1-minute hike: Schoodic Head in Winter Harbor

Difficulty: Moderate. The four trails leading to the top of the 440-foot Schoodic Head travel over rough and steep terrain in some places, but for the most part, they’re climb gradually. Sections of the trail may be soggy (or icy) during certain times of year. The longest trail, Anvil Trail, is 1.1 miles.

schoodichead1How to get there: From where Main Street meets Route 186 in Winter Harbor, drive east on Route 186 (also labeled Main Street or Birch Street on maps), toward Prospect Harbor. Drive about 0.5 mile and turn right at the Acadia National Park sign onto the one-way park road, which will lead you across a bridge and along the edge of Schoodic Peninsula. About 4.5 miles down the park road, you’ll meet an intersection that directs you left to Winter Harbor or right to Schoodic Education and Research Center; veer left. Continue on the one-way road 0.5 mile then turn right into Blueberry Hill parking area. Two trailheads (Alder Trail and Anvil Trail) are across the park road from this parking area.

schoodichead2Information: Schoodic Head rises 440 feet above sea level on the Schoodic Peninsula, which contains the only portion of Acadia National Park on the mainland. Four connecting hiking trails and a narrow gravel road travels to the top of Schoodic Head.

Visitors enter the park on a one-way road that travels along the edge of the peninsula for about 6 miles. Along the road, there are several overlooks (with places to pull over), as well as Blueberry Hill Parking Area, where visitors park if planning to hike the trails.

schoodichead3Directly across the park road from Blueberry Hill parking area is the trailhead to Alder Trail. You can start your hike on that trail or, you can turn right after leaving the parking area and walk a short distance along the park road (going the same direction as traffic) until you reach the Anvil Trailhead. Both trailheads are marked with cedar post signs.

When I hiked Schoodic Head on March 16, I started at the Anvil Trailhead.

The Anvil Trail (1.1 mile long) climbs to the top of Schoodic Head gradually, through a mature evergreen forest, scattered with birch trees and boulders. You’ll leave the shade of the forest behind when the trail comes out onto Schoodic Head’s granite ridge, where you’ll be surrounded by stunted jack pines — a sight that may remind you of the many mountains on the nearby Mount Desert Island.

schoodichead6The trail continues through the pines to a cedar post sign that reads “Overlook.” Turn left and walk down the side trail to reach a ledge that offers a stunning view of the impressive ridge of Champlain Mountain on MDI, and directly behind it, the slightly taller Cadillac Mountain.

Can you see Petit Manan Light?

Can you see Petit Manan Light?

The Anvil Trail continues to travel through the stunted jack pines, marked in some places by cairns (rock piles). The ocean can often be seen over the top of the trees, and if you look closely, you’ll be able to spot the 119-foot tall lighthouse atop Petit Manan, a 16-acre island that is home to an impressive seabird community, including laughing gulls, Arctic puffins, black guillemots and three species of terns. The wildlife refuge is closed to the public, but many seabird and lighthouse cruises pass close by the island.

schoodichead8The Anvil Trail ends at a juncture with East Trail and Schoodic Head Trail. Signs point to each trail.

East Trail travels (0.5 mile long) to an outlook near the highest point of Schoodic Head, then travels down to the park road. The trail ends at the road, a little less than a mile north of Blueberry Hill parking area; therefore, you’ll need to walk that mile along the park road (against traffic) or get picked up.

Schoodic Head Trail (0.7 mile long) leads to another trail sign, where a narrow gravel road crosses the trail. Continue on the trail and you’ll soon enter a mature evergreen forest. The trail travels steeply down. Stairs and small bridges make this section of trail interesting. Cliffs, rock formations, vibrant moss and a bubbling brook add to the beautiful scenery. Much of the way is marked with typical blue blazes, but every so often, it is marked with pieces of wood shaped like woodpeckers and painted blue.

schoodichead9At the trail’s end, turn left onto Alder Trail and walk a relatively flat 0.7 mile back to the park road. Along the way, you’ll pass a beaver pond, complete with a lodge, dams and newly felled trees. Unsurprisingly, much of the trail is lined by alders, which have serrated egg-shaped leaves and small woody cones. Alders are found in moist areas, and indeed, sections of this trail might be soggy or icy, depending on the season. The trail ends directly across from the Blueberry Hill parking area.

For a map of these trails, visit www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/upload/schoodic.pdf, an online pamphlet provided by the National Park Service.

Alder Trail

Alder Trail

Much of Schoodic Peninsula used to be owned by John G. Moore, a Maine native and Wall Street financier, according to NPS. In the 1920s, Moore’s heirs donated the land — 2,050 acres — to Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. And in 1929, the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations donated the to the National Park Service to expand Acadia National Park.

In the 1930s and 1940s, some of this land was transferred to the U.S. Navy to use as a radio communication station. The land was transferred back to the National Park Service in 2002, and the former Navy base became the Schoodic Education and Research Center, one of the 17 National Park Service research learning centers across the country. The center facilitates research projects throughout the park and hosts educational programs for visitors of all ages. To learn about the programs, visit www.nps.gov/acad/serc.htm.

The forest surrounding Schoodic Head Trail.

The forest surrounding Schoodic Head Trail.

While visiting Schoodic Peninsula, remember that all park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee May through October. Dogs are permitted in the park if on a 6-foot leash at all times; and pet owners are responsible for removing pet waste from the park. For more park regulations, visit www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/.

Personal note: On Sunday, March 16, the plan was to hike a mountain near Greenville. But upon waking up, I looked at the weather report and realized we had a problem — an estimated high temperature of 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The Moosehead Region would be too cold for my dog Oreo. While I don’t insist on taking Oreo on every hike, he absolutely needed the exercise that day. Over the past few weeks, Oreo had turned into the embodiment of cabin fever.

The thing is, at 8 a.m., it was already 24 degrees in Brewer, and according to Yahoo weather maps, it was even warmer along the coast. So we simply changed plans and headed to Schoodic Peninsula, to a section of Acadia National Park that we’d never before explored.

Ducks that I scared away beside the one-way park road.

Ducks that I scared away beside the one-way park road.

The scenery of this mainland pocket of Acadia looked very similar to the park on Mount Desert Island. Granite blocks line the one-way park road, which leads along the rocky shoreline, broken up by cobblestone beaches. But by the small size of the Blueberry Hill parking area (which was empty when we arrived), it was evident that this part of Acadia is visited much less than the park on MDI.

Kim Spaulding and I on the first scenic overlook on Anvil Trail.

Kim Spaulding and I on the first scenic overlook on Anvil Trail.

My friend Kim Spaulding joined Oreo, Derek and I for the adventure. Though we started out just wearing winter boots, we ended up sitting down on a log and strapping on ice cleats to travel over the ice coating much of the trail. As we neared the top of Schoodic Head, we were blown away by the many different views, which we lingered at until our faces were numb from the biting wind. Oreo enjoyed sniffing deer and beaver tracks. I also suspect he took pleasure in showing us how easy it was to hop up ice-covered boulders.

schoodic11During the final leg of the hike, we came across a large paper birch tree that had recently been felled by a beaver beside the Alder Trail. Nearby, we found the beaver’s habitation, a lodge at the edge of a small pond. I’d never seen such a large tree knocked down by a beaver, so we made sure to snap a few photos and run our hands over the teeth marks on the tree stump, which the beaver had whittled to a neat point.

schoodic12

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.