Difficulty: Easy to moderate. From the parking lot, the climb to the top of Flying Mountain (284 feet above sea level) is just 0.3 mile. The trail is mostly a gentle slope with a few moderately steep sections near the summit. You can lengthen the hike by continuing past the summit of the mountain and descending to Valley Cove, then returning on a wide trail known as Valley Cove Road for a loop that is 1.4 miles long. Or you can really increase the difficulty and length of your hike by using the Valley Cove Trail and Valley Peak Trail to create a 3.6-mile loop that takes you to the summit of the nearby St. Sauveur Mountain (679 feet above sea level) and Valley Peak.
How to get there: After crossing the causeway onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3, stay to the right, following Route 102 for 5.2 miles. At the split in the road right after the Somesville Fire Station, go straight (or it could be considered veering left) onto Route 102-Main Road. Drive 4.5 miles, then turn left onto Fernald Point Road in Southwest Harbor. Drive 0.9 mile and the Flying Mountain Trailhead and parking area will be on your left. During the winter, this may not be plowed. If that’s the case, park to the same side of the road as the parking lot, well out of the way of traffic. The Flying Mountain Trailhead is on the east side of the parking lot, marked with a cedar post sign; and at the north end of the parking lot is Valley Peak Road.
Information: Flying Mountain, at 284 feet above sea level, is one of the lowest peaks in Acadia National Park, yet from the exposed bedrock at its top, hikers are rewarded with a great view of Somes Sound, Northeast Harbor and the nearby Greening Island, Sutton Island and Great and Little Cranberry islands.
Located in what is known as a quieter part of Acadia National Park, Flying Mountain is the perfect option for people looking for an easy, short hike in the park, and it’s a perfect introduction to hiking for children.
From the trailhead off Fernald Point Road, the blue-blazed Flying Mountain Trail leads gently uphill to the top of the mountain in just 0.3 mile, with just one small steep section of trail before the summit. At the summit is an expanse of exposed bedrock, allowing for views of Somes Sound. This is a great place for a picnic, but be sure to pick up after yourself.
You can turn around at the summit for an out-and-back hike of 0.6 mile, or you can continue north along the top of Flying Mountain, which is a small ridge that runs south to north. In another 0.3 mile of hiking, you’ll reach a short side trail leading to an overlook at the northern high point of Flying Mountain. The view at this overlook is similar to the view you get at the summit, just slightly north. As you look down at Somes Sound, you’ll clearly see several long docks stretching out into the blue-green water, as well the sand beach of Sand Point. And to the north, peeking through the trees, is Acadia Mountain.
Back at the main trail, the trail quickly descends the north slope of the mountain through a mostly evergreen forest to just above the shore. The trail then turns west and follows the shore to the scenic Valley Cove 0.3 mile from the outlook side trail (or 0.9 mile from the trailhead).
Do not attempt to reach the beach by walking off trail. The park is currently attempting to restore vegetation along the shore, and visitors walking off trail will set back any efforts to do this. Rest assured, at Valley Cove is a bridge and wooden steps that lead down to the beach.
The rocky beach at Valley Cove is a peaceful, scenic place, with the dramatic slopes of Acadia rearing up to the north and the cove opening up into Somes Sound to the east.
Directly after the wooden footbridge and the steps that lead down to the beach is a trail intersection. Turn left to hike on the wide Valley Cove Road, which leads back to the parking lot in 0.5 mile. The entire loop hike is therefore 1.4 miles long.
Another option is to continue straight at this intersection onto Valley Cove Trail (which was closed for reconstruction when I hiked there on February of 2017). This trail leads along the shore for 1.1 mile, then meets an intersection with three trails: one leads up Acadia Mountain, the second follows Man O’War Brook, and the third leads up St. Sauveur Mountain to the summit. Consulting a park map, you can explore these trails to lengthen your hike. If you climb St. Sauveur Mountain, you can form a loop hike that also visits Valley Peak, then returns to the parking lot for a total length of 3.6 miles.
For history buffs, this area has an interesting one. According to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, Fernald Point was likely the location of the short-lived Saint Sauveur settlement, established by French Jesuit missionaries in 1613. This settlement only lasted a few weeks before being attacked and destroyed by an English war parry dispatched from the English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. The attack, led by Captain Samuel Argall sailing the ship Treasurer, drove the French from the island and marked the beginning of a long struggle between Britain and France that prevented the permanent settlement of the island until 1761.
These trails are part of a vast trail network within Acadia National Park. All park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. The most commonly purchased pass is $25 for a private vehicle, valid for 7 days, but other types of passes, including an annual park pass, are also available for purchase online and at a number of locations on the island.
Dogs are permitted on these trails if kept on leash at all times, and this leash cannot exceed 6 feet in length. To learn more about Acadia visitor rules and where you can purchase a park pass, visit www.nps.gov/acad or call 288-3338.
Personal Note: The Flying Mountain Parking Area wasn’t plowed on Sunday, Feb. 19, so we parked to the side of Fernald Point Road, following the example of another visitor who had left his car at the side of the road. At the trailhead, I bent down and ran my fingers along the carved letters in the worn cedar sign, making out the word “Flying.” We were in the right place. Taking my dog Oreo’s leash, I headed into the woods, my husband, Derek, following behind.
The sun beat down; the sky was blue; and snow was slowly melting as the temperature rose to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Lucky for us, the heavy, sticky snow had been packed down by the snowshoers who’d come before us. Every once in awhile, one of us would scoop up a handful of snow and toss it at the other, or Oreo would scoop up a mouthful of snow and eat it.
I had hiked the mountain once before, during the summer in 2012, so I knew we’d be rewarded with great views at the top, but what I had forgotten — somehow — was the tranquil beauty of Valley Cove. Snowshoeing over a pile of seaweed at the edge of the beach, I took in the view in silence on Feb. 19, in awe of the blue-green color of the water and the dramatic, snowy cliffs of Acadia Mountain. I would have stayed longer, but after Oreo insisted on wading into the ocean, he began to shiver, and we thought it best to keep moving, walking the final 0.5 mile back to the trailhead at a steady pace.