Little Ponds Preserve, Harpswell

This 22-acre preserve near Hen Cove has a quarter-mile trail with an overlook of a pretty cattail marsh.

Directions: From Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Rt 24 south for 4.1 miles. Turn left onto Cundy’s Harbor Road. In 3 miles, turn right onto Bethel Point Road. Drive about one mile and look for a parking lot on the right.

Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell

This preserve has two loops making up a 1.6-mile trail system. It appears to me, based on an untrained eye, that the forest here is successional, that is, it’s recovering from harvesting. The trail meanders along Otter Brook for a ways, which is one of the largest freshwater streams in Harpswell. The freshwater stream, marsh, and pond system is rare in the area, according to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, and it was important to preserve it to help keep Ewing Narrows and Harpswell Cove clean for healthy clams and other marine life. Along the trail, you’ll see glimpses of the brook, and there is a viewing spot by the marsh with a bench.

Directions: The parking area is at 429 Harpswell Neck Road. From the intersection of Rt 123 and Bath Road at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, follow Rt 123 south for 6.1 miles. Look for a parking lot on the left.

Houghton Graves Park, Harpswell

This is a teensy walk, but pretty. It starts out through a little field and comes out at a view of Beal’s Cove. There is a place to have a picnic. The preserve is protected by Harpswell Heritage Land Trust.

Directions: Houghton Graves Park is located at 1714 Harpswell Islands Road, Orr’s Island. From Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Rt 24 south for 11.9 miles. The park is on the right, opposite Lowell’s Cove Road. Park by the side of the road and follow the trail between the rail fence and the marsh.

Giant Stairs, Harpswell

This is a stunning, albeit short trail along a particularly dramatic part of Harpswell’s coast. The preserve is named for the Giant Stairs, a geological curiosity. The stairs look like blocks of darker rock, set within the flaky coastal rocks, which descend into the frothy sea. The trail is well marked, and offers easy footing.

Directions: Parking is located at 19 Ocean Street, Bailey Island. From Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Rt 24 south for 14.5 miles, crossing the Cribstone Bridge. Turn left on Washington Ave. Park at the Episcopal Chapel at the intersection of Washington Ave and Ocean St (except during services) or at the four designated spots along Washington Ave.

Widgeon Cove, Harpswell

This preserve offers a .6-mile loop with views over Widgeon Cove and the blue-green water of reedy creeks. The trail, maintained by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, is part of the 88-acre Dunning Farm Conservation Easement.

Directions: From the intersection of Mountain Road and Harpswell Neck Road (Route 123), head south on Harpswell Neck Road for .9 miles. The Widgeon Cove parking lot is on the left.

Curtis Farm Preserve, Harpswell

Update: I re-walked this path again in the summer of 2017. It is a really great preserve. Perhaps the nicest part is the pebble beach on Curtis Cove. The path, which is well marked and easy to follow, swings around a large, open field (with bird houses) and heads down, through a forest, to Basin Cove and to Curtis Cove, for a total almost 2,000 feet of shoreline. You can park either on Route 123, at the meadow, or on Basin Point Road. You can make a quick detour from the field to visit a huge glacial erratic nicknamed “the pebble.” The preserve belongs to the Harpswell Land Trust.

Directions: Follow Harpswell Neck Road (Route 123) 5 miles south from its intersection with Mountain Road. The parking lot at the field is on the right. For the shore access, follow Harpswell Neck Road south another .2 miles and then turn right on Ash Point Road. Take your first right on Basin Point Road and drive .5 miles to a parking lot on the right.

Long Reach Preserve, Harpswell

View Long Reach Preserve, Harpswell in a larger map

Long Reach Preserve is 95 acres, and according to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, is a classic example of Harpswell’s folded bedrock geology. “Two steep bedrock ridges separated by peat-filled wetlands run north-south along the property. Long Reach itself is another submerged valley that is now tidal mudflats.” There are some nice outlooks onto Long Reach and the cliffs across the water that make up the majestic heights you hike along on the Cliff Trail. And, like many of the walks around here (Cliff and Devil’s Back), some fairly steep ups and downs.

Directions:  From the intersection of Mountain Road and Harpswell Islands Road (Rt. 24), travel north on Harpswell Islands Road for 1.3 miles. The Preserve shares a parking lot with the Trufant-Summerton Ball Field, which will be on your left. The trail head is to the right as you drive into the ball field parking lot.

View Long Reach Preserve, Harpswell in a larger map

Cliff Trail, Harpswell

This is a beloved midcoast walk, taking you up 150-foot open ledges for vast views down Long Reach. There are two loops you can do here, both of which have a few steep sections. At one point early in the walk when you are walking along Strawberry Creek, you’ll see a trail sign pointing off to a cascade overlook. The blazed trail continues for a bit but there doesn’t seem much to see here, so keep to the main paths that take you, eventually, to the cliff overlook. Also, one of the loops deposits you at the transfer station. Walk back to the town hall from here, a short paved path connects the two municipal buildings. The main loop is about 2.3 miles.

Directions: The 2.3 loop starts at the sweetly named Strawberry Creek behind the Harpswell town office at 263 Mountain Rd., between Rt. 24 and Rt. 123. Pick up the trail at the far corner of the parking lot nearest the creek.

View Cliff Walk, Harpswell in a larger map

Pott’s Point Preserve, Harpswell

To reach Pott’s Point, you have to park at the small wharf at the end of Harpswell Neck. You then walk down a private road, past seaside bungalows, to reach the end of the land. There’s no real trail here, but you can walk over the rocks and seaweed, and back along a little path through the brush to make a small loop. The tide pools are big and clear.

