Eagle Hill Institute, Steuben

A natural history institute—one that also offers nature-related art workshops and chamber music concerts—really needs to have a rich and wonderful natural setting. And this one does, perched as it is on the top of forested 223-foot Eagle Hill. Its 150 or so acres include blueberry fields, several ledges with views, and a stretch of rocky coast along Dyer Bay. The best view is from Lover’s Leap, looking west. There is just a touch of an ocean view through the gnarled Jack Pines on the Jack Pine Trail.

The public is allowed to walk the institute trails, which narrowly wind through the different habitats on the hill. They are all well marked. I enjoyed the Border Trail the most—it is mossy, dark, and quiet, and the pitch to the sea, while steep, feels not quite as precipitously steep as on Eagle or Bear Trails. The Blueberry Trail is also lovely.

You can pick your way along the rocks on the shore if you hike down one of the institute’s walking routes. (It’s a little under half a mile as the crow flies from the institute to sea.) There is also a faint trail in the woods behind the shoreline between Bear and Eagle Trails that is slightly easier going than walking on the rocks, which can be slippery. At the end of Border Trail, you’ll find an old wooden staircase roped off with a private property sign. It is tempting to use it to get down to the pebbly beach! But if you’re squeamish about breaking social contracts, you can scramble down the bank instead.

If you get a chance, do check out the institute—particularly its large natural history library (which also has a lot of art books) and its chamber music room. Or even better, sign up for one of its many natural history programs or attend one of its community events.

Directions: The address is 59 Eagle Hill Road. From Route 1, turn onto Dyer Bay Road. At a T-intersection after a small bridge turn left onto Mogador Rd. Turn left onto the dirt road Schooner Point Road. After the first hill, turn right onto the dirt Eagle Hill Road. The large Commons Building and smaller office building will be on your right and the first parking lot will be on your left. The easiest way to find the trail system is to continue to the farthest parking lot, which will be on your left. Two of the trails begin from this lot (Border Trail and Orchid Trail). There is also a path between the Commons Building and the office leading to the Leap Trail. The trailhead to the Sunset Trail is back down the road you drove in on.

Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, Steuben

What a glorious place to visit. The Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge is part of a large expanse of protected land containing several preserves and more than 40 islands! This particular part of the refuge, on a peninsula in Steuben, offers two trail systems and “jack pine stands, coastal raised heath peatlands, blueberry barrens, old hayfields, freshwater and saltwater marshes, cedar swamps, granite shores, and cobble beaches,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The two trails are called Hollingsworth Trail and Birch Point Trail. Driving into the refuge, you’ll come to Birch Point first, on your right. The there-and-back walk begins in blueberry fields before entering the forest, leading you along a gentle but rutted track to the end of the point and two scenic areas: Lobster Cove and a cobbled beach. The beach, which you walk along as part of the trail, has a trash can at one end, so if you’re inspired to pick up plastic waste deposited by the tides, I believe you should!

Driving farther along the access road, you’ll come to the next trail system: Hollingsworth. If you only have time to do one, do this one. It’s the more dramatic of the two. It’s also a bit shorter, a 1.8-mile loop. The refuge says it’s tougher going than Birch Point, but that’s only slightly true. The walking is still pretty easy; it’s just not quite as smooth as Birch Point. The path takes you to Chair Pond Head and a lovely cove with a sandy/rocky beach and a pond behind.

Directions: From Route 1, turn south onto Pigeon Hill Road in Steuben. Drive 5.8 miles to reach the Birch Point trailhead on your right. To get to the Hollingsworth parking area, drive another .4 miles to a second parking area on your right. The trail starts across the road.

Pigeon Hill, Steuben

This is a small, 317-foot mountain, with a fairly easy hike up to astonishing views from an open summit. I think the view is especially lovely when you can watch the fog rolling over the bay and islands.

The Downeast Coastal Conservancy recommends you make a loop by hiking up Historic Trail to the Summit Loop Trail and down Silver Mine Trail. There are additional trails here that can lengthen your hike if you’re enjoying the scenery (and the birding!).

Directions: From Route 1, turn left onto Pigeon Hill Road for 4.5 miles. The parking area is across from an old cemetery.

I had a minor mishap with my camera so only have a couple of photos of this beautiful place to share.