Map shows trails in Washington County, including Cobscook Shores Waterfront Parks.
Cobscook Shores officially opened in 2021, the vision of wealthy conservationist Gilbert Butler, whose charity bought and protected a string of parcels on the shores of Cobscook Bay to turn into public parks. Lubec is a great base from which to explore these amazing places. In total, the parks protect about 500 acres and 13.5 miles of coastline, according to Down East.
I’ve read that the organization invested between $11 million and $12 million (which seems low!) into developing trail networks on the properties, adding informative kiosks and building parking areas and timber-frame pavilions. (Each pavilion is screened in to keep out bugs, and is outfitted with a table and four chairs, plus a couple of brooms.) Picnic tables dot the trails, often placed in scenic, private spots.
We found that checking out the parks by foot over three days was a wonderful experience. (Cobscook Shores recommends visitors bicycle from preserve to preserve along the quiet, narrow roads of the peninsulas. Or paddle!) Each park—small or large—was well maintained, with easy-to-follow trails and incredible views throughout of the intricate system of inlets, coves, and islands that make up the ecologically important Cobscook Bay. Cobscook Shores calls the bay one of the most beautiful and pristine marine ecosystems on earth.
The size of the preserves range from quite small, with just a half-mile or less of walking paths, to comparatively large ones that offer up to five miles of walking. Each preserve has a parking area with at least three spaces for cars (but often more), port-o-lets at the trailhead, and trailhead kiosks that include explanations of the history or natural history of the land.
Yet, while the preserves are all outfitted with the same amenities, each offers something unique, and we encountered surprises at many of them — noisy seals, a shy river otter, birds, rocky beaches, wildflower-filled meadows, and almost no other people. Might that change one day? Perhaps.
While all of the trails are easy to follow, we didn’t see any blazes, which makes sense since the preserves are only open May to October, before it gets snowy. The rules are clear: the parks are open from dawn to dusk (except for Red Point Nature Preserve, which is open 9 am to 5 pm). No camping, except in the very nice five first-come-first-served sites at Huckins Beach. But you can’t kindle a campfire here, or anywhere else. No RVs in the parking lots, no motorboats at the boat launches, dogs are okay except at Red Point, and you have to clean up after them since dog waste can cause clam flat closures. No other pets allowed. While picnicking is encouraged, all waste has to be carried out, and if you see trash, please pick it up even if it’s someone else’s!
Finally, the trail system is very accessible. Many of the parks have wheelchair friendly dirt roads or paths. To figure out where you might be able to pass some wheels, look for the bicycle symbols on the parkland maps — these connote gravel paths and dirt roads.
Old Point Farm —Wide, accessible trails weave around open fields and down to the waterfront.
Black Duck Cove — As of 2022, a delightful 2.5-mile trail follows the shore of Klondike Cove, bringing you to a pavilion on a bluff and a rocky outcrop, which happens to be a good spot for seal sighting.
Pike Lands Cove — An old arboretum, an old apple orchard, two gravelly beaches, tidal lagoon, and a nice trail system add up to a nice place to explore.
Red Point Nature Preserve — Wheelchair-accessible trails bring you through open meadows and to footpaths that make their way down rugged fingers of land to quiet spots along the bay.
Mays Brook — A short path meanders down through a cedar forest to the grassy banks of South Bay.
South Bay Narrows —Walk a forest path or a smooth old woods road to the shores of South Bay.
Huckins Beach and Morrison Cove — Huckins Beach includes a shoreline trail and access to Young Point’s Beach.
Denbow Bluffs — A short trail system takes you to a small inlet and a little bluff overlooking Straight Bay
Morong Cove — Check out the view from a high bluff at this small preserve, which offers a 1-mile trail.
Island Coves — Cobscook Shores is setting up a registration system for visits to this preserve, which is situated at the tip of a peninsula and has fields and a beautiful rocky headland.
Whiting Bay Beach — A short trail system allows you to check out two stony beaches.
Race Point — One of the Cobscook Shores preserves with a longer trail system, the paths take you through fields and to many spots along the shore with great views, including of the reversing falls.
Reynold’s Brook — You can walk the gravel road to a couple of very short footpaths that bring you to quiet spots along Orange Lake or Reynold’s Brook.