Directions: Drive to the southern end of the Harpswell Neck Road (Route 123). Park as best you can along the road, without blocking the pier or Town Landing. Walk along the private Pott’s Point Road to the sand bar that connects the Preserve to Harpswell Neck. You may also walk along the shore below the high tide line.

View Pott’s Point Preserve in a larger map

Stover’s Point Preserve, Harpswell

Sigh. That’s what I did when I discovered this spot, which is managed by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. Here at the tip of Harpswell Neck is a four-acre preserve with a gravelly sand beach, a rushing stream and a salt marsh. Popular with sea birds (and on the day I went, a flock of Canada geese) and views in every direction, this seems like a good place to have lunch, and a swim in season, after exploring some of Harpswell’s other trails.

Directions: From the intersection of Harpswell Neck Road (Route 123) and Mountain Road, drive south on Harpswell Neck Road drive south on Harpswell Neck Road 5.7 miles. Soon after passing the old West Harpswell School, turn left on Stover’s Cove Road. Take your first right on Stover’s Point Road. Veer left. At the sign for Windsor Road, stay straight, don’t turn right here. Follow the road as it curves to the right then take a left on a gravel road. You can park on the side of the road or at the end of the road. Some people drive out onto the sand bar, but that seems like it could do some damage.

View Stover’s Point Preserve in a larger map

Hackett Land Preserve and Minot Easement, Harpswell

This trail offers nothing but woods, which is actually somewhat of a relief after all the majestic vistas of many of the other preserves on this site! The trail departs from the Harpswell Historical Society, where you can park. To start, you must walk along snowmobile tracks for a bit. These seem to go off forever into the distance in either direction, so if you’re aiming for a long walk or ski, these might interest you. Harpswell Heritage Land Trust protects this preserve.  

Directions: From the intersection of Harpswell Neck Road (Route 123) and Mountain Road, follow Harpswell Neck Road south 2 miles. Park at the Harpswell Historical Society building on the left. Cross the road and walk down the private Littlefield Road until you see signs for the trail.

View Hackett Land Preserve and Minot Easement in a larger map

Skolfield Shores Preserve, Harpswell

This is like the twin to Brunswick’s Skolfield Nature Preserve; they’re both located off Route 123, on the right if you’re headed away from Brunswick into Harpswell. This little preserve offers up a short walk with interesting views of Middle Bay Cove, a salt marsh and the historic Merrucoonegan Farm. Early on, you can take a short trail to the shore (off to the left) where you can see the remains of a 20-century boathouse. Harpswell Heritage Land Trust says that “the preserve provides habitat for 40 of the 64 declining species of migratory birds, anadromous fish and federally endangered or threatened species in the Gulf of Maine including, horseshoe crab, northern harrier, short-eared owl, bald eagle, roseate tern, osprey, American black duck, sanderling and meadowlark.” The total network is just about a mile.

(Between the two loops the trail takes a rather steep dip into a little gully. I’m not sure if this part of the path will be rerouted in the future.)

Additionally, you can walk about a quarter of a mile along Rt. 123 (be careful, the cars drive very fast!) to a short there-and-back trail to the cove. There is a little pullover here for cars, but in the winter it is not plowed.

Directions: From the intersection of Mountain Road and Harpswell Neck Road (Rt. 123), head north on Harpswell Neck Road 2.2 miles almost to the Brunswick town line. Turn left onto Skolfield Place and immediately turn into a parking lot on the left. The trail starts on the right side of the kiosk.

View Skolfield Shores Preserve in a larger map

Bowdoin Coastal Studies Center, Orr’s Island

Walk the perimeter of this college-owned land at different times of the day and in different seasons to experience the changing light on the sea. But don’t ignore the center trail in the long peninsula. This red-blazed trail takes you to a bit higher ground, where you have some good views.

This is a remarkable piece of land, owned by Bowdoin College, which maintains a marine lab, large meadow and farmhouse on site (the property is also known as Thalheimer Farm). The network is about 3.6 miles. Dogs must be leashed.

Directions: From the intersection of Mountain Road and Harpswell Islands Road (Rt. 24), follow Harpswell Islands Road south toward Orr’s Island. Approximately 2 miles after crossing onto Orr’s Island from Great Island take a left onto Bayview Road (this turn is easy to miss). The dirt road into the center extends off the end of Bayview.

View Bowdoin Coastal Studies Center in a larger map

Mitchell Field, Harpswell

An unusual, but in its way charming and beautiful town-owned property, Mitchell Field is composed of more than 100 acres of coast, fields, community gardens, paved and unpaved trails, and old navy buildings. On clear days, you can see right across the bay to Mount Washington. The beach seems like a good spot for swimming, and I think this place would be a good place to x-c ski. You can push a wheelchair on the paved portions of the path here.

Directions: The entrance is 6.9 miles south of the Brunswick town line on Route 123 (5.6 miles from town office; look for the blue water tower). The parking area is along the fence just before the fire station. Although the gates may be open, start near the water tower.

View Mitchell Field, Harpswell in a larger map

Devil’s Back Trail, Orr’s Island

To get to this roughly 1.3-mile trail on a wisp of a peninsula, cross the bridge from Great Island to Orr’s Island and continue on Route 24 approximately .2 miles to the parking area on the left. The trail starts across the street from the parking area. It is a really lovely spot, although there is some rough footing at places.

View Devil’s Back, Orr’s Island in a larger map

Wilson’s Cove Trail, Harpswell

This is a wee trail, just 1/2 mile, on private land, maintained by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. But the views are quiet nice. It’s rather impossible to scramble down to the water at the end of the hike — it’s a steep little drop off.

Directions: The trail head is located at the back of a small 2 car parking lot on the west side of the Harpswell Neck Road 9/10’s of a mile south of the Mountain Road.

View Wilson’s Cove, Harpswell in a larger map