Calais Waterfront Walkway, Calais

On a hot summer day, walking the 1.4 miles of the waterfront waterway may offer a bit of respite if a breeze is wafting off the river. But regardless of the weather, I imagine this wheelchair-accessible, gravel-packed path is always peaceful and mostly quiet, save for the sound of the flowing Saint Croix River.

The best place to pick it up is at the small park at the end of North Street. Here there is a public parking area, with two EV chargers! If starting here, I recommend you walk the northern section between this park and Todd Street, where the path ends, rather than the other half, which brings you by the wastewater treatment plant and ends at Barker Street.

If you’re leaving from the small public park, the northern half of the trail first leads you through a grassy area, with benches on your right and stately brick buildings on your left. You continue under a bridge and through the chill of a gully formed by two high stone walls. The trail continues through a ravine for a bit before coming out at another grassy spot by the river.

At Todd Street the trail ends, but a dirt ATV track runs for a while before petering out to a footpath, which brings you shortly to the working railroad.

Directions: Follow North Street all the way to the river, where there is a small green area and parking lot (with two electric vehicle chargers!).

Alexander Art Trail, Alexander

(My map is more squiggly than usual because of all the times I stopped to look at figures.)

This is a fun/odd spot to visit, filled with heavy wooden figures with expressive faces that are manifested from fairy tales, myths, and fertile imaginations!

The trail is short and wheelchair accessible; it consists of a gravel path with sculptures lining either side and tucked into the forest. One of the more striking pieces, I thought, was a small blocky figurine of a wood chopper set behind glass in one of the cases. There were also two haunting driftwood figures guarding one of the two entrances, like wraithlike sentries.

In all, there are more than two dozen “life-size, hand-carved figures,” according to the website. The trail was created by the Paegles of Barrows Lake, who were inspired to create the outdoor gallery after coming upon similar sites of fantastical sculptures in their European travels and being inspired by the totem poles of Alaskan natives.

Some of the work is created by locals, some of it is imported by Lithuanian artists, according to online sources.

The owners ask for a small donation, $2 or so.

Directions:The trail is half an hour west of Calais, on dirt roads off of Route 9. From Route 9, turn onto Davis Road. Turn right on Crawford Road at the Pleasant Lake Camping Area, then stay left on Barrows Lake Road. At the T intersection, turn right. The sculpture park will be on your left. There is a space for one car at the first entrance, but if you continue a short ways, you’ll find more parking in front of a red barn called the Boathouse Studio (the studio is flanked by two fecund women sculptures!).

Red Point Nature Preserve, Lubec

Red Point Nature Preserve, right off Route 1 on the way to Lubec, is probably the most popular of the Cobscook Shores parks based on the number of parking spaces (25, at least). It is a wonderful place to wander, and includes wheelchair accessible roads and paths that meander through meadows and to scenic spots along the ecologically important Cobscook Bay. Unlike other Cobscook Shores properties, however, it does not allow dogs (but it does encourage bird watching!).

Some of the non-wheelchair accessible footpaths bring you to the rugged ends of small peninsulas. Little Point and Red Point Island are only accessible when the tide is low. So, if the timing is right, you can walk over the revealed mudflats on a series of flat stepping stones. The trail system beyond, around the island and out to Little Point, is exceedingly pretty but does include some steep sections. There are picnic tables at some of the perches with the most beautiful views. The mileage for this walk, starting from the trail head, is approximately 2.5 miles.

You can also stick to the gravel road (0.8 miles one way) and explore Red Point, which includes a grassy open field and screened-in pavilion with a view to the west, as well as a series of picnicking spots that hint of this area’s former past: an old campground! The private picnic tables are located in clearings at the end of short, wide lanes.

You can refill your water bottle at the water station, too, near the end of Red Point and close to this bountiful picnicking area.

Directions: From the intersection of Routes 191 and 189, Red Point’s large parking area and kiosk will be on the left in approximately 1.6 miles. It’s 500 feet beyond Case Drive, and if you’re coming from the west, and about 1.3 miles on the right after you pass Simpkins Lane.

Old Farm Point Shorefront Park, Lubec

Of all the Cobscook Shore properties, Old Farm Point and Reynolds Point appear to be the most popular with visitors. And it’s obvious why!

