When it comes to hiking snacks, it’s hard to beat fresh wild blueberries, found right beside the trail. They’re sweet and juicy, easy to pick, and they stain your mouth an attractive shade of purplish grey.
In Maine, from late July through August, blueberries are ripening throughout the state, in fields and on mountain ridges. They’re all over the place. In fact, it’s hard to find a trail that doesn’t pass at least one blueberry bush, high or low.
But before you go ahead and start filling up your hiking pack with these delicious natural treats, make sure it’s OK to do just that. Some land trusts and park owners only permit handpicking (not rakes), while others specify that visitors must stay on trail while picking berries. And some landowners prohibit berry picking altogether.
So to help you plan your “blueberry hike,” I’ve done a little research and come up with a few hiking trails on which you’re almost certain to find an abundance wild Maine blueberries … and you’re allowed to pick them:
— In Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, visitors can pick 1 dry half gallon of blueberries per person, per day, according to the park’s Superintendent’s Compendium. Blueberry raking is not permitted, and the park advises that people stay on established trails if at all possible. If you must hike off trail in pursuit of berries, try to avoid trampling plants.
“We want people to pick blueberries,” said Charlie Jacobi, resource specialist at Acadia National Park. “I’ve picked plenty myself. But any place that people go a lot to pick blueberries, you’ll find there’s more impact. The places to be especially careful about in the park would be in the subalpine zone, on places like Cadillac [Mountain] and Sargent [Mountain].”
“We just ask people to do the best they can to minimize trampling, and if they can stay on rock while picking, that’d be great,” Jacobi said.
Blueberries are practically everywhere in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, but one especially good place to search for them is Dorr Mountain, where they grow right beside the trail. Other places to look in Acadia are Bar Island (an off-shore trail accessible at low tide), Parkman Mountain and Beech Mountain. For information, visit www.nps.gov/acad/.
— The trails up Flag Hill and Great Pond Mountain in the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland lead to areas filled with blueberries, and visitors are welcome to pick them, according to the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust.
— Both Hollingsworth and Birch Point trails in the Petit Manan Point Division of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben are open for recreational blueberry picking, but not raking. Both trails start out in blueberry fields, then head into the woods to visit the coast.
— The 134-acre Cooper Farm property on Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick is home to a large field of blueberries that are open for the public to handpick for personal consumption. Rakes are not allowed, and one section of the property is clearly marked off as a leased area that is off limits to the public. Owned and maintained by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, the property includes a small network of trails that total a little more than 1 mile of walking.
— Blue Hill Mountain is known as a spot to hike and pick blueberries at the same time. Blueberries can be found in fields at the base of the mountain, as well as on the mountain itself, along the Osgood Trail and Hayes Trail. The mountain is owned and maintained by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the Town of Blue Hill. Handpicking of blueberries for personal use is permitted, but raking is not permitted.
— Curtis Farm Preserve in Harpswell is home to a 1.25-mile trail that starts in a field that contains blueberries, mixed in with a variety of other plants. The land is owned and maintained by the Harpswell Heritage Trust, which permits recreational berrypicking on their lands. The field is not a blueberry barren, however, so you may need to look hard to find the ripe berries hidden in the grasses and wildflowers.
This is far from a complete list. Blueberries, along with raspberries and blackberries, are found all over the state of Maine. But before you start foraging, make sure it’s allowed on the land. And if berry picking is permitted, do it delicately, leaving as little of a trace as possible.