Grimes Park, Vinalhaven

Grimes Park is a tiny park with short trails and great views of the cove and harbor. You can explore the park and have a picnic while you wait for the ferry.

Directions: The park is at the far end of the ferry terminal parking lot, where West Main Street bends into Sand Road.

Starboard Rock Sanctuary, Vinalhaven

I love the way Vinalhaven Land Trust introduces this preserve on its pamphlet: “Welcome to one of the most dramatic promontories on the Maine coast!” That is no exaggeration. This place, with its sweeping views down the harbor and over to Acadia, is extraordinary. I wish I had been able to watch a sunrise or sunset here.

You can’t bring dogs, and you also have to park at a small lot just under 1 mile from the trail up to the rock. If the lot is full—and I think it can only squeeze in about three cars—you’re not allowed to park along the road shoulders.

After walking 0.3 miles on Young Road, look for the small footpath on the right. It’ll bring you out onto Starboard Road. Look for the painted blazes on telephone poles, and eventually on trees to stay on the right route. You’ll pass a couple more houses before reaching the footpath on your right. At this point, you’ll scramble up a steepish path alongside looming mossy boulders to the big, open clifftop with pitch pine forest and what the trust calls crowberry-bayberry and goose-tongue open headland. There’s a short loop, 0.2 miles, at the top.

Directions: From the ferry, go left on Sands Road for 0.4 miles, turn right on Old Harbor Road for 0.3 miles, bear slightly left onto North Haven Road for 1.9 miles, then bear left onto Calderwood Neck Road for 3.7 miles. This road will turn to dirt and become Young Road after making a hairpin turn. Keep going straight, bearing right in a quarter mile or so. At this point, the road can get a bit rough. Look for the small lot and kiosk on your right.

Eleanor Campbell Preserve, Vinalhaven

The quiet cobble beach on Polly Cove is surprisingly beautiful and big, at low tide at least! The path from the designated parking area down to the beach is steep, though. If you’re not sure you can walk it, the Vinalhaven Land Trust suggests you park in the small pullout at the foot of the hill on Zeke’s Point Road, in front of The Bathing Pool, and walk the flat 200-yard path across the preserve to the cove.

Meanwhile, if you are a confident walker, you can continue your walk by heading uphill from Polly Cove to a high point with views through trees, many draped with Old Man’s Beard. You can hear the sea below. Once you’re back on Zeke’s Point Road, you can check out The Bathing Pool, a dammed pool where “rusticators” once swam.

Directions: From the ferry, go left on Sands Road or 0.4 miles, right on Old Harbor Road in 0.3 miles, then bear left on North Haven Road for 1.9 miles, and bear right onto Calderwood Neck Road. After crossing the one-way bridge, in one mile you’ll take a left onto the dirt Zeke’s Point Road. The small parking area for the preserve is on the right in 0.8 miles.

Lower Mill River Preserve, Vinalhaven

The Vinalhaven Land Trust has helped protected about 108 acres of land in this area, a region that encompasses the Round Pond Trail, Fish Hook and Overlook Trails, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Carrying Place Bridge Preserve.

Close to the start of the mostly forested Round Pond Trail is an overlook, with a nice view over Round Pond (you can’t swim here). You can hike through the mossy forest, and across some lichen-covered bedrock, to reach the rest of the preserve trails.

If you start your hike at the Fish Hook and Overlook trailheads, you’ll head steeply downhill from the small parking area to reach the trailhead kiosk. If you go right, you’ll head over to Fish Hook Trail which brings you around a pretty headland with views. If you go left, you can explore the big trail system that brings you to views along Mill River and through the woods to connect to Round Pond Trail.

Directions: From the ferry, go left on Sands Road for 0.4 miles, right on Old Harbor Roa for 0.3 miles, then bear left onto North Haven Road for 2.5 miles when you reach the intersection with Calderwood Neck Road. For the trailhead on Round Pond, go left and look for the small parking area on the right in 0.2 miles. If you want to explore the other parts of the preserve first, go right and look for the gravel lot on the left in 0.6 miles. Another largish preserve will be on the right in 0.2 miles, at Carrying Place Bridge Preserve right before the bridge.