Old Farm Point includes accessible mown and gravel paths that circle around a large hay field, bringing you to a grassy, rolling fields (the terrain here seems perfect for kids who are into rolling down hills). The trails included places to sit and take in the view of ducks in Johnson Bay and the houses that dot the ridge-line of Lubec town. Stairs bring you down to the small cove.

Like all the Cobscook Shores properties, this one includes lots of information about the park on its trailhead kiosk, well-tended trails, a delightful timber-frame pavilion with screens, benches, picnic tables, and many views.

I won’t be able to adequately describe the colors visible in the fields at the start of the walk, especially if you happen to come when the sun is low. The meadow with its abundant grasses and wildflowers, was a tapestry of purples, oranges, greens, browns and yellows when we visited. Probably only a painter could portray it accurately! A camera has a harder time.

Directions: The parking area and trailhead kiosk are 0.3 miles on the right after turning off Route 189 onto North Lubec Road.

South Bay Narrows, Lubec

You can do an 0.5-mile loop here through forest and along South Bay. Or just walk the accessible old woods road 0.1 miles to the timber-frame pavilion and enjoy the scene within its protected screens.

South Bay Narrows is one of the Cobscook Shores properties.

Directions: When Lead Mines Road takes a sharp left bend, look for the parking area and trailhead kiosk. It’s about 1.3 miles from the intersection of Lead Mines Road and Straight Bay Road.

Whiting Bay Beach, Trescott Township

One of the Cobscook Shores parks in Downeast Maine, Whiting Bay Beach offers easy trails to the shore as well as a screened-in pavilion with a table and four chairs.

Two short trails bring you to beautiful spots by the bay. The short spur to the right, close to the trailhead kiosk, brings you via some bog bridges to a stony beach with minty-green sea blite and sea lavender poking through the rocks. We nibbled on the salty, chewy blite and washed it down with bunchberries.

You can also explore the 0.5-mile loop around the peninsula to access a protected cove where you might be tempted to swim in the (frigid) ocean water. You can also access this cove via a short wheelchair-accessible gravel road that connects to the parking area.

Directions: The narrow dirt road leading to the preserve is off Crows Neck Road, prominently marked with a blue Cobscook Shores sign. The turn onto Place Cove Road is about 4 miles on the left after you turn off Route 189 onto Crows Neck Road.

Race Point, Trescott Township

One of the many Cobscook Shores preserve that dot this part of Downeast, Race Point offers the hallmarks of this park network — screened-in picnicking pavilions, well-made trails, and amazing views of the intricate and ecologically important Cobscook Bay. Additionally, parts of the trail system here are wheelchair accessible, another common feature of the Cobscook Shore parks.

Race Point is a great place to check out the dramatic reversing falls in the bay. The “racing tides,” as Cobscook Shores describes them (and warns about trying to paddle them), produce a steady roar as a sonic backdrop for your walk.

The trails bring you along the shore and through mown fields. You can extend your walk by doing a 0.8-mile loop around the adjacent Race Point peninsula, a Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife tract. I recommend this to check out the beauty of Straight Bay and Gooseberry Island.

We also did the short (0.35 miles) spur to Mowe’s Mountain to check out the modest view of Dennny’s Bay.

Directions: Race Point is at the end of Crows Neck Road. When the pavement ends, continue straight on a narrow lane. You’ll pass a home on the left. The first parking lot is 0.3 miles from the intersection with Porcupine Lane. Additionally, it looks like you may be able to park at a second parking area if you keep driving along the road, at a turnaround near a gate.

Reynold’s Brook, Whiting

One of the many Cobscook Shores preserves in this part of the state, Reynolds Brook offers either a gentle 1-mile walk along a gravel road to two short paths to the waterfront, or just a quick jaunt to the shore and a boat launch. It appears some people drive the road to park closer to the water. We left our car at the far end of the preserve, close to Route 1 and walked the length of the road for a quiet evening stroll.

Like other Cobscook Shores properties, there are amenities near the river and brook — port-o-lets, a picnic table, a dock at the boat launch.

What we really wanted to do, and will do one day, is paddle along Reynolds Brook (there is an easy-access boat launch nearby off Route 1) to the Estey Mountain trail on land protected by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy. (The brook and river open up to paddlers after July 1, to protect nesting waterfowl.)

