Hiking in Maine: A Hiker Guide to Great Island Adventures Along the Maine Coast


The geographic expanse of Maine’s coastline stretches approximately 230 miles from Kittery to Lubec, as the crow flies, but up to an incredible 3,500 miles when every nook and 2,400 islands are depicted along the Gulf of Maine between New Hampshire and New Brunswick, Canada. Most of Maine’s islands are remote and uninhabited, but many are accessible by public and private ferries, bridges, and roadways.

Take a tour offshore and you will be transported back to ‘island time’, where the pace of life seems slower and more relaxed, perfect for a few hours of recreation and leisure. So pack your backpack in warm, weatherproof clothing, slip on your hiking boots, and grab a camera for a special adventure on one of Maine’s idyllic islands, rich in scenic beauty and colorful history. Here are a handful of great hiking trails worth exploring this summer and fall.

LONG ISLAND

Sailing aboard M / V Captain Henry Lee, the journey from Bass Harbor to Long Island takes 45 minutes, 8 miles to the south. Also known as Frenchboro, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust has protected most of the island, over 1,000 acres in all. A spectacular 13 km trail circles the Daring Coast to Bluff Head, Rich’s Head and Yellow Head. Take the Friday ferry to spend a full nine hours on the island and enjoy every amazing step.

MONHEGAN ISLAND

Ten miles off Port Clyde will seem much further as you step off the Monhegan Boat Lines ferry at the dock and step back in time in the quaint little village of galleries, shops and restaurants. Head to Lobster Cove and the Cliff Trail, which winds along the rugged backside of Monhegan to Gull Rock, White Head, and Black Head. Save time to explore the beautiful Monhegan Museum and have a beer in the “Trap Room” of the Monhegan Brewery.

Rock hop and beach walk along East Bay in The Nature Conservancy’s Great Wass Island Preserve. Photo by Carey Kish

GREAT WASS ISLAND

Cross the bridge over Moosabec Reach from Jonesport to Beals and you are off to a great adventure at Great Wass Island Preserve, a 1,576 acre piece of wild oceanfront land owned by The Nature Conservancy. Combine the Little Cape Point Trail and the Mud Hole Trail for a 4 1/2 mile circuit that will leave you feeling sick to the hike. The section between Little Cape Point and Mud Hole is a trailless run like few others along the Maine coast.

ISLAND AT THE TOP

From mid-June to the end of September, Isle au Haut Boat Services – aka “the Mailboat” – departing from Stonington will drop you off at Duck Harbor, at the southwest end of Isle au Haut. Some 2,700 acres of the island are part of Acadia National Park, and it’s a great place to sample some of the 18 miles of otherworldly trails. Stroll together the trails of Western Head, Cliff, Goat and Duck Harbor Mountain for a magnificent tour of the beach, cliffs and ledges.

DEER ISLAND

The arched Deer Isle ridge on Eggemoggin Reach is the gateway to a hiking boon courtesy of the Island Heritage Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the State of Maine. Stop at the Little Deer Isle Visitor Center and pick up a copy of the IHT’s Guide to Hiking Trails and Public Access for an overview of the seven reserves and 15 miles of trails scattered across the Isle. Tennis Preserve, the largest, has 3 miles of trails.

The Cranberry Cove Ferry leads to adventures on Great Cranberry Island. Photo by Carey Kish

GREAT CRANBERRY ISLAND

It’s only 3 miles from Southwest Harbor to Great Cranberry Island via the Cranberry Cove ferry, but it’s enough to really separate you from the hubbub of Mount Desert Island. Follow Cranberry Road to Cranberry House, where a nice walking path leads to Whistler’s Cove. Enjoy magnificent views of the MDI Mountains as you stroll a few miles further along the main road to the Cranberry Shores Preserve and its stunning pink granite boulders.

SEARS ISLAND

Sears Island, at the head of Penobscot Bay just off Searsport, was the site of many industrial projects proposed in the second half of the 20th century. By the 1990s, however, all of those plans had been thwarted and the 935-acre island was purchased for conservation by the state of Maine. A pedestrian-only causeway leads to the undeveloped island, where you’ll find a number of short trails, an old gravel main road, and miles of walkable shoreline to explore.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Hikes along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish


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