5 Beautiful Easy Escapes in Maine

You don’t have to scale Katahdin or put in on the Allagash to experience Maine’s dazzling landscape. Thanks to the state’s vast network of land trusts, opportunities for outdoor adventure are everywhere.

5 Beautiful Easy Escapes in Maine
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Though Katie Hatch grew up in Windham, far from Maine’s vast, undeveloped north woods, wilderness excursions always felt within close reach. Tidepooling on secluded beaches, tromping through the forest, and paddling out to islands were routine parts of everyday life. Today, it’s easy for Hatch to get daily doses of solitude in nature, even though she lives in Scarborough, one of Maine’s fastest-growing towns. She has three preserves within a mile of her house, so riding her paddleboard before breakfast, trekking through the woods over lunch, or cross-country skiing from her front door are convenient. “I’m just surrounded by amazingness,” she says.

Hatch has discovered one of Maine’s best-kept secrets: thanks to Maine’s 85 land trusts, which have conserved more than 2.5 million acres, an outdoorsy person doesn’t have to travel far or hit bucket-list destinations to experience the state’s most spectacular natural assets. Hatch has jumped aboard the effort to conserve the coast by joining Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which owns and stewards more than 150 preserves statewide.

“We’re so lucky to have a group like Maine Coast Heritage Trust working to ensure that future generations have access to the outdoors,” Hatch says. “Having so many beautiful places that are so easy to get to is a huge part of what makes Maine so magical.”

To see what she means, check out these easy-to-reach MCHT preserves.

1. Woodward Point, Brunswick

Nestled behind a commercial area in Maine’s most populous town (not city), this 87-acre former hay and cattle farm, on the New Meadows River, is a treasure. A mile-and-a-half network of forested trails loops around the pasture, traces the water’s edge, and offers views of the spruce-studded islands in the bay. There are plenty of rocky ledges along the way to sit and watch egrets and great blue herons fishing for food and clammers digging in the mudflats at low tide. Come winter, volunteer groomers prep routes for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Photograph by Jerry Monkman Photography

Get there: Set your GPS to 225 Woodward Point Road. Park in the designated spaces by the red barn.

2. Frenchboro Preserve, Frenchboro Long Island

If you’re craving an island getaway but want to be back on the mainland by bedtime, Frenchboro Long Island is an ideal day trip. A 50-minute ferry ride from Mount Desert Island, the 1,159-acre preserve has 13.5 miles of trails that wind along ocean bluffs, over granite outcroppings, and through spruce forests, with plenty of good opportunities to admire the MDI skyline. Bring binoculars: the island is a nesting site for bald eagles and a hot spot for seabirds and songbirds taking refuge on their migratory journeys.

Photograph by Chris Bennett Photography

Get there: The Maine State Ferry Service offers same-day round-trip service from Bass Harbor. Check the schedule at maine.gov/mdot/ferry.

These preserves and many more are part of Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s effort to conserve Maine’s coast. MCHT has permanently protected more than 172,000 acres, including 335 islands and more than 100 miles of trails statewide.

3. Milbridge Commons Wellness Park, Milbridge

This 4.6-acre preserve provides a lush oasis in the heart of downtown. A quarter-mile crushed-stone path skirts pastures and offers sweeping panoramas of Narraguagus Bay, and the children’s garden and play structure beckon families. Check out the tidy rows of vegetables, herbs, and fl owers; they’re part of the organic, pick-your-own garden run by the nonprofit Women for Healthy Rural Living. MCHT partnered with the organization to buy this property seven years ago, and it’s been a community hub ever since.

Photograph courtesy of Women For Healthy Rural Living

Get there: Set your GPS to 83 Main Street. The preserve is on Route 1, across from the Milbridge Historical Society.

4. Witherle Woods, Castine

Just steps from Castine’s picturesque downtown, this 193-acre preserve offers a woodland walk with a spectacular view. Nearly seven miles of former carriage roads wend through stands of balsam fir and ash and past former batteries and lookouts used by troops during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The trails ascend gently to Blockhouse Point, which overlooks Penobscot Bay, Islesboro, and the distant Camden Hills. Trails are groomed for cross-country skiing in winter.

Photograph by Jerry Monkman Photography

Get there: From Route 1, take Route 166 south to Castine, then veer right onto Battle Avenue and continue to a small parking area.

5. Long Point Preserve, Machiasport

Long Point has a bit of everything: three miles of trails that meander through woods and meadows, quiet beaches and ocean vistas, and interpretive panels that explain the area’s rich history as an ancestral homeland of the Passamaquoddy people and the site of the Revolutionary War’s first naval battle. This 180-acre preserve’s figure-eight trail has spur paths leading to clam flats, cobble beaches, and exquisite lookouts taking in outer Machias Bay. Head out to the preserve’s namesake point at dawn for knockout sunrise views.

Photograph courtesy of MCHT

Get there: From East Machias, follow Route 1 east and turn right onto Willow Street. Continue to Route 191 and turn right, then turn right on East Side Road and continue to the parking lot.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust logo

Thinking of moving to Maine? Or planning your next visit?
Check out Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s list of preserves to find a place to explore off the beaten path.