Stepping across stones, over toads, around delicate wildflowers and wooden staircases leads a curious wanderer down to Maine’s Bold Coast. After following a forested path, and traversing a cedar swamp, hikers emerge from woods and find themselves atop lofty cliffs with a sweeping view of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the state’s easternmost corner, Cutler Coast Public Land comprises 12,234 acres of woodland, blueberry barrens and peatbogs and dramatic coastline. Belonging to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, the Cutler preserve offers visitors and Mainers diverse experiences from a 3.8-mile trail skirting the ocean to paths crossing peatbogs to all-terrain-vehicle touring inland. Five campsites are available in the Coastal Section. The journey getting there is well worth it.
From the Hancock County city of Ellsworth, Cutler Coast Public Land is an 80-mile drive via U.S. Route 1 to the Washington County town of Cutler. In the town of East Machias, visitors take Route 191 and drive 20 miles to reach the Cutler Coast Public Land Trailhead and parking area. On the way to Cutler, visitors will pass through many scenic towns and see sights and restaurants to stop at on their return trip. Arriving at the trailhead, backpackers can check the trail log and see if any campsites are available.
Cutler Coast Public Land offers five trails varying in length and terrain. In the Coastal Section, the five campsites are a 2- to 5-mile hike from the trailhead. These designated sites are tucked under the cover of trees on the rocky shoreline. Before setting out from the trailhead, hikers or campers are encouraged to sign in as a safety precaution in case of emergency. Explorers should walk in and out with everything they need, such as contained cook stoves, and leave no trace behind them.
Each trail system is manageable for experienced trekkers, but the paths also can be broken up into long or shorter walks. The trails are well built and marked. Sturdy boardwalks seem seamlessly laid out through lush forests of waist-high ferns. At times, detour signs may be posted due to maintenance.
In the Coastal Section, boardwalks wind through a moss-carpeted forest. Eventually, the landscape opens up and hikers emerge onto rocky headlands. Waves crash against the cliffs and circulate in jagged pools. The sea water is a surprising turquoise hue. Colorful stripes, too, surface in the granite bedrock. The shore path takes people up and over bluffs and across down cobblestone beaches. Binoculars are useful to spot terns and other seabirds diving for fish. In early summer and fall, seals, porpoises and even the occasional whale can be spotted offshore.
Overlooking Black Point Cove, the designated campsite is marked by an old fisherman’s buoy hanging in a tree. Each has its own privy. Following a trail of buoys will lead you right to a perfect tent spot. Black Point also serves as a turning point. You can either camp or hang a right for the Black Point Brook Cutoff that connects to the inland trail and leads back to the trailhead and parking lot. From Black Point, one also can continue along the shore path to Long Point and Fairy Head campsites.
While not quite as dramatic as the Bold Coast’s headlands, the Inland Trail offers marvels of its own. These grassland barrens support rich bird life including bobolinks and field sparrows, golden crowned kinglets, tiny birds with yellow “crowns” and six kinds of owls. The flora is diverse, too, with low-lying bunchberry that bears white flowers in early summer and produces bright red berries by August. Flowering shrubs such as purple rhodora, old and twisting river birches and forests of spruce and fir trees.
Whether you go for an a.m. hike or camp overnight, Cutler Coast Public Land offers experiences for all ages and level of outdoorsmanship. You don’t need to be a mountain climber to see for yourself Maine’s unspoiled Bold Coast.
Returning from Cutler, you won’t want to leave, but fresh lobster, ice cream and other treats and sights abound for visitors heading back along U.S. Route 1.
To plan an excursion, visit Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry website at www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/ and search Cutler Coast Public Lands.
For more info, call (207) 287-3821 or (207) 941-4412.