Directions: The turn into the preserve is off Route 1, and marked with a large blue Cobscook Shores sign. It is about 750 feet north of Hilltop Lane, and about 2.7 miles south from the intersection of Route 1 and Route 189.

Cupsuptic Lake Trail, Rangeley

We found this nature trail to be pretty and quiet, despite it being adjacent to the busy Cupsuptic Lake Campground. If you’re not staying at the campground, you’re discouraged to walk through it to make a loop (obviously not a problem if you’re a camper).

Even if you’re not a guest, there’s plenty of space to park and you are welcome to check out the trail. The footpath winds through forest and wetland, with lots of bog bridges. When you get closer to the campground and to the lake, you’ll come to a wooden viewing platform. The platform is connected to the campground via a short wheelchair-accessible trail.

Directions: Take a sharp right on Route 16 at the north-west point of Rangeley Lake. If you miss it and go straight, you’ll enter Oquossoc Village in two seconds. From this intersection, travel about 4.5 miles on Route 16 and you’ll see a sign saying “500 feet to Cupsuptic Lake Park and Campground.” When you reach its driveway, turn left into the campground and make another left in front of the main office and store. Drive to the far end of the parking area. You’ll see an opening at the southeast end of the lot (the far righthand corner if you’re facing away from the campground store). Walk through this and along the edge of the field, and you’ll soon see the trail and a trail sign on your right.

Steep Falls Village Preserve, Standish

This is a gorgeous spot and a great place to listen to insects and birds on a languid summer day! The 25 acres abut 4,000 acres protected in the Steep Falls Wildlife Management Area and offer short, flat trails on sandy terrain for pleasant strolls and wildlife watching. There is even a natural sand pit for children to play in.

While the wide, mowed trails through the meadow are easy to follow and inviting, we found the trail to the wetland a bit overgrown when we visited. We plowed through the tall grasses anyway, and we are glad we did, since the view over the wetland is pretty. You might even see turtles.

The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, which protects the land, explains that the site was a working lumberyard from the late 1800s to 1980. “What you see today is the result of 40 years of regenerated meadow and forest.” You’ll find trees in the forested section of the preserve that are somewhat uncommon, including red pine, black locust, and a “survivor elm” near the trailhead. One currently barren section of the preserve was once the staging area for the logging operation, but left untouched, the sawdust- and bark-covered ground will eventually transform into a meadow.

Directions: A parking lot for five or six cars and the trailhead are at the end of Mill Street, which is off of Route 113 in Standish.

Schooner Head Path, Acadia National Park

For a trail that hews closely to a road (Schooner Head Road), Schooner Head Path is pretty nice. For one, it is wheelchair accessible (although parts do get a bit narrow). It’s packed gravel and flat. Depending on where you start, at Jackson Lab’s driveway, off Schooner Head Road, or at its technical start near Dorr Point, it’s roughly 2 to 2.5 miles one way.

For most of the way, you walk through a deciduous forest, until you get to the intersection of the Precipice Trail. At that point, the landscape changes as you pass a wetland. Continue on the path and, after passing another marshy area, you’ll make a bend inland at the only point the trail strays a bit from the road.

Not for long, though! After a short time in the woods, the path crosses Schooner Head Road before ending at the Schooner Head overlook and parking lot. From the lot, you can do a short and steep walk down to the sea along a fairly decayed path of old pavement. The path first comes out on a bluff overlooking the sea before continuing to the raggedy rocky shore.

One fun thing to do as you walk along Schooner Path is to explore an unmarked trail that makes a small oceanside detour. You’ll see it across the road, if you’re walking north-to-south, at roughly 0.7 miles from Jackson Lab’s driveway. A small pullout big enough for one car marks the start of the trail. It is mostly easy, except for a little scramble to an amazing cliffside view of the rock Thrumcap, smothered by sea birds! The trail also brings you to remnants of an old property and to a cobble beach. The path loops through the woods before re-emerging onto Schooner Head Road, where, again, you’ll see stones from another old foundation.

Schooner Head Path is connected to Compass Harbor Trail. You’ll see the gravel path across the road from the trail’s start near Jackson Lab’s driveway off Schooner Head Road. (This little stretch between Compass Harbor and Schooner Head Road is, I believe, technically still Schooner Head Path.)

