QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: ~1,000 acres
- Trail Mileage: many miles of path and roads
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: moderate
- Sights: Eliot Mountain's slight views, pretty streams, meadows, gardens
Marked footpaths in blue. Gravel carriage roads in green. Mostly unmarked footpaths (they have a few signs) in orange.)
Along with the 456-foot Eliot Mountain, the interesting Land and Garden Preserve protects 1,400 acres of historic natural lands, gardens, and trails between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The two main parcels in the preserve are Little Long Ponds Natural Lands and Hunters Cliff Natural Lands. They were gifted by David Rockefeller, Sr., in 2015.
The network of trails around Little Long Pond connects seamlessly to Acadia’s trails, allowing you to extend a mountain hike with a preamble and/or finale along bucolic streams, flower-filled meadows (in the right season!) and quiet forests. The protected area includes clear streams, 17 acres of meadows, marshlands and bogs, gardens and terraces, and red-stone carriage roads (where bikes are not allowed).
Perhaps the most popular trails in the preserve are the flat, easy carriage roads on the east side of Little Long Pond. They bring you along the edge of the pond and of open meadows; the birding is wonderful in the spring. There are several places where you—or your dog—can jump in for a swim. Dogs are allowed off leash here, making this one of the “most beautiful dog parks in the world,” as one local put it.
There are several places to park and access the preserve, depending on which part you want to walk in. If you are interested in walking on the carriage roads through the fields east of Little Long Pond, you can park at the gate off Route 3 where there’s room for about a dozen cars. If this lot is full, you can park at the other trailheads off Route 3 farther down the road.
Most of the foot trails in the preserve, with the exception of the ones that go up Eliot Mountain, are fairly flat and relatively easy. According to my calculations—which could be dubious—there are around nine miles of walking paths in the preserve, not counting carriage roads. The carriage roads are all wheelchair accessible.
Eliot Mountain: Harbor Brook trailhead, off Route 3, is a good place to start the 1.2-mile hike up Eliot Mountain, which includes 0.7 miles along a flat path following the brook. The 0.5-mile ascent to the summit requires steady exertion but is not too steep. While I saw no views at the official summit, I did catch a nice view just south of it near a plaque (the Eliot Monument) affixed to a boulder.
Additionally, the trails below Thuya Gardens are amazing! They are beautifully built, with artful stonework, stone staircases, blocky, picturesque picnic shelters with views of Northeast Harbor, and a stone patio. They make it fun and interesting to climb up the rather steep bank from Route 3 to the amazing Thuya Garden. Additionally, there is a paved walkway leading from Route 3 down to a boat landing and dock — another nice place to watch the harbor. There is a small parking lot on Route 3 close to the trailhead and dock.
Recommendations: The carriage roads around Little Long Pond and the Jordan Stream Trail. It’s hard to find a more bucolic spot—with trails more amenable to strolling—than the open meadows around the pond, which is a nice place to skate in the winter and swim in the summer. Also, some of the pools along Jordan Stream look like they could offer refreshing dips.
**In addition to the trails on the map, we discovered old but not abandoned footpaths summiting the small Barr Hill and Redfield Hill on the east side of Little Long Pond. I’ve marked these in orange on my map. Neither Barr or Redfield Hill have views, but close to the summit of Barr Hill is an open area called The Ledge, with a view west of trees (too foggy on the day I visited for me to say much more!) and a stone bench.
One of these off-the-beaten path trails is called the Seaside Path, a gravel-packed trail that initially parallels a carriage road before continuing farther south and ending at Seaside Lane. It is, for long stretches, wheelchair accessible, but has some root intrusions. It looked to be the most official of the trails, but like the others, is not on the official map, or wasn’t in the spring of 2022. You can pick it up at the parking lot off Stanley Brook Road.
Directions: You can park at several places to access the trail system. The largest lot I found was west of Pierce Head, at the trail head to Harbor Brook Trail, off Route 3. You can also park on the shoulder of Route 3 to access the Eliot Mountain Trail, or in a small roundabout to access the Friends Path. There’s room for about a dozen cars outside the gates to the delightful carriage roads and meadows right around Little Long Pond, where Route 3 curves around Bracy Cove. Parking for about eight cars is available at the top of Stanley Brook Road, where the street intersects with the Park Loop Road.