Difficulty: Moderate. The 1.1-mile Lower Harbor Trail includes narrow bog bridges, small hills, a few steep areas, exposed tree roots and rocky areas. The trail is well marked and signed. From the main parking area, you can create a loop hike that is about 2 miles long by combining bike paths and a nameless 0.4-mile hiking trail with Lower Harbor Trail.
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.
To reach the Lower Harbor Trail, walk back to Schoodic Loop Road. The trailhead is almost directly across the road, marked with a cedar post sign. You can hike the trail out and back, or you can use bike paths and a short nearby hiking trail to create a loop hike that is about 2 miles long. Details about this option are in the “information” section below.
Information: Winding through a forest of lichens, mosses and evergreen trees, the Lower Harbor Trail is one of several hiking trails in the Schoodic Peninsula division of Acadia National Park. Measuring 1.1 miles long, the trail starts at the park’s main road — the Schoodic Loop Road — and travels downhill to the coast. From there, the trail follows the shore along an inlet by Sargents Point, north of Mosquito Harbor. Offshore, you’ll see Sargents Island (the largest) and Norris Island, and four smaller islands, all undeveloped.
Lower Harbor Trail has two trailheads, both on Schoodic Loop Road. The south trailhead is across the road from the entrance to Schoodic Woods Campground. And the north trailhead is farther north on Schoodic Loop Road, across the road from a nameless hiking trail that travels east to the bike paths in the park. Using this nameless hiking trail (which totals 0.4 mile) and bike paths with the Lower Harbor Trail, you can create a loop hike that totals about 2 miles and begins and ends at the park’s day use parking area at Schoodic Woods Campground.
Because of the naturally hilly, rocky and root-filled terrain along the rocky coast, Lower Harbor Trail is moderately challenging. Be sure to pay attention to your footing and exercise care when crossing several brooks that flow across the trail on their way to the ocean.
There are a few points along Lower Harbor Trail where you can access the shore on rocky beaches. Be sure to tread carefully and not disturb the delicate mosses and other low-lying vegetation.
The Schoodic Peninsula division of Acadia National Park is the only mainland portion of the park, with the majority of the 49,000-acre park being on Mount Desert Island and surrounding islands. On Schoodic Peninsula, the park features 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, and for hikers, there are more than 8 miles of hiking trails. This section of the park is also home to individual and group camping areas and RV sites.
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. The park is open all winter, though some facilities within the park are closed. The main parking area is plowed, and the bike paths, if covered with sufficient snow, are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
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: In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the mainland portion of Acadia National Park. Located in small coastal town of Winter Harbor, this part of the park has grown in that time to include more land, a beautiful campground and visitor center, a network of wide bike paths and new hiking trails — including the Lower Harbor Trail. And people are still discovering this beautiful place, it’s usually pretty quiet.
On Friday, Jan. 13, I saw only a few other vehicles in the parking area at Schoodic Woods Campground. With my dog, Oreo, on leash, I walked across the parking area, uphill to the beautiful stone visitor building, where I found a kiosk displaying a map of the park’s trails, roads and bike paths. Examining the map, I decided to make my hike into a loop hike.
First, I headed north on the bike path that passes by the visitor center. At the first intersection, I veer right and followed the bike path to a nameless hiking trail marked with a cedar post sign on the left. The hiking trail started out very wet, covered with at least 3-5 inches of water, but it soon dried up and Oreo and I enjoyed long stretches of winding bog bridges.
In 0.4 mile, this hiking trail ended at Schoodic Loop Road directly across from the north trailhead to Lower Harbor Trail, where I sat on a wooden bench and Oreo rolled around on the ground impatiently as I filmed the introduction to my blog video about the hike. We then headed into the quiet woods on the narrow trail. Remarkably, the woods were completely snow free despite it being the depth of winter.
Oreo and I didn’t see another soul on the trail that day, which was windy, sunny and in the 30s. It was peaceful, to sit on the rocky beaches and take in the ocean views with him pressed up against my side. I enjoy the solitude in the winter, the empty parking lots and forgotten trails, but I also think it’s a shame that more people don’t get out during that time of year. I understand that people just don’t want to be cold. I hate being cold. But all you have to do is bundle up, and winter hiking can be warm, comfortable and perhaps even more scenic and memorable in the absence of summer crowds.
One of my favorite aspects of the trail were the small brooks it crossed near the shore. The largest of these brooks was flowing so quickly downhill that it formed a big pile of foam at the base of the narrow stone bridge that crossed it. Oreo found that quite fascinating. And in another spot, as I explored the rocky shore, I found a waterfall formed by a brook tumbling over small, pink granite cliffs into the ocean.
We followed the trail for its entire 1.1 miles, climbing uphill and back to the Schoodic Loop Road at the end. There, we crossed the road and walked up the driveway to the Schoodic Woods Campground parking lot to complete our hike and return to our car.