Perry Creek Conservation Area, Vinalhaven

Perry Creek Conservation Area trails in blue; Middle Mountain trails in red

The largest contiguous protected area on the island, the 600-acre Perry Creek Conservation Area encompasses the A. W. Smith and North Perry Creek preserves, as well as connects to Middle Mountain park across a street.

So there’s lots to explore here. Some highlights include Fox Rocks, and the highest point on Vinalhaven, at 215 feet, and an intricate network of small coves and tidal creeks. We also saw one of the huge invasive slugs along the North Shore Trail, eating a mushroom. If you see one, you’re asked to report it to bugwatch@maine.gov.

All the trails are well maintained and blazed, but the Ridge Trail loop trail seems slightly less used, and requires some scrambling up steep, rocky sections.

Directions: From the ferry terminal, go left on Sands Road for 0.4 miles, right on Old Harbor Road for 0.3 miles, then bear left onto North Haven Road for 5 miles. Middle Mountain Town Park and the conservation area share a parking area on the left. If you want to start your walk at North Perry Creek, continue up North Haven Road for another two miles, and the parking area will be on the right.

Middle Mountain Town Park, Vinalhaven

Middle Mountain trails in red; Perry Creek Conservation Area trails in blue

I believe this 75-acre park is probably beautiful to visit no matter the weather or time of year. I hiked during a rainy, foggy morning, and the landscape was still atmospheric—probably helped by the bright fall reds. I didn’t see any views, but I think, based on the Vinalhaven Land Trust photos, that you can see quite a far ways from the summit, all the way to North Haven and the mainland.

The summit is 0.5 miles from the parking area if you hike counter-clockwise. (Note: Along the way, I made a wrong turn, following a clear trail to Middle Mountain Road. I left this in my map to show where it is so people can avoid it.)

On the south side of the preserve, there’s a small spur to a view of Long Cove, where you are asked not to linger or make noise. The next section of trail, between Long Cove and Middle Mountain Trail, is steep. If you’d like to avoid that, just hike out to the summit and back on Middle Mountain Trail. It is short but great.

Directions: From the ferry terminal, go left on Sands Road for 0.4 miles, right on Old Harbor Road for 0.3 miles, bear slightly left onto North Haven Road for 5.3 miles, and you’ll see the parking area and trailhead on the left.

Marcuse Wetlands Preserve, Vinalhaven

The ferns had slipped from bright green to light yellow, mint, and chestnut brown on a recent autumn day. The Vinalhaven Land Trust explains that the wetland forest here has grown over a filled-in peat bog, and the peat is deeper than six feet. There’s wet patches along the trail and lots of bog bridges. You can see faint remains of an old homestead in the woods, as well with rusting farm equipment lying near the path.

Directions: (From the land trust) From the ferry terminal, go left on Sands Road for 0.4 miles, right on Old Harbor Road for 0.3 miles, then bear left onto North Haven Road for 2.5 miles. Bear left at the intersection with Calderwood Neck Road, staying on North Haven Road for another 1.8 miles. Parking for the Marcuse Wetland Preserve is on the left.

Whitmore Pond Sanctuary, Vinalhaven

Up the road from Tip Toe Mountain, you can check out the small Whitmore Pond Sanctuary and its reversing falls.

There’s room for one or two cars at the pullout by the trailhead, or you can park farther down the road at Tip Toe Mountain Preserve. Dogs aren’t allowed here.

Directions: (From the land trust) Turn left from the ferry terminal, go 0.4 miles, then right onto Old Harbor Road for 0.3 miles. Bear left onto North Haven Road for 6.4 miles, take a left onto Tip Toe Mountain Road (gravel). Drive about 0.75 miles down the road and look for a small parking area on the left.

Tip Toe Mountain Preserve, Vinalhaven

This is my friend’s favorite Vinalhaven Land Trust preserve. It definitely has the best name! There are three little tip toe summits within the 40-acre preserve: Little, Middle, and Big Toes. There are views from each one. Conveniently, the most dramatic peak is right by the parking area. A little path allows you to scramble up a big rock mass to fabulous views over Crockett Cove in mere seconds.