Directions: The best place to pick up the Schooner Head Path is to pick it up close to the Jackson Laboratory driveway that comes out onto Schooner Head Road. There’s a big shoulder for several cars. Or, you can park at Schooner Head overlook and walk north along the trail.

Ocean Path, Acadia National Park

While a good part of this 2.2-mile-long gravel path is wheelchair accessible, the most consistently smooth and flat section is the 0.7-mile stretch between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole. After that, short sections are probably passable via wheelchair but there are rocky and uneven moments. The trail is tucked between the sea and Park Loop Road, offering gorgeous views the whole way, as well as many rougher side paths where you can explore the blocky pink granite shore, towering cliffs, and cobblestone beaches.

The southern end, on Otter Point and near Otter Cliff, is a bit wilder, the path a bit more rugged, and there tend to be fewer people around.

You can pick up the path at many points along Park Loop Road, as there are something like nine parking lots between Sand Beach and Otter Point. The path is also accessible year-round since it is on the section of Park Loop Road that is plowed throughout the winter.

When we walked the path recently in late April, lots of walkers had found places by the ocean to sit in silence, chat with a friend, picnic, play guitar, or sketch. The trail also includes the always popular destination, Thunder Hole, where the waves make a loud booming noise as they hit the cavern and splash up.

Directions: You can pick up the trail at Sand Beach, or at multiple places along Park Loop Road for its 2.2-mile length.

Jordan Pond loop, Acadia National Park

There aren’t too many paths in the park that are flat and relatively easy. Jordan Pond loop is one of them! It’s about 3.3 miles around the pond (which you can’t swim in, since it supplies public drinking water), with views of the surrounding hills: Penobscot, Pemetic, and the Bubbles frame the clear water of the pond. But only parts of it, closer to the Jordan Pond House, are wheelchair accessible.

Starting from the Jordan Pond House, you can do the loop in either direction. The east side of the pond has an epic boardwalk! It must be at least half a mile long or longer, with periodic wider parts where you can step aside to let others by. There is a section of the trail on this side that is a touch hairier than the rest, where you’re making your way around fallen boulders, before you round the tip of the pond and return down the west side on a wide, flat path.

Directions: You can access the Jordan Pond House and its trails all year round, since the park plows the entry road to the pond. AMC’s Maine Mountain Guide discourages hikers trying to park right at the Jordan Pond House in the midst of tourist season, and instead to take the Island Explorer bus.

Great Meadow Loop, Jesup and Hemlock Paths, Acadia National Park

These easy trails—much of which are wheelchair accessible—offer a beautiful stroll near town and under the peaks of Dorr and Kebo Mountains. Specifically, the park rates the 1.5-mile Jesup and Hemlock loop as universally accessible.

These pathways include a few novel attractions: birch-lined trails with views of the hills, a long boardwalk through a “boggy white birch forest,” the amazing Wild Gardens of Acadia (where I found a matsutake mushroom years ago), and the octagonal Abbe Museum dedicated to Wabanaki culture.

You can extend your walk here (when can you not in this park that seems to have no bounds!) to take in the gorgeous views at The Tarn, or to summit nearby Dorr, Cadillac, or Champlain Mountains.

Directions: You can park in a small lot at the corner of Kebo Valley Golf Course on Cromwell Harbor Road and walk around the course to the trail system. I noticed some people also park along Kebo Street (in the wintertime. Not sure what the summer policy is). In the summertime, you can park close to the Nature Center or Abbe Museum off the Park Look Road. Or take the bus!

Shore Path, Mount Desert Island

The Shore Path is a flat gravel path between the town and the edge of sea—much of it wheelchair accessible. Built in the 1870s, it mostly traverses private land and is maintained by the Village Improvement Association and the landowners. Views of the Narrows and nearby islands are beautiful throughout the year and in any weather, I suspect. A few benches have been set up along the way, and the path passes a couple of town parks.

Directions: Parking for the path is available at the town pier and at Grant Park.

Little Long Pond Natural Lands (and Eliot Mountain), Mount Desert Island

(My map is incomplete. 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 below it on the Charles Savage trail, near a plaque (the Eliot Monument) affixed to a boulder.

There are several other ways to summit Eliot Mountain. I haven’t yet done them, but one that looks fun is to start at the trailhead below Thuya Garden and do a short loop to the summit of around 1.8 miles. And check out the garden along the way if it is open!

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.