5 Can't Miss Hikes Downeast by Johanna S. Billings

5 Can’t Miss Hikes Downeast

One of the most rewarding aspects of hiking Downeast is the chance to get off the beaten path. Downeast hikes offer the same spectacular views as their more well-known counterparts with the bonus being solitude. Here are five great places to explore hiking trails.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

A family makes its way along the Hollingsworth Trail in Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben

Great Wass Island

The Great Wass Island Preserve in Beals offers several hiking trails with some of the best views Downeast. Trails take hikers both through the woods and along the rocky coast.

The Little Cape Point trail (2.2 miles) intersects with the Mud Hole Trail (2.3 miles) at Little Cape Point to make a nice 4.5-mile loop. The terrain is uneven and difficult and hikers should use caution, especially in bad weather.

Start by taking Little Cape Point trail through the woods. You will reach the ocean shortly before arriving at the point, where you pick up the Mud Hole Trail. Mud Hole runs along the shore for about a mile before cutting back through the woods to the trailhead. One of its best features is a view of Moose Peak Lighthouse, which is located across Eastern Bay on Mistake Island.

Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge

The Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge in Steuben offers two trails — Birch Point and Hollingsworth.

The 2.2-mile Birch Point Trail begins in an open blueberry field and takes hikers into the woods. The smooth and wide trail, which is easy for hikers of all ages, provides a number of scenic stops featuring benches and interpretive signs. One of the best views is Lobster Point, where Adirondack chairs in the woods look out over the bay and rocky shore.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

The Trails at Eagle Hill Institute allow hikers direct access to the water.

The 1.5-mile Hollingsworth Trail starts in an open field and takes hikers over a slightly more challenging terrain to a rocky granite beach at Chair Pond where they can enjoy a rest on Adirondack chairs. Explore the beach area, looking for shells, interesting rocks and even old lobster buoys that have washed upon shore. Pigeon Hill Bay and the lighthouse on Petit Manan Island are visible from the trail.

Eagle Hill Institute

Eagle Hill offers a network of six intersecting trails, which range in length and difficulty. Just a 10-minute walk from the main building is a scenic overlook offering views of Gouldsboro Bay, including Schoodic Head and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Other trails take hikers through the woods, through blueberry barrens and along the coast of Dyer Bay.

Few people seem to know about this hidden gem. Hikers will enjoy solitude and the feeling of being alone on a private preserve. Eagle Hill also offers camping and has an on-site restaurant that is open in the summer. The institute also offers a variety of programs year-round, including concerts, workshops, seminars and presentations.

Quoddy Head State Park

Of course, the obvious attraction here is the West Quoddy Head Light, the easternmost lighthouse in the U.S. However, hikers can head off the beaten path right from the lighthouse to a series of trails not usually explored by lighthouse visitors. Most notable is the Coastal Trail which takes visitors along the shore from a high, rocky vantage point. At 4 miles round trip, this is the park’s longest trail. It shows off the cliffs from a wooded vantage point with periodic overlooks where views can be appreciated without obstruction.

5 Can't Miss Downeast Hikes by Johanna S. Billings

A group of seagulls sits on the rocky shore along the Hollingsworth Trail in Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben

The other trails offer the hiker the chance to explore bogs and forests full of mosses and lichens. A variety of birds, from seagulls to bald eagles can also be seen along this and other trails. The park also features spots for picnicking.

Pigeon Hill Preserve

The Pigeon Hill Preserve offers 1.8 miles of trails. Hikers can climb to the summit to see views of the coast and pick blueberries in season. Other trails take hikers to the defunct silver mine.

At 317 feet above sea level, Pigeon Hill is the highest point along the coast in Washington County. The top of Pigeon Hill was used in the original “Eastern Oblique Arc” survey when the US government surveyed the eastern coast of the United States. From the top looking west Mount Desert Island can be seen, to the south Petit Manan Point and lighthouse can be viewed.



Great Wass Island Preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy, features 1,576 acres in Beals, Washington County. Described by its website as the “spectacular gem of Downeast Maine,” it is located off Route 187, accessible from Route 1 in Jonesboro.

Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge does not have its own website, but information on the trails is available on Maine Trailfinder: Birch Point trail  /  Hollingsworth trail.

Eagle Hill Institute is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting natural history and the arts. Information on the hiking trails is accessible here.

Quoddy Head State Park is located four miles off Route 189 in Lubec and features 541 acres of forest and bog. Additional information on trails, including maps and day-use fees, can be accessed online or by calling 207-733-0911. The lighthouse, located adjacent to the park, is run by the West Quoddy Head Lightkeepers Association. The visitor center is open daily from Memorial Day to Oct. 15. For more information, call 207-733-2180 or email info@westquoddy.com.

Pigeon Hill Preserve is located off Pigeon Hill Road, just off Route 1 south of Milbridge. For more information visit downeastcoastalconservancy.org.


Text & Photos: Johanna S. Billings
In addition to being an avid hiker, Johanna is a national award-winning writer and photographer based in Steuben, Washington County. Her website is jsbillingsphoto.com.



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