5 Under-the-Radar Maine Preserves to Hike This Summer

As summer peaks, trailheads can get crowded at some of Maine’s more heralded outdoor havens. Not at these five unspoiled, under-the-radar preserves.

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In a typical year, nearly 29 million tourists pour into Maine. And if you’re hunting for a parking space, a campsite, or even just a little shoulder room on the trail at a state park in August, you feel it. Happily, you don’t have to fight the crowds to enjoy Vacationland. Thanks to more than 80 land trusts, Maine has thousands of spectacular outdoor playgrounds worth exploring that get only a fraction as much traffic as state parks, even during prime vacation time. Thanks to those land trusts, they are free and will remain open to the public forever.

Check out these hidden gems, which have been protected by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the one land trust working along Maine’s entire coast.

Monroe Island, Owls Head

Photo by Ken Woisard

With its rocky shoreline and thick swath of evergreen forest, 225-acre Monroe Island offers a wilderness excursion relatively close to the mainland. The variety of ecosystems — forests, beaches, and ragged cliffs — provides habitat for an array of wildlife, including deer, otters, salamanders, and seabirds. Come ashore on the western end of the island, where six sandy beaches surround a seasonal dock and ramp. Hike the one-and-a-half-mile trail that winds through forests and past freshwater ponds and stay overnight at one of two campsites, which operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Getting there: At high tide, launch from Owls Head Harbor, at the end of Main Street, near Ship to Shore Lobster Company. It’s a half-mile paddle. No time to wait for the tides? It’s a four-mile paddle from the public boat launch on Mechanic Street in Rockland.

Frenchboro Preserve, Frenchboro Long Island

Photo by Sara Gray

A 50-minute ferry ride from Mount Desert Island, Frenchboro Long Island offers much of the same scenery that makes Acadia so popular but without all the visitors. This 1,159-acre preserve has 13.5 miles of trails. Beginning near Lunt Harbor, the trail network meanders through woods and past ocean bluffs and secluded beaches, and it offers options for easy-going outings as well as hardcore adventures. Bring binoculars, since the far-off island is a hot spot for seabirds and migrating songbirds, which love the rocky ledges and spruce forests. Before you catch the return ferry, visit Lunt’s Dockside Deli for lobster and pie and tour the village, where 65 year-round residents take pride in their museum, library, and one-room schoolhouse.

Getting there: The Maine State Ferry offers limited same-day round-trip service from Bass Harbor. Click here to see the schedule.

Win a Free, Private Guided Kayak Tour of MCHT’s Monroe Island Preserve

Visit mcht.org/downeast for more details and enter to win this special experience that includes a paddle to the island, a hike along the epic trails, and a picnic on the beach. An unforgettable day with friends and family!

Erickson Fields, Rockport

Photo by Dian Arjoon

Just minutes from Camden and Rockland, this former dairy farm is the ideal spot for a mellow family-friendly hike. A wide, level, one-and-a-half-mile trail wraps around vegetable gardens before heading through sprawling meadows and a spruce-fir forest. Now in the works: a mile-long connector trail to neighboring Beech Hill Preserve, which includes more than two miles of slightly more rugged trails. After your hike, check out the four acres of vegetable gardens at Erickson Fields, where local teens and volunteers are growing food for local schools, restaurants, and food pantries. Each season, the crews harvest more than 20,000 pounds of fresh produce, and the teens learn about sustainable agriculture.

Getting there: Set your GPS to 164 West Street. It’s just west of the junction of Route 1 and Route 90.

Woodward Point, Brunswick

Photo by Ken Woisard

Tucked in a residential area behind bustling Cooks Corner, Woodward Point is an oasis with more than 80 acres of rolling pastures and wooded trails that skirt the New Meadows River. Its two miles of shoreline offer plenty of quiet spaces to picnic or watch seabirds diving for dinner or clammers digging in the mudflats. Bring your binoculars, as you’re likely to spot bobolinks, bald eagles, and great blue herons. In the winter, Woodward Point provides a fun spot for jaunts on snowshoes and cross-country skis.

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

Long Point Preserve, Machiasport

At this 180-acre preserve, about nine miles from downtown Machiasport, a three-mile wooded trail skirts the perimeter of the rugged peninsula and traverses salt marshes and cobble beaches, offering some of the area’s most exquisite views. From the namesake point on the preserve’s eastern edge, take in a panorama of the islands of outer Machias Bay and watch for seals, bald eagles, ospreys, and shorebirds. Interpretive panels outline the history of the region, a significant part of the ancestral homeland of the Passamaquoddy and the site of the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War.

Getting there: From East Machias, follow Route 1 east and turn right onto Willow Street. Continue to Route 191 and turn right. Proceed to East Side Road, turn right, and continue until you reach the parking lot.

These preserves and many more are part of Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s sweeping effort to conserve Maine’s coast and make it available to the public for free. MCHT has permanently protected more than 155,000 acres, from Kittery to Eastport, including 329 islands, and 150 preserves, with nearly 100 miles of trails.

For more than 50 years, the trust has worked to increase public access to the coast, protect wildlife habitat, and make sure there will always be open, undeveloped places that make the Pine Tree State so magical. As Maine faces new pressures from development and climate change, never has that work been more important.