But if you’re here to hike, head over to the trail system, which offers both high points with views and a beautiful shoreline. Middle Tip Toe offers several outlooks from a craggy ridge trail (with some high cliffs, so be careful). Big Toe involves scrambling up a rock for views.

Vinalhaven Land Trust says the Middle loop is half a mile; the big loop trail is 0.6 miles. When the tide is in, crossing the stone dam might be challenging.

Directions: (From the land trust) Turn left from the ferry terminal, go 0.4 mi., then right on Old Harbor Rd. for 0.3 miles. Bear left onto North Haven Road for about 6.5 miles to where Tip Toe Mountain Road (gravel) will be a left turn. Drive about 1.2 miles down this road; the gravel parking lot at the base of Little Tip Toe Mountain Town Park will be on your left.

Armbrust Hill Town Park, Vinalhaven

This lovely 30-acre hilltop preserve will appeal to children. It has old quarry blocks and rock ledges for scrambling on, the cute Trolley Pond (a byproduct of quarrying) underneath a 50-foot rock cliff, and a playground with a fast slide, merry-go-round, swings and more.

And for adults, the 1.1 miles of trails affords pretty views of the harbor. Locals once used an old tower on the hill’s 110-foot summit to watch out for German U-boats and other enemy ships during WWII. In the summer, the preserve evidently abounds with rhododendrons, mountain laurels and azaleas, leftovers from a 1960s effort to turn the hill into a botanical garden and bird sanctuary. There are maps at many of the intersections.

Directions: The town of Vinalhaven discourages people from parking at the four trailheads. There is a public parking lot in town across from the grocery story. From downtown take a right onto Water Street which merges and becomes Atlantic Avenue. Walk another 100 yards to the entrance for Armbrust Hill Town Park on the left. There is also a trailhead behind the medical center, which will quickly take you to the playground and Trolley Pond.

The Basin Preserve trails, Vinalhaven

Map shows four trail systems in the Basin Preserve: Granite Island trail is blue; Wharf Quarry Road trail is red; Folly Pond trail is green; and Platform trail is yellow.

At Vinalhaven’s Basin Preserve, you have a choice of several trails, exploring different parts of the beautiful 789-acre protected area. The Basin itself is a 360-acre tidal bay. All together there’s about six miles of trails in the network.

Ralph and Peggy Williams Preserve trail (off Wharf Quarry Road): My map showed the loop to be 1.8 miles, which includes a couple of nice spots on the shore, accessible via short side paths. (This number doesn’t include the .3-mile access road, which some will be able to drive.) If you do the trail loop clockwise, you’ll come to a fantastically high and open rocky area close to the end of your walk. The trail first takes you underneath the cliff to its northern end, but then it turns right, and after a short scramble up, you’ll come out onto open ledge spotted with pitch pine, where you can look down on the area you just came from and see the bay between the treetops. Directions: Wharf Quarry Road, which is about three miles from town, can be very rough, so drive carefully with a high-clearance car. (Google maps doesn’t seem to know where Wharf Quarry Road is.) After reaching the road, turn left and go 3/10 of a mile where you’ll see a place to park and the trail to the left. A goat farm on Wharf Quarry Road asks you to keep your dog on a leash.

Watershed Trail (off Folly Pond Road): A 1.5-mile trail takes you through forest, including Maritime Spruce-Fir, to a high pitch-pine woodland on rock ledge, and back again. (When we visited, the private access road continuing on straight ahead was well trampled, making us wonder whether the views at the end were a local attraction?) Directions: Turn onto Folly Pond Road and go .3 miles. The kiosk will be on your left when the road bends to the right and turns into a driveway. Continue straight up the rough track ahead for 500 feet until it splits. Bear left and follow an old woods road until you reach the footpath, and the start of the loop. This point is .4 miles from the trailhead. The footpath will head uphill to your right, and is marked with a sign.

Granite Island Trail Loop: Perhaps this is the most popular of the four trails in the Basin Preserve? It seemed to have the most foot traffic. Two short loops include spots to enjoy views of The Basin. It’s just .3 miles from the parking lot to the shore, and there are roughly 1.2 mile of trails in the network. When we visited, we saw at least nine or ten juvenile bald eagles hanging out, seemingly together, with a few more mature ones nearby. Directions: Take Old Harbor Road out of town for 2.25 miles to the parking area on the right.

