftwood and seaweed. While most of Frenchman Bay Conservancy properties are open to hunting, this small preserve is not. Hunting is also prohibited at FBC’s Simon Trail in Lamoine. Dogs are permitted at both preserves if on leash. For directions and more information, click here.
Also known as the Bangor City Forest, this 680-acre forest is owned by the city of Bangor and features more than four miles of access roads and more than nine miles of trails for running, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Hunting is prohibited throughout the entire forest, and it’s also prohibited in the adjacent Walden-Parke Preserve, owned by the Bangor Land Trust. Walden-Parke Preserve is about 300 acres in size and features more than 3 miles of trails. Dogs are permitted on leash. For directions and more information, click here.
Owned and maintained by the Bangor Land Trust, the 80.5-acre preserve is closed to hunting and features about two miles of intersecting trails, as well as a self-guided nature tour. Dogs are permitted if on leash. For directions and more information, click here.
Fields Pond Audubon Center is a 212-acre wildlife sanctuary with about 5 miles of intersecting trails that wind through fields, wetlands and forestland, and along the shore of the 85-acre Fields Pond. The property also features the L. Robert Rolde Nature Center, which is a small museum and gift shop open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Hunting is not permitted, and dogs are not permitted. For directions and more information, click here.
Hunting is not permitted anywhere within Maine’s sole national park on Mount Desert Island, opening up a lot of great hiking options for people who prefer to hike outside of hunting territory. Easy hikes in Acadia include (but aren’t limited to) Jordan Pond Path, Wonderland Trail, Ship Harbor Trail and the park’s many carriage roads. And challenging trails include the many trails up Cadillac Mountain, Dorr Mountain, Pemetic Mountain, Penobscot Mountain, including Jordan Cliffs Trail, and Champlain Mountain, including the famous Precipice Trail. Moderately challenging hikes include trails exploring The Bubbles, Beech Mountain, Flying Mountain, Beehive, Great Head and Acadia Mountain. Dogs are permitted on most trails in Acadia if kept on leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. There are a few trails that include steep slopes, rungs and ladders in the park that are off limits to dogs. For more trails in Acadia, click here.
Currently in the national monument, hunting is not permitted on lands west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, and this is where some hiking and biking opportunities are located, including the hike up Barnard Mountain (to a stunning view of Katahdin), the hike or bike ride into the scenic Orin Falls, and the hike or bike ride into Haskell Pitch and Grand Pitch. For more information about KWW adventures, click here.
Hunting is prohibited in most of Baxter State Park. However, certain types of hunting are permitted a northern section of the park — specifically north of Trout Brook and Wadleigh Brook in T6 R9; in T6 R10; and in T2 R9 and in T2 R10 north of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, east to the thread of Abol Stream and west to the thread of the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Most trails in the park are on the property that is off limits to hunting, including the trails the climb Katahdin, The Brothers, South Turner Mountain, The Travelers, Trout Brook Mountain, Horse Mountain, The Owl, Mount Coe, Mount OJI and the trails that circle the park’s many pristine ponds, including Daicey Pond and Kidney Pond. Dogs are not permitted anywhere in the park. For more hiking ideas in Baxter, click here.