1-minute hike: Owls Head State Park

Difficulty: Easy. The short gravel path leading to the beach of the park is wide and fairly smooth, making it a good route for most types of wheelchairs and strollers. However there are a few obstacles. For example, the narrow paths leading to the beaches of the park were not constructed to be wheelchair accessible. The 0.2-mile gravel road leading from the parking area to the lighthouse is also appropriate for wheelchairs and strollers.

owlshead0915-23How to get there: From the intersection of Route 1 and Route 73 in Rockland, drive south on Route 73 for 2.2 miles, then turn left onto North Shore Drive. Drive 2.6 miles, then turn left onto Main Street in Owls Head. Drive 0.2 mile, then turn left onto Lighthouse Road. Follow Lighthouse Road 0.7 mile to the parking area of the park.

Information: Located atop cliffs near the entrance of Rockland Harbor, Owls Head Light Station has been a beacon for ships since the early 1800s. While today it automated and no longer need to be manned by a lighthouse keeper, the tower still sees plenty of visitors. Surrounded by Owls Head State Park, the lighthouse is located on U.S. Coast Guard property and is open to the public from 9 a.m. to sunset. 

owlshead0915-13From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, volunteers from the American Lighthouse Foundation’s local chapter, Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights, staff the tower to greet visitors and tell them about the light station’s history.

From the parking area of Owls Head State Park, it’s just a 0.2-mile walk up a smooth gravel road to the lighthouse. Along the way, a side trail leads to a view of the ocean atop dramatic cliffs.

Vehicles and pets are not allowed on the road to the lighthouse.

owlshead0915-17At the entrance of the light station property is an educational display about the lighthouse’s history. It states that a lighthouse was first established at Owls Head by the US Lighthouse Board in 1823, and that the present tower was built in 1852 and stands 30 feet tall. Atop the cliffs, the light shines about 100 feet above sea level and can be seen for 16 nautical miles.

Below the tower is the lighthouse keeper’s house, which was built in 1854 and has served as the home for many lighthouse keepers and their families. When the light owlshead0915-19was automated in 1989, there was no longer any need for a lighthouse keeper. The dwelling became housing for the US Coast Guard personnel stationed in Rockland, and in 2012, it became the headquarters for the nonprofit American Lighthouse Foundation.

No fees are charged at Owls Head State Park or at the lighthouse station, but there is a suggested donation of $1 to climb the tower, and younger visitors must be at least 42 inches tall to climb. A long wheelchair-accessible ramp climbs to a nice view of the tower.

Owls Head State Park also features an easy, wide gravel path that leads from the parking area to a rocky beach where visitors often go swimming on hot summer days. Keep in mind that there is no stationed lifeguard at this beach.

owlshead0915-11The park is also a great place for picnicking and wildlife watching, with several benches and picnic tables located near the parking lot and the beach.

Hunting is not permitted on the property. Dogs are not permitted on the road and path beyond the parking area, however, there is a large picnic area beside the parking area where dogs are allowed.

For more information about the park, visit maine.gov/owlshead or call the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands at 941-4014.

Personal note: If you look at the dates of my recent outdoor adventures, you’ll noticed that I haven’t actually been on a hike for a couple of weeks now. And here’s my reason. Last week, I was on vacation, and just a couple days ago, hiking buddy Derek Runnells and I tied the knot on the shore of Millinocket Lake. But more about that later. 

owlshead0915-12In anticipation of those busy weeks of wedding planning, I stocked up on some “1-minute hike” material by visiting several outdoor locales at the end of August and the beginning of September. One of those locations was Owls Head State Park, which I explored with my mom, Joyce, on Sept. 2.

One of the first things I noticed at the park was an abundance of pink blossoms lining the path that lead to the beach. They were pretty, cup-shaped flowers — their color varying from dark pink to nearly white — and they grew on straight, tall stalks. They owlshead0915-3were everywhere, spreading into the forest. I later looked the plant up to find that it is the Himalayan Balsam (or Himalaya touch-me-not) and is listed on the Maine state website as one of the plants currently considered invasive in Maine.

We arrived at the park in the morning, just as the fog was starting to lift off the water. The sky was pale blue, without a cloud, and the sun quickly warmed up the rocky beaches.

We wandered, admiring wild rose bushes, rock formations and sailboats, then walked to the lighthouse, passing several other visitors along the way — including a person in a wheelchair and a family with two small children. After walking along the ramp and climbing the long staircase to the base of the light station tower, we were confronted with caution tape and a sign explaining that the tower was closed because painting was in progress.

owlshead0915-9Overhead, a shirtless painter was navigating a walkway outside the lantern room, freshening up the tower’s black paint. He turned down his radio apologized about the building being closed, and we told him it was fine, that the view of the ocean was spectacular from where we were standing at the top of the steps. Perhaps we’d return another day to climb the tower.

More photos from our visit:


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.