Platform Loop Trail: This trail is the longest of the four, with a roughly 2.1-mile loop. It includes diverse habitat and a platform with a view through trees of the basin, recommended at sunset. A .4-mile side trail takes you to a .3-mile loop to views of Old Harbor Pond and a sweet stream and little waterfall. Directions: Take Old Harbor Road out of town and look for the trailhead on your right in 1.5 miles. There is a small pullover area lined with rocks where you can leave your car.

(Side note: As a West Bath resident who lives close to another magnificent Basin Preserve in Phippsburg, I am beginning to think people should perk up at the mention of a basin in the context of walking trails.)

Isle Au Haut Mountain Town Park, Vinalhaven

Hm, after visiting this town park, I’m left a bit confused by the experience. First off, we found it difficult to find since there are no signs for the park until you are basically on the summit. At this point, there is one arrow directing you to bear right to the open ledge and views (possibly put up by the neighbors?). The neighbors really don’t want park goers or four-wheelers on their land, and have put up a few stay-away signs. Finally, the walk to the island is along a rough road that seems very popular with off-road vehicles and isn’t that nice to walk.

That being said, the 17-acre park on the hilltop is kind of cool, consisting of open granite ledges, pitch pine, and distant sea views.

Directions: The town recommends you park at Lawson’s Quarry on North Haven Road, just north of Isle Au Haut Mountain Road. Once you’re on Isle Au Haut Mountain Road, walk half a mile up it to reach the park. When you pass what Google says is Sandy’s Way (I believe it was called Round the Bend Road in real life?), you’ll see a wide road leading off to the right. Walk on by. Continue straight up Isle Au Haut Road as it narrows to a rough track and leads into the woods. Keep going straight until you emerge onto more open ledge. You should see a rough wooden sign with an arrow pointing right to the town park. When you get to an open area with a picnic table, you’ve arrived, and can explore this interesting spot.

Huber Preserve, Vinalhaven

A .7-mile trail takes you to a delightful half-mile loop along the shores of the protected and largely undeveloped Seal Bay.

Directions: From Vinalhaven’s town center, follow the North Haven Road north 2 miles. Turn right onto Round The Island Road and continue 1.5 miles to a small parking area on the left. If you go around a sharp bend, you’ve gone a bit too far.

Arey’s Neck Woods and Geary’s Beach, Vinalhaven

At this protected public area, you can walk .2 miles along Geary’s Beach and out onto Arey’s Neck—a beautiful, fragile spot with one picnic table with stunning views. I visited when the tides were low, and I could walk out to the neck to complete its .2-mile loop. A few of the short trails there had been closed to help vegetation recover from erosion.

Directions: From the ferry terminal, take a right onto Main Street and continue on East Main Street for 2.6 miles until you come to the junction with Round the Island Road. Stay right here, onto Poole’s Hill Road, and take the next right onto State Beach Road. Continue down the road, bearing left at an intersection to reach the beach parking area. 

Lane’s Island Preserve, Vinalhaven

I haven’t yet explored the whole of Vinalhaven, but this 45-acre preserve on a small island bluff is exceptionally beautiful! After leaving the parking area, the trail quickly come out on a bright open area, with picnic tables and views of a protected cove. From here, you can venture off on a walk around the island tip. On my visit, the trails were not blazed and there were no posted maps on the preserve. But the trails are obvious and easy to follow.

We started off by heading out along the rounded bend of the beach to access the perimeter loop trail, which is roughly one mile long. This trail rounds the bluff, with spectacular views the whole way. Or, you can make your way more directly and quickly to the far seaside by crossing the interior paths through the shrubland. These are less rocky and easier to navigate, although they do have a few minor ups and downs. There is a small cemetery in the heart of the preserve, as well, with a monument to the man, Captain Lane, for whom the island is named.

You can read a bit more about The Nature Conservancy preserve on its Maine website.

Directions: Lane’s Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Drive down Lane’s Island Road and take your second left down a narrow lane that dead ends at the trailhead.