Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The trails travel through a mossy, mixed forest that can be rocky and steep in some areas. Footing can be tricky. Also, the land slopes downward steeply as it nears the rocky shore, offering a moderately challenging climb.
How to get there: The trail network parking lots are located at the Eagle Hill Institute campus at the end of Eagle Hill Road in Steuben. From Route 1 (Main Street) in Steuben, head south on Dyer’s Bay Road. Drive 2.3 miles, then continue on Modagor Road. Drive 1.2 miles, then turn left onto Schooner Point Drive. (There will be a sign at that intersection for Eagle Hill Institute.) Drive about 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Eagle Hill Road. The campus is at the end of this short road, which is only about 0.2 mile long. Just after passing the Commons Building on your right, park in the gravel parking lot to your left.
There are four trailheads scattered throughout campus for the trail network. I suggest starting on the Orchid Trail, which can be found by walking back to the campus road and continuing east just a few hundred feet. The trailhead will be on your left and marked with a sign that reads “Orchid Trail.” The trail leads toward the coast and intersects with many other trails in the network. Another good option is to start on Leap Trail behind the Commons Building. This trail is the quickest route to the most scenic outlook in the trail network, Lover’s Leap.
Information: Located atop a wooded hill on the eastern coast of Maine, Eagle Hill Institute campus blends into the densely forested landscape. And branching away from this quiet cluster of buildings is a network of about 2.5 miles of hiking trails that are open to the public year round. Marked with different colored signs, these narrow footpaths travel through a mixed forest to rocky outlooks and small beaches.
The property is a beautiful place to explore by trails. Located on a coastal fringe of northern boreal forest, the peninsula is covered with mostly spruce and fir trees, with a mix of maples, birches and other species. A variety of mosses, lichens and mushrooms can also be found in the forest.
Highlights of the trail network include the scenic overlooks Lover’s Leap and Canyon Overlook, a blueberry field dotted with bird feeders, a stand of twisted jack pines on a rocky ridge, and three trails that lead to rocky beaches on the coast.
Formerly the Humboldt Field Research Institute, Eagle Hill Institute is a nonprofit scientific and literary organization focused on serving scholarly and educational pursuits, especially in the natural sciences. At its campus on Dyer Point in Steuben, the institute offers seminars and workshops, as well as a residency program for scholars and scientific illustrators, the annual Northeast Natural History Conference and public lecture programs.
A free trail map is available at the institute’s main office, which is located just east of the Commons Building (the largest building on campus) and is marked with a sign. The office is generally open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, year round. If someone is not in the office, there is a number on the door you can call for assistance from someone on the property.
All trails in the network are named and marked with small square signs of different colors to help visitors navigate. For example, the Orchid Trail is marked with red squares, while the Bear Trail is marked with yellow squares that have a black slash through them. The Jack Pine trail is marked with purple, and the Blueberry Trail is marked with blue.
All trails on the property are open to the public during daylight hours and are for foot traffic only. Dogs are permitted, on or off leash, but must be under the owner’s control at all times.
For more information, visit www.eaglehill.us or call the institute at 546-2821.
Personal note: Not a speck of snow remained on the frozen ground of Dyer Point when my husband, Derek, and I arrived at Eagle Hill Institute with our dog Oreo on Jan. 29, to explore the institute’s coastal trail network. The temperature, hovering in the upper 20s, seemed warmer when the sun escaped the fluffy clouds to shine down through the trees. But the salty sheets of ice we found on the rocky beaches reminded us that it was still winter.
In just a couple hours, we explored the majority of the trails, though we somehow missed Lover’s Leap, which offers the best view in the network, according to Eagle Hill Institute Director Joerg-Henner Lotze, who talked to me by phone after my visit. If you only have 30 minutes to explore the trails, he suggests taking the Leap Trail behind the Commons Building up to Lover’s Leap, from which you can see across Gouldsboro Bay to Schoodic Head and the mountains of Mount Desert Island.
We started our hike on the Orchid Trail, which started near the main parking area. Following the narrow footpath through a beautiful, quiet forest, we soon came to an intersection. From there, we took the Eagle Trail up a rocky hill the Grand Canyon Overlook, which offered a limited view of the ocean. We then backtracked and took Orchid Trail down, descending steeply to the rocky shore.
We also walked the Bear Trail and Blueberry Trail that day, then hiked up to Jack Pine Ridge. Though there were many trails in the network, we didn’t have trouble navigating thanks to the signage and color-coded trail markers. Though I was fairly certain we were the only people enjoying the trail network that day, we kept Oreo on leash, and when I spotted a stand of trees with patches of bark recently stripped from them — a telltale sign of porcupines — I silently praised our decision.