Difficulty: The hike to the summit of Buck Cove Mountain, out and back, is 4.4 miles. The trail travels over several large hills before climbing to the top of Buck Cove Mountain, which tops off at 224 feet above above sea level. The trail includes narrow bog bridges, rocky areas and mostly gradual climbing. By the end of the hike, you will have climbed more than 1,000 feet because of the many hills.
How to get there: From the Route 1 bridge the spans the Mount Desert Narrows between the towns Hancock and Sullivan, drive northeast on Route 1 through Sullivan and into Gouldsboro. Approximately 7.9 miles from the bridge, turn right onto Route 186 toward Winter Harbor. Drive 6.5 miles, then take a sharp left to stay on Route 186. Drive another 0.5, then turn right onto Schoodic Loop Road at the sign for Acadia National Park. Drive a little less than a mile, then turn left at the sign for Schoodic Woods. Keep to the right to park in the day use parking area.
From the day use parking area, walk east to the large, stone information building. Then continue east, following the main paved road past campground areas A and B to the group campground area (at the end of the road), where you’ll find the trailhead marked with a cedar post sign.
Information: Rising 224 feet above sea level on the Schoodic Peninsula, Buck Cove Mountain is really just a hill, but don’t let this deter you from considering it as a moderately challenging day hike. Located in Acadia National Park’s only mainland section, Buck Cove Mountain can be reached on a blue-blazed hiking trail that travels through lovely cedar groves and wetlands, across bubbling brooks and over several beautiful rocky hills covered with lichen, highbush blueberries and twisted pine trees.
Running the length of the peninsula, the Buck Cove Mountain Trail is 3.2 miles long, making it the longest hiking trail in this section of the park. About 2.2 miles from the trailhead, the trail reaches the top of Buck Cove Mountain. And from there, the trail continues south to climb to the top of Schoodic Head, the tallest point on the peninsula at 440 feet above sea level.
Regardless of whether you hike to the top of Buck Cove Mountain or continue past it to Schoodic Head, there are many interesting natural features to see along the trail.
Starting at the trailhead at the Schoodic Woods group camping area, the Buck Cove Mountain Trail climbs a gradual hill through a large stand of white cedar trees. The trail soon crosses a bike path two times, then it visits a boggy area on narrow bog bridges. There you’ll find cotton sedge and other interesting plants and mosses.
After passing a hollow tree full of mushrooms, the trail leads along the base of some dramatic cliffs, where it passes by a tiny cave. The trail then leads uphill through an evergreen forest filled with mosses and lichens, crosses another bike path, then heads uphill through a forest of twisted pines, patches of bare bedrock and low-lying vegetation. Atop this hill, at about 390 feet above sea level, you’ll reach a fairly open view of the ocean.
Continuing south, the trail heads down the hill to a bike path, which is the lowest point in the hike at 78 feet above sea level, according to my GPS. From there, the trail climbs to the summit of Buck Cove Mountain, which is covered with pines trees and offers only glimpses of the ocean and nearby Schoodic Head through the trees. The summit is marked with a wooden sign held up in a pile of rocks.
I turned around and hiked back from there, and by the end of the hike, my GPS had calculated that I had climbed a total of 1,348 feet.
If you continue south on the trail from the summit of Buck Cove Mountain, you’ll steeply descend the mountain, then climb up the gradual north slope of Schoodic Head. Atop Schoodic Head, the trail will intersect with East Trail, Anvil Trail and Schoodic Head Trail, all of which lead down to Schoodic Loop Road.
The Schoodic Peninsula, home to the only mainland portion of Acadia National Park, has much to offer. This section of the park includes a 6-mile loop road with turnouts at views of lighthouses, the rocky shore and cobblestone beaches. For bicyclists, Schoodic Peninsula is home to 8.3 miles of smooth, wide bike paths. This section of the park is also home to individual and group camping areas, RV sites and more than 8 miles of hiking trails. All of these trails are marked on the park trail map, posted at kiosks throughout the park and at the Schoodic Woods information building.
All visitors to Acadia are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. These fees vary in cost, with most visitors purchasing a vehicle pass for $25 which is good for seven days. However, if you visit the park often, you may as well purchase an annual pass for $50.
Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Visitors are asked to clean up after themselves and their pets and follow park regulations, which are available at www.nps.gov/acad. For more information, call 288-3338.
Personal note: Last September, I wrote a story about the opening of the new Schoodic Woods Campground in the mainland section of Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor. For the story, I visited the park and walked around the new campground. Plants were still in pots along the side of the road, and the signs marking the new bike paths and new hiking trails didn’t have a scratch on them.
After talking to several campers, I took the opportunity to briefly explore one of the new hiking trails along the water, but the sun was sinking fast and I was forced turn around before long. So I told myself I’d return to hike soon.
Well, I didn’t get back to Schoodic Peninsula until more than a year later, on Sunday, Nov. 6, a crisp, sunny day. For my husband, Derek, it was his first time to the new campground area, and he was impressed when we pulled into the 100-space day-use parking area and took a walk to the big, stone and wood information building to take a look at the trail map posted outside. As we walked through the campground, which has nearly 100 sites for RVs and tents, we talked about how much fun it would be to plan a group camping trip there next summer.
That day, we hiked the Buck Cove Mountain Trail, turning around at the summit of Buck Cove Mountain for an out-and-back hike of 4.4 miles. Along the way, we decided it was an especially good trail to hike in late fall because the forest was composed mostly of cedar, spruce and pine trees, meaning it looks very much the same year round, unlike deciduous forests, which tend to look bleak and colorless in November.
We also decided it was a great trail for nature lovers. Along the trail we spotted a variety of mushrooms and plants, including groups of carnivorous pitcher plants in a boggy area and a hollow tree full of small, orange mushrooms.
About halfway through the hike, a cut that already existed on Oreo’s foot opened up, but we were prepared with a first aid kit. After cleaning his foot and squeezing a little antibiotic ointment on the cut, we wrapped it in gauze and athletic tape, and Oreo was good to go.
Another highlight of the hike occurred while we took a snack break atop a hill north of Buck Cove Mountain. As we sat on a small rock shelf, a group of noisy red crossbills — a type of finch that can be found in mature carnivorous forests — flew to the top of a spruce tree nearby. At the time, I didn’t know what kind of birds they were, but they caught my attention because some of them were orange-red, while others were yellow. I learned later that the orange birds are male, while the yellow are female. I also learned that the tips of the bird’s thick, curved beak cross each other in an odd way, and this actually allows the bird to access seeds of cones. In all of the photos I took of these birds, they were doing just that, fattening up for the winter.